Church DNA: Who are you? Who?

Along the way it has become an idea, that if the big, cool churches are doing something, then everybody feels like they need to copy them and do the same thing.

 

A good friend of mine Jeff Abbott, service programming director at Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan recently opined about the copycat syndrome in today’s churches.

He talked about how a couple of years ago everyone had to have pallets on their stage to look cool.

He also bemoaned the current use of LED tape.

Jeff has nothing against pallets or LED tape, however he is discouraged by what he refers to the cookie cutter look of today’s contemporary churches.

Jeff continued on talking about the idea that if the big, cool churches are doing something, then everybody feels like they need to copy them and do the same thing.

Jeff asked the question “Does God really want the church to be a bunch of clones, stamping a couple clones out in towns across the country?”

Both Jeff and I agree that we do not believe that is what God intended for the church.

It really comes down to a church understanding their own DNA and culture and living that out.

I was at a training session where the main topic was diversity.  Point blank I expected the typical talk on culture differences and the understanding that we need to develop between cultures.  The speaker asked the simple question of how many different cultures that we thought existed.

I began trying to estimate the number of countries and then thinking I could probably add a 5 to 10x factor to that number.

I figured each country had a main culture with a few additional sub cultures that permeated each country.  His answer rocked me on my heals and shocked me.  He proclaimed with authority that there are around 7 billion cultures in the world!

Wait 7 billion, how can that be?  That is about how many people are on earth.  Exactly!

So am I saying that we need to have 7 billion different churches?  I believe there should be 7 billion different temples as our bodies are the temple of the Lord, I do not believe each person is a church.
A church is a collection of cultures (people). I liken to America, there is the distinct American culture but in that culture there are a lot of subcultures.

On the lateral plane there are culture separations based on race, socioeconomic class and the like.  On the vertical plane there is the age difference, the Boomer, GenX and Millennials.  All of the different cultures make up the overall American culture.

The church is really the same way.

As people we bring our own diverse culture under the umbrella of the church to collectively create its own distinct culture.  This could be a culture based around evangelism, missions, doctrine etc.  Whatever that culture is, a wise church will base its ministry around the culture, thus creating the DNA of the church.

Once discovered, each church must do and create things that fit into its own unique DNA.

This does not mean that a church cannot learn and adapt ideas from another church or other institution.  It means that the church has to meld it into their unique DNA.

A great example that I experienced of this taking place was at the WFX conference.

Jeff and I were walking downtown Louisville, enjoying the downtown when Jeff suddenly stopped and pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of a window display.  The display was a cool wood design that filled the front window of an architectural firm.  It really resonated with Jeff (and myself), it also was a perfect window display for an architectural firm that showed off their design creativity.  Jeff turned to me and said, “I just got a great idea for a set design”.

Will the set look exactly like the window display?  I doubt it. When Jeff builds the set it will be inspired by the window display, in fact it will most likely bear a strong resemblance to it.  More importantly the DNA of Ada Bible Church will be woven into the set and it will become part of who Ada Bible is.

If you don’t know or understand the DNA at your church, discover it!

Also do things that fit your DNA.

This includes taking things that you see and weaving them into your DNA.

Does a Great Facility Equal Great Growth?

Having a well-kept, nice facility is just expected. Also having the proper technology to carry out your ministry is a total must…

 

Does a great facility = great growth?

Having a well-kept, nice facility is just expected.  Also having the proper technology to carry out your ministry is a total must.

Over the years that I’ve been involved in ministry, I have noticed that there can be what I call the “want to be” syndrome.

The statements – I am sure you have also heard – go something like this, “If only we had the technology that XYZ church has, we would grow as fast as they are”.  Or “If our building looked that nice we too could have rapid growth.”

Mentally most of know that the above statement is not true for the church, in business or in general.

I am currently listening to one of the many biographies on the life of Steve Jobs.  Many of you know that that when Steve left apple, only to come back a decade later, he started a company call NeXT.  Steve had it all: he recruited the best engineers and built the most advanced factory and well-equipped offices.

Steve himself was a visionary, a charismatic (if not sometimes frightening) leader.  NeXT however basically tanked being acquired by Apple (some say that NeXT was only purchased by Apple to get Steve back) for a fraction of the investment that went into the company.

How could a company that had the best of support and wind at its back fail?  I contend that it was Steve’s journey in the wilderness, he had lost direction and purpose.

Churches too can fall into this trap.  I have seen church plants that seem to have everything, a great place to meet, plenty of financing and yet not succeeded.  Success is not guaranteed by the amount of resources that we possess.

Another way to look at this is to realize that the reason your ministry may be stagnant or dying is not because you don’t have the cool technology, or a fancy facility.  Most likely the stagnation come from the fact that the church is not connecting with people or living out and fulfilling its calling and mission.

A change in venue or and upgrade often just moves the problem, it the proverbial lipstick on the pig.  Sure it looks a little nicer, but it’s still a pig.  In fact, I believe that new technology may only magnify your current irrelevance. It’s like putting new siding on a building with a bad foundation or a new paint on a car with a bad or blown engine.  It may look better but it’s still going to crumble or stop running.

The false hope and belief that something new can spark growth or change the current reality leads many churches to get out the lipstick, somehow hoping against hope that nobody will notice the stench that is still there.

Reality check.  Buildings and technology are a means to an end.  They can help facilitate growth but in no way are they the secret cause.

I think the biggest proof of this is the fact that you can have a growing church in a centuries old building and you can kill or have a dead or dying church in a brand new multi-million-dollar facility.

If you are counting on facilities or technology to somehow be the thing alone that brings growth to your ministry, you better get ready for a major disappointment.

Church Construction: Should You Build Your Field of Dreams?

It is easy and desirous for some to grab on to the simple thought, “all that is needed for church growth is a new or bigger building.”

It is easy and desirous for some to grab on to the simple thought, “all that is needed for church growth is a new or bigger building.”  This thinking is in stark contrast to the reality that a building does not equal building the church.

It’s also easy to get caught in the trap that a new building or building project will solve problems, help unify the congregation, increase giving, or attract new people.

Let’s debunk some of that wrong thinking surrounding church facility construction


There are some really good questions to ask yourself and your congregation before you embark on a building campaign.


1. Do you have a large debt on your current facility?

If you are already deep in debt it would not be wise to saddle additional debt and thus strain on your ministry.  This may seem like common sense, but it is amazing how uncommon common sense is. The added debt payments will only take away from investing into areas that can help the ministry grow.

2. Do you expect a new building to make a “statement” in your community?

This really smacks of egotism. If you think that having the coolest or newest building in town is going to help your church grow, you are unfortunately in line for a serious let down.  I have seen wonderful growing churches meeting in the humblest of places.  I have also seen soaring beautiful churches with 90% of the seats empty on a Sunday.

3. Do you need to increase membership to pay for the increased debt of a new facility?
This is really putting your faith into the “if you build it they will come philosophy.”  What happens if they don’t come? Do you default on the loan?  To me putting your faith in increased membership to pay for a building project is putting your faith in the wrong place.

4. Do you expect a new building to cause your congregation to be more evangelical and outreach driven?

Yes, a new building is a great talking point and it can be a start in getting people to ask others to visit your church. However, without a culture of evangelism this will be very short lived.  Once the building has been open for a little while your congregation will fall back in the old habits and will not continue to invite people.

5. Do you need a building to allow your whole church to meet at one time?

This is a great question that is not asked enough.  A church I am familiar with was about to embark on a multi-million-dollar expansion to the children’s area because of crowded conditions.  At the same time, they happened to send out a survey to the congregation. One of the questions on the survey was “what service time do you prefer?”

The church found out on the survey that parents with children were about evenly split on wanting an earlier service versus a later one.  At that point the decision became why don’t we offer two service times and thus split the children’s attendance and negate the need to build.  As a side note.  Two years later they ended up building because both services had grown so much that they now needed the space to accommodate the number of children in both services.

6. Do you expect a new building will entice your congregation to give more generously?

You might get a spike in additional giving towards a building project.  However, if you had another area like missions that was highlighted, you could also get the same spike in giving.

The real danger here is again putting faith into “if you will build it they will come, or in this case give”

Some final thoughts, owning a building does not make you a church, or even a better one.  What makes a church are the people in whatever setting God has placed them.  Also, don’t fall into the trap thinking that if you would build that problems will go away.  If anything the added financial and organizational stress is only going to exacerbate problems that already exist.

So before embarking on building your field of dreams, make sure that you are grounded in truth and are truly following God’s will for your congregation and not just man’s dreams.

 

10 Things Worship Leaders want from Church Techs

While nothing replaces knowing the tech side of the audio craft, there’s a lot more to being successful in the role.

Over the last 30-plus years, I’ve served on numerous tech teams at various ministries and have learned many things – many of them the hard way.

While nothing replaces knowing the tech side of the audio craft, there’s a lot more to being successful in the role.

Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way, combined with the results of an informal survey of worship leaders about what they want most from techs.

1. Pay attention. Attentiveness is the number one thing worship leaders value.

They want to know that someone cares and is looking out for them. When that’s not the case, it usually leads to animosity that manifests itself at rehearsal (worship leader yelling, “Hey, gang – down here. Yeah it’s me. I need more monitor!) and at services (frustrated look on worship leader’s face as he tries to discretely signal that he needs more monitor). It’s a recipe for disaster, resulting in frustration on both sides.
The solution is to stay consistently focused on what’s happening (of course) and to develop practices to make sure it happens. For example, learning to mix with your head up. Dave Rat, a top front of house engineer in the concert world, positions his console sideways in relation to the stage and even created his own console “Braille” system. This allows him to mix by touch, without continually looking down at the board, so that he can stay concentrated on the stage.

2. Positive attitude.

At one church I visited, all of the musicians were quite intimidated by the monitor engineer; in fact, he was so unpleasant that rather than interface with him, they were willing to live with horrible sound in their monitors, rehearsal after rehearsal, service after service. Don’t be this person!
It’s amazing how far good attitude goes. If the musicians know that you care about them and are working to make everything as good as possible, they’ll give you a lot of grace. And they’ll also be at their best from a performance standpoint.

3. It’s not all about you.

I’ve encountered several sound operators over the years who actually think the musicians wouldn’t be able to perform without them. Wrong. Someone else can and will step up. Being an accomplished tech is a wonderful thing, but the point is to be as useful as possible in supporting the efforts of everyone involved with worship. As top producer Quincy Jones famously said, “Check your ego at the door.” I call it “TnT” – Tech and Talent working together.

4. It’s not all about the gear.

A friend recently made this statement: “With great gear comes great responsibility.” His point is that with the right tools, there’s no excuse not to make it sound as good as possible. To this I add that no matter what gear is available, we still have you the responsibility to do our best. It’s easy to fall into the “equipment trap,” so avoid it.

I recently attended an arena event served by a million-dollar (literally) sound system. The first band sounded awesome. The second band sounded awful. The difference? The techs, not the gear (or the musicians). The first band’s tech team knew what it was doing while the second one did not, so a sophisticated sound system wasn’t going to save them.

5. Musicians are not the enemy.

Although at times, it can feel like they are. Some exhibit arrogance and condescension, unwilling to adapt while always ready with a snarky remark.

But it doesn’t matter. We need to make things work as well as possible for the greater goal. And the truth is, most of them want the exact same thing.

There’s no call to be a jerk in kind, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a pushover. Be ready to kill them, but only with kindness. It takes two sides to go to war, so don’t complete the equation. (It’s also a war no one wins.) Speak to them with a calm, measured tone, and try to do so with grace and humility. Remember: none of us are perfect.

Further, communicate what you’re doing trying to do with their sound and why. For example, tell them you’re moving a monitor two feet to the left so that the output from the monitor is in the non-pickup area of the microphone, and will thus give them a purer sound with less risk of feedback. This type of discussion can go a long way to diffusing tension and reinforcing that you’re indeed working together.

6. Constantly improve your craft.

Musicians rehearse, they practice at home, and then with others they play in advance of services. We need to take the same approach, studying our systems, increasing our understanding of how they work, reading and researching and then putting it into practice.

Another thing that really helps is advancing the material to be used at the upcoming service. I try to get the music in advance, and actually listen to it, critically, and then plan and prepare as to how I can best reproduce what I’m hearing

7. Sometimes it requires long hours.

Get over it.

8. Sometimes it’s a thankless job.

Get over it. Both of these points tend to go together. A tech role can take an inordinate amount of time and it’s rare when anyone notices all we do. We often seem to be the first ones there, then buried in making things work, and then the last ones left to turn out the lights. But that’s the situation, and it’s not about us.

Currently, Todd Elliot, formerly a technical director at Willow Creek Church, is hosting seminars for techs across the country, and I encourage you to attend one. They’re called FILO (First In, Last Out), with Todd offering a lot of helpful advice. The key is not getting burned out – get away as needed, spend time with family and friends, and rejuvenate instead of being a martyr.

9. Relationships are really all that matter.

This applies to the tech team as well as worship leaders, pastors, musicians, and others. More than anything, it determines your success and longevity. For example, I often get together for lunch with our pastor just to check in and see how he’s doing as a person. I also find out how he thinks things are going and can get a feel for what needs to change. And I have his ear to talk about what the tech team needs.

10. Sometimes we just have to say no.

Of course, knowing how and when is the tricky part. Most tech people are servants. We want to make things happen, we want to please, we want to be a hero. This leads to making it tough to refuse requests, no matter how difficult.

For example, someone wants to patch in an additional vocal mic five minutes before the service starts. This can probably be done, but it interrupts other prep and there’s no chance for a sound check. In other words, it’s a recipe for unnecessary problems. So just because we “can” doesn’t mean we “should.” These things also have a tendency to set a new expectation, and where that stops, nobody knows.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T just a little between Musicians and Techs

I had the privilege of doing front of house sound for a sitting President of the United States.  It was one of the simplest and easy gigs I have ever done.  It was also one of the highest paying gigs I have ever done. You can read about it here

 

During the 4 hour warm up (The President was over 2 hours late) one of the Presidents detail handed me a few CD’s for pre-music. It was they typical stuff of that day U2, Madonna, Bon Jovi and even Kenny G.  During the wait the famous song RESPECT by Aretha Franklin came on. I have to admit I chuckled, thinking yeah respect, I don’t agree with the Presidents Policies or morality.

 

I was struck somewhere during that song how wrong my attitude was.  While I did not agree with this man, He was in a position of authority and was the reigning leader of the free world. I am called as a Christian to respect the office of the Presidency and at least honor this man as he was placed in this position.

Continue reading “R-E-S-P-E-C-T just a little between Musicians and Techs”

Practice for Sound Techs: 3 Best Multitrack Recorders for Church

How does your audio person rehearse? Can a sound tech practice their craft? The answer is yes, and here are several of the best options in today’s digital multi-track recorders.

How does your sound tech practice?

Your vocalists practice, your guitar player practices, your drummer well… he may practice, but how does your sound guy or lady, practice?

Assuming that you have a 5-piece band – there are at least 15 hours of practice that the entire band has put in.  This is assuming a 2-hour band rehearsal and that each musician practiced 1 hour on their own during the week.

I believe that is an extremely conservative estimate. Those 15+ hours can be wasted by a bad mix during the worship service.

So how does your sound guy practice?

Some would argue that in the above scenario, the sound guy did get in 2 hourw of practice with the band.

But really was it practice?

Sure, the sound guy was able to mess with the faders, play with some eq, maybe dial in a little compression.

More than likely, this was mixed with taking care of the band’s needs.  It was also pretty fragmented.  He could have been in the middle of trying to set the gate on the kick drum and the band stops.

A friend of mine jokingly refers to the stop button.  You are right in the middle of dialing in something and the band stops and leaves your hanging.  So, what is the solution?

Enter Virtual sound check.

Record, Practice, Perfect your mix.

Today most digital boards have a multitrack digital out.  The most common form is USB.

With inexpensive, or free software, you can record 32 or more tracks of live audio to a computer.  Waves Tracks Live, for example, offers a free version that is fully functional (you can pay $99 and get phone support and priority updates).

Once you have recorded the band, then you can flip the inputs on your console to digital in and playback the multi-track recording.

It is just like the band is there live.

Now you can take your time, mute everything but the kick drum, and really hear the changes that your compression settings are making on that input.

You can also replay a section as many times as you would like and listen to how it sounds as you change your settings.  You can do this with all of the channels.

You can turn everything back on and play with your overall mix.

No more having the musicians wait around or play individually as you tweak the sound.

There are also devices on the market that are stand alone, purpose-built.  They do not need a computer to operate and you do not have to mess with any software. The advantage of a stand-alone device is that you have little to no set up and no computer to lug around.

There are many multitrack recorders that can do a virtual sound check.

The following are three of the best fit units for the worship market:

  • JoeCo has Blackbox
  • Cymatic has Utrack 32
  • NemoSyn has Ndrive

JoeCo blackbox comes in 3 flavors, Analog, Madi and Dante. 
You hook up a hard drive to the usb on the blackbox and you can record full uncompressed wav files. Physically a single rack mount unit, the Black box is geared towards the professional user and requires an interface if you only have usb out on your console.

Being rack mounted It is the most “pro version” and is great if you are on tour and want to capture audio from the show.  Your recording length in limited by the hard drive size that you connect to it.  Cost for the Madi version $3995,00 plus hard drive http://www.joeco.co.uk/BBR_models.html

The Utrack 32 by Cymatic is a purpose built card that fits in to the popular Behringer X32 digital mixing console. 
Once inserted in to the board you simply hook up a usb hard drive, download the app, connect the Ethernet port on the card to a wireless network and then you the app to control the recording and playback of your files. Cost $499.00 plus hard drive http://cymaticaudio.com/products/recorders-players/utrack-x32

Nemosyn has the Ndrive a portable usb recorded that can connect to any mixer that has a usb multitrack out. 
(Behringer, Yamaha, Soundcraft, Allen and heath and others have mixers with usb connectivity for multi-track).  There is a large record button, a large play button and a touch screen to control playback and recording.  The unit records to an onboard SD- card.  Nemosyn ships the Ndrive with a 64 gig SD card.  Cost $599.00 (includes everything needed) www.nemosyn.com

Virtual sound check is the by far the best tool a sound guy can have to hone his craft.  One of the really beautiful things is that now the sound guy and worship leader can sit together and work on the mix together.

It is well worth the investment; with practice you can perfect your mix!

 

 

Sound System Upgrade From Good Enough To Great

Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road when it comes to system upgrades?

Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road when it comes to system upgrades?

I’d like to share two experiences, unrelated on the surface, that really got me thinking.

The first happened at a church that was talking with me about upgrading their sound system.

If you’ve ever been through the process of updating a system, be it sound, lighting or video, you know it’s a chore—or actually, a set of chores.
There’s the pursuit of determining what’s needed, soliciting proposals, selecting a proposal, getting the church/committee to sign off on it, overseeing the install of the new components, and then figuring out how to operate them.

I could talk at length about any one of the steps, but based on my recent experience, let’s start with a question (actually two): Why upgrade, and what are the expectations?

My meeting was with the head sound tech (volunteer) and the worship leader. We were primarily focused on switching to a new digital console and main loudspeakers. The existing stuff is almost twenty-years-old, still works fine and sounds pretty good (twenty years ago it would have been considered a near-premium system), but it is showing increasing signs of age.

As we talked the sound tech made a statement that I hear way too often. Paraphrasing it, he said, “We’re not looking for something excellent, or top of the line, but more middle of the road.”

Every time I encounter statements along these lines, I want to reply, “Sorry, I’m not the guy for you. Please see one of my competitors because they have the whole ‘doesn’t suck too bad’ thing nailed down.”

Of course, what I really say is “Well, let’s see what we can come up with” and then I start questioning them about their goals and needs, working to steer them to the best solution for the budget they have available. And if they don’t have a budget, I gently push them to establish a reasonable one.

My question: Why do so many churches talk about middle of the road?

My own experiences, both as a church member and as an A/V pro, have shown me that most/all churches striving for excellence are growing, while the ones doing the “mediocrity thing” are stagnant or shrinking.

The specific church I’m discussing here did its upgrade 20 years ago in an excellent fashion. They invested in the best they could afford at the time. (I remember it because I was involved with the project.) The minister of music (as we referred to them in those days) solicited a couple of proposals. It was a growing church, the place was pretty full, and he laid out the system needs while stressing that he wanted top quality. “I want these speakers to be hanging here 20 years from now,” he said, prophetically.

My proposal sought to meet his challenge. My competitor tried to go the middle of the road route. Of course, the minister of music did not want to settle for that.

A couple of years after we did the install, he said to me. “I never thought we’d get to use your company because you’re known as the provider of ‘Cadillac’ systems, but it turned out that you were less the 15 percent more than your competitor—and we knew with you that we would get something that would serve us well and stand the test of time.”

With that context and memory in mind, I move to my second more recent experience, where I was working front of house at a seminar at a mid-sized church. It was a very simple event, a headset mic and a handheld mic. Doing EQ on a mid-level console (only one band of sweepable EQ), I listened closely to how the system sounded. It was “just OK,” and there really wasn’t anything else I could do to make it better.

During the event, a church member who serves on the sound team stopped in to pick something up, and in passing he said, “Keep your hand on the fader—every once in a while the system just doubles in volume for no real reason, and if you don’t catch it the feedback is painful.”

Nice!

So now as I paid much more attention to the board, keeping my finger on the fader, I also began mentally adding up the cost of the system.

My conclusion was that for maybe 10 percent or so more investment, the church could have purchased far better equipment. Sound quality would be higher, and more than likely, they wouldn’t be having issues just five years after the installation.

It really does seem that with most things in life, it’s that extra 10 percent that takes things from good to great.

Something we all need to keep in mind when we’re thinking about system upgrades, because it can very much pay off in the long run.

6 Ways to Build Better Churches

Constructing or renovating a worship facility can and should be a joyful time. So, what are the right things to do which will help bring joy – or at least keep the peace – during a building project?

There are countless horror stories and lists of what not to do. These are important as no one wants to make avoidable mistakes. Yet, part of the puzzle is missing.

You can avoid the major mistakes and still end up with a building project that is frustrating, time consuming and just plain no fun!

So, what are the right things to do?

A building project can and should be a joyful time. The fact that you are embarking on a building project is a testament to ministry happening at your church.

What factors can help bring joy—- or at least keep the peace—- during a building project?

1.) GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE FROM YOUR CONGREGATION INVOLVED

It cannot be overstated how important it is to have the right team in place, as you head into a building project.

The team I am referring to are the people responsible for decisions on getting the building built, not the ones in fundraising or communication efforts. Those are completely separate tasks that should be handled outside of the building committee.

So what makes up a good team member and who should be on team?

Of course the typical things like leadership, wisdom, the ability to gather consensus are all important and should not be under rated.  But assuming those character qualities are present, what other things should you look for?

I suggest that you get diversity of experience on your team. For me an ideal team would consist of people with the following expertise

  • Finance
  • Construction
  • Programing
  • (running events, understanding what is needed functionally for events)

  • Facilities maintenance
  • Prayer warrior

This group along with the team leader (pastor or elder) should be empowered to make all decisions related to the project.  I am a fan of hand picking rather than holding an election. I want to stack the committee with the most talented people I can find.

This group will influence and decide on all things related to the building process.  This should include selecting the architect and general contractor as well as deciding the construction process (design/bid/build, design/build or some variant of these).

This group does not have to all “be of one mind.” In fact, differing ideas should be encouraged. However, the group does need to be able to make decisions and move forward trusting each other to come to the best decisions.

2.) START WITH THE RIGHT PROGRAM/MASTER PLAN

I find it fascinating that almost everyone knows the statement “if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time”, and yet churches still do not heed the advice as they push forward on a building project without doing any master planning.

I was on staff at a large growing church and I remember sitting in on planning sessions for a new building, wondering why the architect was asking questions pertaining to 10 years down the road.  Today when I go back to visit that church I drive on the ring road that surrounds the now sprawling campus and think back to those meetings.  I distinctly remember the architect being insistent that the above mentioned ring road be built before the building expansion. Honestly I was thinking at the time, what a waste, that road is not necessary we don’t have traffic issues.

What the architect saw was that with future building the church would need to have entrances from multiple locations and even multiple streets that surrounded the campus.  The architect’s insistence on a master plan determined building location as well as traffic flow that is still working 20 years later and with 5 times more traffic.

Don’t gloss over, or just pass by the idea of master planning. Yes, the plan most likely will change over time. But because there is a plan adaptation for growth, or change in ministry, it will be much easier to accommodate.

3.)PUT TOGETHER THE RIGHT CONSTRUCTION TEAM

Perhaps the construction committee’s projects biggest responsibility is assembling the right construction team.  That team of Architect and contractors needs to understand the vision of the church and be a true partner with the church on the project.

Putting this team together involves a lot of home work, wisdom and prayer.  I suggest that the Construction committee visit no less than 5 other projects that the architect has done as well as the construction company.  Hopefully they architect and Construction Company have already done projects together as this will cut down on the number of sites to visit.

When visiting the sites make sure you talk with people that were involved with the construction project.  Ask the typical s “what did you do right? “And “what did you do wrong?” Also ask how easy the architect and contractor are to work with? Was it fun?  Another great question is “knowing what you now know would you hire them again if you were starting your project today?

I will stress again the importance of doing your homework and not just talking with, but also visiting other projects. One last note, ask to meet and interview all the key people that will be working on the project including the project superintendent (this is the person you will see and interact with every day).

4.) THE RIGHT SCHEDULE

Timing is everything.

Make sure that you understand the length of each phase of the project. Look at how the length of time will impact pricing as well as your current ministry.

Assuming you are already meeting on the property, make sure that the construction team has a good plan in place of how they will accommodate the current ministry you have taking place.

Another factor in scheduling, particularly in northern areas, is weather.  It can be much more expensive if you are doing footings and foundation in the middle of winter.
Your ministry schedule should also be factored into the schedule.  Is it important that you move into the building before fall kick off? Before Christmas? Before Easter?  Make sure you work the plan backwards from that date to see if it is feasible.  Also, make sure it is realistic! If this is a new location away from where you currently meet, then you only have to worry about weather and ministry schedule

5.) THE RIGHT ENGAGEMENT

Keeping the team happy and communicating with the congregation.

Watching a building being built is an exciting thing.  Make sure you keep the congregation informed about the schedule and progress.  Once the building is enclosed schedule a walkthrough where your congregation
can go thru and see the progress.  You may want to schedule a walkthrough at a few key milestones along the way.  Also use video, photos and social media to show the progress.

Make sure you also keep engaged with the construction team. Do not become a road block because decisions are not being made in a timely fashion.  Also encourage the team.  Do a cook out at the construction site for all the workers, set up a prayer team to pray for the construction process and the safety of the workers.

6.) RIGHT FOCUS

During the process it can be easy to forget about the purpose and the spiritual side involved in the project.

Some simple things help to keep the right focus.

Remember the purpose and great responsibilities placed on your shoulders.  Pray consistently for the project and project team. Get to know the people working on the project, show them that you care about them.

Don’t forget to pray for the people that will be impacted for Christ over the lifetime of the building.

 

Design/Bid/Build, Design Assist or Design/Build?

Bringing clarity to the three most popular methods of constructing a worship facility.

Starting a building or renovation project can be overwhelming.

How much is it going to cost?

How can I find people I trust to work with on the project?

How can I get the congregation on board?

How will we raise the funds? Do we borrow?

There are no shortage of questions…

The company I work for helps a lot of churches by finding ways to assist in the building process.

One of the ways is to come in for a small fee and do a Phase I, a needs assessment. This will establish a base budget, and a few renderings of the project are created that can be shared with the congregation.

Going thru this process answers almost all of the questions about building, and a path can be laid out for the project.

There are many different methods of how to construct.

Let’s talk about the three most popular:

Design/Bid/Build The “low-bid” method.
A church will first hire an architect to completely design the facility and develop a full set of construction documents. Upon the completion of the drawings (a six-plus-month process), the church will then solicit bids from a selected group of contractors. The contractor is awarded the project solely on the basis of “low-bid.”

Churches traditionally choose this method because it promotes a low-bid. This method does, however, can carry significant risks and might elongates the process. Only after the drawings are completed are actual construction costs identified. Unfortunately, projects more often than not come in over budget. Additionally, change orders based on things changing or faulty design add a significant amount of cost to the project.

Construction Manager at Risk/Design Assist:
The owner or church will hire an independent architect and an independent construction manager/contractor.

The church holds both contracts and the architect and contractor work together to design and construct the project.  The risk is the blame game that can occur between the Architect and the Contractor.  This can put the church in the awkward position of trying to play referee and also managing the financial implications.

Design/Build:

This is one of the most popular delivery methods in church construction projects.

Under this method, the church hires a single construction firm to both design and build the facility. The contractor is the single source of responsibility for the owner. Some Design Build firms have their own architects on staff, but most contractors have to contract with an outside design firm. The contractor holds the responsibility and is able to work hand-in-glove with his entire team to guide the progress of the design elements around the church’s budget. Costs are determined earlier in the process.  Also, this eliminates the need for redesigns and the risk of cost overages or non-owner directed change orders.

The key in any of these methods is finding the right team. A team that you can trust. A team that you can work with. A team that you feel has the churches best interest in mind.  In a forthcoming article I will expand on the process of choosing a contractor/design team.

 

Rating Your Total Church Experience

What is Sunday morning really like to your church visitors? How does your facility fit your ministry? How to see your facility experience with fresh eyes.

 

I grew up in the church and have worked in some capacity for the local church most of my adult life.  Much of that time has been devoted to the technical production side.

However, this year I was asked to step into the role of looking at the entire Sunday morning experience.  Basically, what does someone experience from the time they drive onto our campus to the moment they pull out of the parking lot after service.  As our church hosts many community events, I’ve added examining the public’s experience anytime they enter our facility.

The church I’m at is a great church. It’s growing in numbers, with multiple services held every Sunday morning. We have a building project underway and another in the planning stages.

We must be doing something right, correct?

As I’ve expanded my perspective outside of worship, and look at the overall experience, I find that we are doing some things right. But, yes, there is room for improvement.

Once I began observing the entire experience, it became overwhelming.  I saw stains in the carpet.  Fake plants that look like they are from the 1970’s (they might be).  There are rooms that are painted dark and have no windows.  There is not enough signage—- how does a guest find a restroom? Do people know where to go for information on where to bring their children to nursery or Sunday school?  When someone simply walks in the door, are they greeted?

I found so many areas in need; I realized I had to create an order of magnitude and a priority list.  I also knew that I was probably only seeing 20 to 30 percent of what really needed to be done.  So, rather than hastily jumping in and starting (my normal mode of operation) I stepped back and decided to get a game plan and team together.

Game Plan for Facility Audit in 6 Steps

1) Facility Visual Audit
I had already started this process. In fact, as I mentioned, I was a bit overwhelmed and knew there was so much more I was not seeing.  To get a complete picture I enlisted the help of others.

The church staff was a great start.
I took staff on a tour of the facility, and asked them what they saw.

We went thru every room, bathrooms, opened closet doors and also walked thru the outside campus.  My list grew by 10x, but what also happened is people caught the vision.

Ideas began to flow; we could get a volunteer to patch the drywall were white boards were taken down and holes were left. If we got rid of tables in the lobby and added couches with seating areas it would feel more like home.  Wow, does this bathroom in the back always look this rough? We need to make sure it gets cleaned.

It was a really positive time. The buy in and ideas from the staff brought energy to the process.

I also recruited a group of regular attenders and went thru the same process.  Again with similar results.

As a final step in this process I invited a friend who was not familiar with our church and did the same thing.  He saw many things the first groups had missed.  Some were very obvious.  They had become so used to seeing things that they had become blind to some obvious things.  I also asked this friend to come on a Sunday morning.

2) Facility Functional Audit.
This turned out to be more difficult and tricky than I thought. My first go around was to just walk around on a Sunday and observe.  Some things became obvious, like when someone came up and said, “Sorry, I’m new here, where in the world are the bathrooms?”  After showing them the bathroom I looked around.

Yup, there was no signage and the location was not obvious. Other things, like it being 5 degrees hotter in the balcony than the main floor were going to take some work to figure out and correct.

I once again involved the staff but rather than take them around in a group, I met with them one on one and asked the simple question, “What about the building is hindering your ministry?”

This opened up some great dialogue and generated answers that I was surprised by and would have never thought of.

Also some very important things came up—- like how we were securing the children’s area, but not being very effective at it.  To fix this problem involved moving one wall.  A relatively simple fix that really increased the security of the children’s area.

3) Visit other churches.
This was my favorite idea.  Previously I had been involved in an event for tech guys called church tech tours.  You showed up at a church, toured its tech and production equipment, ate a quick meal together and then jumped on a bus and visited two more facilities, then returned back to the original location.  At church tech tours I personally got tons of ideas and loved seeing what other churches were doing.

Turns out that church staff loved the idea, but coordinating schedules and the fact everyone was already overloaded made it difficult to do.  So I chose the approach of just contacting other churches and setting up times we could visit.  I sent invites out to the staff, and who ever could make it came along.

I also was very upfront and limited the total time including travel to 1-½ hours.  Yes it made the tour of the other churches facility rushed, but in reality 90 percent of the time within the first 10 minutes people could see and get a feel for what that church was doing right and wrong.

As a side note I did circle back with the churches that were nice enough to let us come thru and shared with them the good and the bad.  I think they all appreciated that.

My current goal, is to take one Sunday every other month and visit another church on a Sunday as be a “secret shopper” for them, if they would like.  Or just visit and get ideas.

4) Look around at common gather areas.
Because of my tech background I can’t watch an awards show or concert without announcing what brand and model mic the lead vocal is using, what the main speakers are, etc.  Well, now I can’t walk into any building without noticing how it looks and feels.  I also watch how people move around in the space, what are the traffic patterns?  Where are the restrooms?

I was surprised by how this little thing of just looking around educated me.  From the restaurant where you had to walk uncomfortably thru the dining area to get to the counter to order, to the convention center that only had signs that said things like Aisle 1, or Smith Memorial Room with an arrow that could either have me stay straight or maybe take the fork to the left.

Simple, yet profound for me as I was able to apply some good stuff I saw. And the experience enabled me to see things and get ideas I never would have gotten without looking around.

5) Enlist the help of other professionals.
By now my list had gotten huge and I needed to prioritize.  So, I also took the step of consulting professionals.  Some were members of the church, some were not. Some we paid and some we did not have to.  By bringing my list to the professional in I was able to develop a game plan as well as a start on the financial implications of what we needed to change.

The professionals in a lot of ways confirmed what I was thinking, but also they saw some cause and effect that I would have missed.  Things like if you paint the walls, you have to do the carpet at the same time. I also found out I could improve our lighting quality and brightness in the sanctuary and have it pay for itself in 1 year thru rebates and energy savings.

It took time to seek out the professionals and meet with them, but it was well worth it!

6) Hospitality wins people over.
I noticed this on a Sunday while I was observing and really just looking for what was wrong and need to be fixed.  What I saw was a guest who came thru the door and was greeted by a smiling face, then escorted to the children’s area, given a small tour, then delivered back to the sanctuary. Then this is when it happened.  In my mind this cemented what really needs to happen.

The greeter, who met them and gave them the tour asked the couple if they had lunch plans. The greeter said that he was having some friends coming over after church, and that he would love to have the new family join them.

Touch down.  At this point the ugly yellow color of our sanctuary walls that I hate… didn’t matter one bit.  Especially on this Sunday.