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Often, church leaders say they only have the resources to fix things when they break. However, by working proactively now, you can better prepare for the future and prevent failures from occurring.

Far too often, I hear church leaders say they only have the resources to fix things when they break. While it is important in any business to be smart with financials, in the church world, it is mission-critical that we use every dollar as effectively as possible. Any money that isn’t spent wisely takes away from the already limited resources we have available to carry out the church’s mission: Spreading the gospel to the unreached. As the leader of a church, it is your responsibility to be good stewards of the resources you are entrusted with.

When we only pay attention to assets when they break, however, you can quickly find that you’re stuck in a continuous reactive state. From our experience observing churches in many different life cycles of their facilities, this state rarely happens overnight; this cycle is almost always the result of a practice referred to as the “Normalization of Deviance.” The Normalization of Deviance is defined as the “gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization.”

Deviating from the way that we normally do things, whether it's due to funding or simply an unintentional behavior that goes unchecked, can have negative consequences for your church. Because of the lack of proactive work being done on your facilities, you'll actually see things break more often, creating more of a financial strain down the road. But preventing the Normalization of Deviance without straining your resources is possible if you focus on two key areas: Preventive maintenance and capital planning.


1. Preventive Maintenance


When giving is down, churches tend to minimize funds going into their second-most expensive assets: facilities. Over time, however, passing over routine maintenance can create expensive consequences. Your equipment breaks down sooner, the roof starts to leak – the amount of things that you’ll have to request capital for quickly accumulates.

Costly repairs can be avoided if you had a formalized program in place to monitor your facilities and give you good information to help drive those decisions. By utilizing a CCMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Program), you can prevent the normalization of deviance within your church’s maintenance routine.

A CMMS helps you:

  • Schedule your preventive maintenance and
  • Set reminders for upcoming maintenance
  • Hold yourself or your contractors accountable

Using a CMMS in your facilities can also help you start to predict when breakdowns may occur, which in turn will help you plan your budgets.


2. Capital Planning


Utilizing a CMMS for this allows you to develop a historical perspective and understand how much money has been spent maintaining them on preventive maintenance versus reactive maintenance so you know when to consider replacements – that’s just smarter management!

Capital planning and capital forecasting helps you understand where your assets are in their life cycle, when they will likely fail, and how much you should be putting into a reserve fund each year for their eventual replacement. After all, we want to save our capital campaigns for things like church planting, short term mission trips, and other ministry-related initiatives.


Long-Term Planning


Keep in mind that when you partner with the right CMMS company, you will have a client advisor just a phone call away to provide their expertise when needed, so taking time to choose the right solution with the right people is just as important as making sure the software has the features you need.

Preventing the Normalization of Deviance is an ongoing process. Setting goals is important, but it’s even more valuable to take the first steps towards getting out of your reactive state, which more often than not involves behavioral changes. To read more about how your church can set up a plan for long-term success, check out our whitepaper: “5 Steps to Avoid Running Facilities to Failure."


This post was originally written by Donovan Loomis for Church Executive magazine. Donovan is the national Church Facilities Maintenance consultant at Dude Solutions and has worked with nearly 200 churches to help provide a safe environment and improve operational efficiency through asset management, capital forecasting and preventive maintenance planning.

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