Is your worship facility working for you? Will it still be working 20 years from now? Planning ahead can help save a lot of heartache, frustrations and money in the long run.

Facility assessments are typically pretty straightforward. A traditional assessment will look at a building’s current state, from the roof to the carpeting, in order to:

  • forecast the expected life of those assets,
  • understand the short and long term expenditures necessary for determining life cycle cost,
  • and evaluate maintenance and replacement cost.

The goal of the assessment is to create a plan that will help your church prepare for expenses and keep your buildings running in top condition.

However, what you may not realize is that facility assessments can be about more than just looking at the health and longevity of your main systems. For places of worship, assessments can determine if your facility is helping or hindering your mission goals.

How can a facility assessment help meet the goals of your church mission?

Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to truly look at the use of space and how it is helping or encumbering an organization’s goals.

Take fellowship halls for example.

In many churches, a fellowship hall is the place where members meet and mingle after or before a service, or for group activities during the week. Many churches still have their fellowship hall in the basement. This can act as a barrier to ministry visibility while limiting the capacity to flex and respond to ministry change and priorities. Most important, it becomes a destination and not part of an intuitive flow of your membership.

New members may not be aware of activities happening in the basement because of a lack of visibility, and therefore, knowledge. This can leave them feeling cut off and may cause them to disengage from the church.

For existing members, accessibility becomes an issue over the years. As members age, they may find it more and more difficult to make it down to the basement after services. As these new habits become their norm, they become less and less likely to reintegrate.

Why is it important to have a facility assessment and how often should you do it?

Facility assessments should generally take place about every five years. However, if you are diligent about updating and maintaining a facility plan, then assessments can be spread out even further.

Facility assessments help you establish a baseline on the condition of your church buildings, from systems and exterior envelope, to interiors. Once you know the age, life expectancy and future costs of maintenance, you can begin to develop a facility plan. A facility plan helps you prepare for the future by budgeting short and long-term expenses. Further, it can provide insight into how your building, site and environment are supporting your ministry needs. Instead of reacting to projects as they are needed, you’ll be well prepared to handle the maintenance of you building year after year.

What are the steps?

The steps in a facility assessment are fairly straightforward. Since you need to determine the condition of your building you’ll want to connect with professionals who understand your facility type and the many systems of the building. Typically, facility assessments are performed by a group of architects and engineers of various disciplines who, together, can holistically evaluate your building.

Pre-visit – Prior to a facility assessment there are a number of important items that must be created. The first is a detailed work plan and schedule, done in conjunction with your key staff. The second is an assessment tool kit created specifically for your project. Additionally, all existing facility documentation that is available (plans, specifications and operations manuals) should be sent to the professional services firm prior to the site visit. This will allow them to become familiar with the current state of your building, as it appears on paper.

Site visit – The site visit step should include the professional services firm, your facility director and any other key players who might have valuable insight into the condition of the building. A thorough tour should take place to give everyone the opportunity to partake on a detailed physical assessment. You may notice the professional services firm taking photos, this is to help them as they develop recommendations after the visit.

This is also the time when the use of space within your church can be evaluated. An architect will ask key questions to understand how your missions and DNA help support the community. They will look at how spaces are used and will likely discuss significant challenges facing your organizations. Many times, simple yet helpful suggestions on how a space could be more effective or engaging, will be discussed during the visit.

Post visit – During the post-visit phase, architects and engineers will prepare detailed narratives of their observations including:

  1. Key system/equipment deficiencies
  2. A list of improvements and/or replacements with associated costs
  3. The life expectancy of each major system within the facility.

At the very end, you will receive a number of key deliverables that will help you and your team as you determine the best next steps. These include:

  1. Executive summary and recommendations
  2. Deferred maintenance schedule by major system
  3. System assessment narratives backed up with supporting photographs and appropriate plans
  4. System/equipment cost estimates
  5. Utilization of Space Study, which includes:
    1. Vision and mission of the church
    2. Overview of program based on needs of the church

Facility assessments are a key step in getting your church on a path to structural and financial stability. Not only can a facility plan help you prepare for upcoming maintenance costs, but it’s the first step to developing a master plan. A master plan provides a long-range strategy for the built environment of your church.  Additionally, having an outside perspective to rethink your use of space may just be the insight you need as you look to inspire members. Overall, facility assessments help ensure that your organization is around for years to come as you work to accomplish your missions and pass them on to future generations.