In 2013 the US church tithe was around $50 billion. Of that $50 billion, $10 billion (20%) was spent on our church facilities (mortgage, utility expense, maintenance and operation). However, we sent only $1 billion (2%) as a church to global missions.
What am I trying to say with the statistics? First off do not misinterpret what I am saying. We leverage the church facility for a number of reasons: worship, ministry, community engagement & much more. The church is not the building, believers are, however the building empowers and equips the body to impact the world. The $1 billion we give to missions is a big number and it is invested because we believe in what God can do through the local church. The local church works in the soil in regard to missions. It changes the hands of perverted cultures by changing the heart through the power of the Gospel. Also, our church budgets invest in other areas that impact the head, heart and hand: pastors, community engagement, local evangelism, reconciliation, ministries, etc…. However, I am saying that we can, and we must do a better job in the way we invest into our facilities because the way we invest into facility management has a direct tie to missions, let me explain.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency 30-40% of the energy we use is wasted, which means that expense CAN be recaptured through no cost behavior change. YES, I believe this because I have seen this, we have done over 5 thousand energy audits, and in everyone there is a very large opportunity to save through no cost behavior strategy. Do you see the opportunity? If we can save 30% of our utility and maintenance expense this is funding that can go to empower missions. I know this is easier said than done, and if we did save 30%, the savings could be sent to other ministry related expenses. However, our specific mission as a ministry/company is to empower missions via energy management, thus the article. There are a number of churches that are beginning to impact change through energy savings: The Summit Church in NC, Buckhead Church in GA, Mosaic Church in Austin and many more. The truth of the fact is there is a very large opportunity to impact change through changing the way we behave. However overall, we are missing out on this opportunity because we undervalue our facility management team.
Our M&O and utility expense is our second largest budget item behind salaries, however the first area we cut is that of our facility management team. I certainly understand budget cuts, and many times we just do not have a choice. However, we need to understand the effect that lack of facility management investment has on utility and facility expense. When we undervalue our facility managers we create reactive opposed to proactive environments where energy waste and deferred maintenance flourishes, this is a very expensive practice.
No longer do we have a facility manager with vision, but a facility manager that wears 20 different hats. No longer do they have the opportunity to forward think, but because they are stretched too thin they are forced to operate in reactive mode. He or she is now put in a position where they are putting out fires, fixing problems, addressing hot and cold calls, etc. 110+% of their time is spent on reactive issues, which leaves little time to be proactive. As a result, a unit breaks down and we have to install an emergency replacement unit (very expense). We have to pour in thousands of dollars into the upkeep of very old equipment. Someone in the congregation put the thermostat, that controls the 100-ton chiller, on hold at 68° causing it to run 24/7, again very expensive practice. Reactive environments create energy waste simply because problems go overlooked. Problems go overlooked because facility managers do not have the time or resources they need. In many cases facility managers are undervalued, under resourced, over worked, understaffed, etc. Sometimes we do not have a choice, it is the hand we have been dealt and we must face it the best we know how. However, many times we can do something about it. I hope I do not sound to judgmental, do in some cases, but I see value in impacting the world through facility management. My hope, if in our ability, is to bring facility management up a few notches on the importance scale. Because by doing so we can impact change more than we know.
I had the opportunity to speak at the NACFM (National Association of Church Facility Managers) annual conference in SC on June 20th, and what I saw was over 150 facility managers at evangelical churches from around the nation sharing resources, building relationships, sparking ideas, networking and more. They were investing in their ministries, so they can be the best that they can be. If you think about it, facility managers, at least in my opinion, have the ability to make the largest financial impact on missions. They have the ability to impact missions by as much as $3 billion simply by changing the way they operate, by being proactive, by identifying problems before they occur, understanding utility bills, and more. This cannot happen unless we equip and invest into them. Think about it, what if we had a direct partnership between facility management and missions. What if we could stand with Gospel centered NGO’s like World Relief or Influence International by impacting change in Congo, India and Nepal, what if we could triple their budgets and resources. Would the perversion in Congo look any different? Would the trafficking in India change? We could make a much larger impact on the soil of these cultures. Facility Managers bring much more to the table than just energy management; they spark job creation in the most vulnerable places; they leverage sustainability (solar, wind, etc..) to empower missions: they teach church planters/missionaries trades, and much more. Let’s invest into our facility management teams together. “Fulfilling God’s mission for His Kingdom’s sake starts with the recognition that the place where we are standing is Holy ground.”