Biggest Facilities Failures

Often in life it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. As we enter the season of higher church attendance, be sure these little things don’t ruin the experience at your facility.

Often in life it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

As related to a facility this can be so true!  Listed below are somethings that I have experienced that have made my visit somewhere less than pleasant.

While none of the items are cardinal sins they did make an impression, not a good one on me.

Dirty bathrooms

Okay I said that none of these were cardinal sins.  Yes, that is true but in my opinion dirty bathrooms come awful close.

I have written about and often talk about the need for bathroom ambassadors. It really is not that difficult to keep bathrooms clean and presentable.  Someone just has to care enough to make sure it gets done!

Strange odor/aroma

I am sure Proctor and Gamble, the makers of Febreze could do well if they marketed to churches.  I have run into or should I say experienced the strangest odors at some of the churches I have visited.  The scents have ranged from enticing but poorly timed to just plain disgusting.

The enticing, the smell of a chicken dinner being prepared in the kitchen during the message had me so hungry that I couldn’t wait for the service to be over as I was literally drooling.  The bad, the smell of raw sewage in a bathroom where the floor looked like the drain had been backed up for weeks and the crusty state of the floor was giving evidence that it had just dried up.

Now if the sermon had been on the satisfying taste of good food and how God provides and blesses us with good things, the chicken dinner smell could have been a great illustration! Provided that we would get to partake of it after the service.

Inappropriate or outdated décor.

Through the years I have seen my share of well shall we say it, bizarre décor or too old to be retro finishing’s.  I know that interior design is a form of art and also very subjective.

So yes our tastes can differ, but I will say that when done well and appropriate there is a wide range of acceptable interior designs.  One strange case that I experienced recently was not even church related.

A new restaurant that opened in our town I am sure took its decorating and design cues from the Apple Store. Yes, white, clean, really clinical looking works great for the Apple Store, I will attest to the fact that it does not work that well for a restaurant.  There is something unsettling eating food in a place that is lit up and feels like a surgical room.

Crappy coffee…area

Like the bathroom, this example really bothers me.  Why can’t someone be the coffee ambassador and simply make sure the counters are wiped clean of coffee drips and spills? It’s also important to make sure the cream and sugar containers are filled. Also, while they are at it, could the outside of the coffee pot and handle be clean and dry?

One more thing, not facility related, why does church coffee also have to taste so crappy? There are plenty of hearty coffee roasts to choose from. Why not make your morning cup-of-joe one that’s eagerly anticipated?

Bad signage

Why is signage so difficult?  Just put it in a visible area, keep it simple and use common names for things.

When we use names like narthex, gathering area, the commons… how is someone not familiar with church supposed to know what that is?  Why not just call it the Lobby?  The Sanctuary? The Gym?

KEEP IT SIMPLE…I suppose one good thing about bad signage is I may not be able to locate the bathrooms, which could save me from a potentially stomach-turning experience.

As I said at the start, it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Plus, in this case the little things come with a little price tag. It doesn’t cost anything additional to keep the bathroom tidy, keep the coffee area clean or freshen up the smell.  Additionally, décor updates and signage can be done well on a very modest budget.

As we enter the season of higher church attendance, be sure these little things don’t ruin the experience at your facility.

Simple Steps to A Fantastic Guest Experience

Offering those who visit your church a great guest experience really is as easy as 1 2 3.

Years ago I was the opening manager for the first location of a brand new movie theatre chain.  One of our mottos was “Being #1 is as easy as 1-2-3

1. Welcomes, pleases and thank you’s
2. Next in line service
3. Suggestive selling at the concession stand.

We wanted our cast members (employees) to have something simple, tangible to grab on to that expressed what we felt was important.

We posted signs in the back hallways, the locker rooms, the employee room (basically everywhere we called “backstage” yes, including the restrooms).

Another thing that we did in training was to talk about the “Zone of Influence”.

The Zone of Influence was a designated area around each employee, that when a guest entered into that zone, the employee either needed to engage them in conversation or at least offer them a greeting.

To help put this policy into action we took an 8’ piece of PVC conduit, painted it orange and put a rope that would go around the cast member’s neck so the PVC would hang at about knee level and extended 4’ on either side of the guest.  In training the cast member would walk around (back stage) wearing this contraption and teaching each employee where their “Zone of Influence” was.

I am sharing this as I recently had a flash back to that experience.

It happened while I was attending a business/ministry seminar.  The experience started when I walked up to enter the building and someone was there to open the door, welcome me and give me directions as to where I should go for registration.  As I hit the registration table I was greeted with a hearty “Welcome, we are glad you are here”.  After receiving a name tag, the person at the table told me where the complimentary snacks were located and where I could purchase a book that the presenter had written, if I was interested.

Leaving the registration table and heading towards the snacks I walked into the “zone of influence” of someone else that was working the seminar.  As I entered their “zone” I was again greeted and was asked if I had ever been at this place before.  What transpired was a couple of minutes of great conversation with this “ambassador” of the church.

Turns out we knew some of the same people and he ended the conversation with a welcome to come back and visit on a Sunday.

It was a no pressure, kind invitation.

It was as I sat down for the seminar that the flashback from my movie theater days came back. I thought it really IS as easy as 1-2-3!

1) I was politely greeted, everyone was polite and engaging
2) It was well staffed (there were about 1000 people attending the event) I never had to wait at registration, snacks or when purchasing of the book.
3) I was appropriately “sold to” by suggestion.  The person at the registration table sent me in the direction of the book table.  Also, the ambassador from the church softly sold me on attending on a Sunday morning.

To top off the great experience I had getting into the room for the seminar, the presenter was outstanding.

So the challenge is for you and your church to do this on a Sunday morning.
How?  It’s as easy as 1-2-3

1,2,3

1) Great people at the door, tell, show and take them to the places that they need to go. For example, if they have children take them to a special express lane for visitors where they can check their children.  Show them where the coffee is.  Tell them about unique things.

Remember they do not know your culture.  Tell them if they can take coffee into the sanctuary, tell them that is normal for people to be talking in the lobby until 1 minute before the service.  Explain to them that your pastor or members of the pastoral staff would like to meet them after the service, and point out the location. Very important, show them where the bathrooms are.

2) Make sure you are well staffed in the greeting area, coffee area, children’s area etc. Set up special lanes or stations that you can take the visitors thru –  and remember they do not know the culture or routines that are so comfortable to you.

3) As your guests return, tell them about special events and opportunities that might be interesting to them.  Best of all invite them to lunch, get to know them.

This is not just the job of staff, but it really is the job of everyone in the congregation.

Go and do it! It really is as easy as 1-2-3

Why Your Church Needs An Ambassador of the Throne

Nobody likes to talk about restrooms, but they are a very important statement about the church and the perceived quality of the ministry. Here are 5 steps to bathroom perfection.

Something that I have noticed at some growing churches I have visited is that they have really clean restrooms. From the door handles—-to the sink—-and mirror, everything is clean.

In fact, the room sparkles.

No, nobody likes to talk about restrooms, but they are a very important statement about the church and the perceived quality of the ministry.

One of the negative experiences a guest or casual attender can have is visiting an untidy restroom.

Imagine Mary’s (first time visitor) reaction when she enters the restroom and sees paper towel on the floor, cobwebs in the corner, water splashed on the counter and a mirror which has not been cleaned in months.

Top that off with toilets that have yellowed in color over the years and stall partitions that have rust spreading on them. Obviously, Mary would not feel good or welcomed by this experience.

5 things to make your restrooms sparkle.

1) Deep clean the restroom monthly. Most of us are familiar with spring cleaning, that time of year when you open the windows and wipe away the cobwebs.  With your restrooms, every month should be spring cleaning month.  Check them out to make sure all of the corners are clean, all of the smudges are removed from the wall and ensure that everything sparkles.

2) Fragrance can be your friend.
I say can. If you are trying to use fragrance to cover up a bad odor, then people will smell what you are trying to do a mile away.  If there is a bad odor, first find the source and eradicate it.

What a light amount of fragrance can do is give a fresh clean smell to the room.  I would recommend staying away from floral scents and anything that is to over bearing.  Really, what you want is to have is that just been cleaned smell.

3) Fully Stocked. Have you ever washed your hands and then went to grab a paper towel only to find the dispenser empty?

Yes, that is frustrating. Even more frustrating is when a stall is out of toilet paper and you have to look for another stall that has toilet paper, praying the whole time you will find one that is stocked.

Really it’s simple; Check your restrooms before services or events and top off anything that is needed.

4) Lighting and sound.
Proper lighting helps everywhere.  In a restaurant we may desire low level lighting (mood lighting). We like the atmosphere it creates as we don’t want to go to a restaurant and have it feel like you are in a surgical center.

On the other hand, in a public restroom you do want to see that everything is clean so surgical level lighting will also help give it a clean look and feel.  Another thing to consider is background music.  Again this creates a nice atmosphere and let’s face it, it can also mask some of the noises created in a restroom.

5) Keep up appearances. Before and after a service or event your restrooms get a lot of traffic. This is where the Ambassador comes in, the Restroom Ambassador.

Assign a gender appropriate person to keep tabs on the restroom, wipe up water when needed, pick up paper on the floor and make sure everything is stocked.  Doing this will ensure that throughout the event or service everyone will have a positive experience.

One note of caution here, the Restroom Ambassador should be invisible, just randomly entering the restroom to make sure thing look good.

If the Ambassador hangs out in the restroom waiting to take action or continually goes from stall to stall checking supplies, people will become uncomfortable with the Ambassadors presence.  People really do like privacy in the restroom.

A lot of ministries get the first 4 steps, but miss out on assigning a Restroom Ambassador.  To make sure that everyone has a positive experience having a Restroom Ambassador is a necessity! So go and clean, put in a fresh scent, get the proper lighting and make your restrooms sparkle.

 

Designing and Maintaining Church Buildings of Excellence

In many ways Churches are very unique buildings and they need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions.  How can you maintain buildings of excellence.  Take a fresh look at your building, or an eyes-wide-open view of one that you are planning. Will it inspire or meet at mediocrity?

In many ways Churches are very unique buildings.

They need to be designed to meet a myriad of functions.  From private one on one counseling, to corporate worship, a church building has many activities that take place.  Churches are also unique in that there are a plethora of stakeholders as well.  From the staff to the constituents, many people are invested in both being financially tied to the building as well as users of the space.

Back when I was in college and pursuing a business degree, facilities management was a new discipline being offered.  I took of a number of facilities classes as I was intrigued by how buildings and space influence and support business in tangible and intangible ways.  I eventually decided on getting my general business degree (this was after achieving my broadcasting degree) but my intrigue and love for facilities would always be somehow interwoven through my career.

In my days as a technical director at a mega church, that intersection was primarily on Sunday mornings as I made use of AVL (audio/video/lighting) systems to help support and enhance worship.  As I moved on to AVL system design and sales I learned how to integrate these systems in what seemed like a constant battle between form and function. Today as I work in business development for a design build firm in essence my world revolves around buildings.

As I look at the uniqueness of a church building 5 important things come to mind.

Form

I remember it like it was yesterday sitting in a facilities class in college with the professor going over a handout/spreadsheet (computer spreadsheets were new and there were no projectors in the classroom, just whiteboards) on how to determine what was needed for an office space. To this day I have a love hate relationship with spreadsheets.  They provide great data but I believe can be overused to manipulate that data to get the outcome you desire.

The professor emphatically repeated throughout his lecture/rant that form follows function.  The phrase “form follows function” according to Wikipedia is attributed to Louis Sullivan.  I believe that Sullivan’s was conveying the idea “form follows function”, as opposed to “form follows precedent”. In other words what the building is going to be used for, in Sullivan’s case a skyscraper, required a different form than what was being currently used in construction.

However, what I took my professors lecture/rant to mean was, who cares what it looks like as long as it is efficient.  I have seen many times, where an architect will have an inspired vision and a desire to create beauty in his design, only to have a committee shoot his idea down calling it too grand, even ostentatious. The committee would always seem to come back to function alone as the driving factor. Often a beautiful design was squelched even before price or feasibility came into the equation.

Lest you think I long for gaudy, ornate and the somewhat cold architecture of the past. I believe a church building should somehow reflect tradition as well as contemporary culture and at the same time be inspiring and inviting.  Not an easy task, but it can be accomplished.

Function

If the space is not useable for its intended purpose it is useless. For some reason it always seems to be that acoustics are the thing that is consistently overlooked.  The results usually end up on the opposing ends of the spectrum.  They either seem to be overly reverberant or exceptionally dead. There never seems to be a healthy balance where congregational singing is carried well and at the same time have the programming (music and the spoken word) work well.

As Sullivan stated, the true form of a building is dictated by the function.  This I agree on. After all, if you want to create an intimate space that seats 1,000 people with the furthest seat 60’ away from the platform, a great deal of the form has been determined.  Most likely it will need to be a wide seating area that requires a balcony.  It could also be in the round or steeply raked seating like a movie theater.  The point is that function obviously has a huge impact on form.

I would argue and I am sure you agree that the function does not have to impact the beauty of the space and in common use of the phrase “form follows function” I see beauty as the “form” that everyone seems all too eager to sacrifice on.

People

Another often used phrase is, “The Church is really the people”. Yes biblically and hopefully practically this is true.  The church building is really just a place where we gather together as believer (and no believers) to explore and grow in our faith and in community together.

Where the people part of the equation comes in for me is twofold.  First is the space inviting and inspiring? Secondly the practical side, do we all fit comfortably in the space and is it functional, enough bathrooms, appropriate heating cooling, lighting to make the space comfortable.

The best experiences I have had at church usually happened because the building supported people in the proper way.  It was not too warm or cold, the seat was comfortable, all the tech worked without creating distraction and the bathroom was easy to find, it was clean and also I did not have to wait in line out into the hall before using it!

So when a building functions well and supports people properly it frees us up to concentrate on the purpose that we are there for.

Perception

I have been in buildings less than a year old that screamed mediocrity, just because they were not well-maintained.  Simple things, like a door not working properly, or a picture or signage that is crooked on the wall or the aforementioned stains in the carpet – all said in a subtle way, we don’t care.

I have also been in century-old buildings that are inspiring. The heating and cooling was up to date, the technology fit the space and worked well, and there were no dreaded stains in the carpet or evidence of great wear to be found.  Building that are well maintained convey a message of overall excellence.

People notice things and quickly form opinions. What are people’s perception and opinions of your building?

Purpose

With almost every project I am involved in, purpose has to continually be driven to the forefront.  As humans our personal interests become what is important, we push for things we want. Also, it becomes so easy to get focused on the process and the actual building, that we forget why we are doing it.  By understanding and keeping purpose the primary factor, helps bring clarity and also can keep us from getting hung up in the details.

Ask yourself these questions:
Is your building currently serving your needs?
Do you need to look at the form and function?
Does your building project excellence or an old worn-out shoe?
Do you know and understand the purpose of your building?

Take a fresh look at your building, or an eyes-wide-open view of a proposed building that you are planning. Work to make sure that it’s not just functional, but will be a facility of excellence which has the capacity to inspire, and brings beauty to all those who enter it’s doors.