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To diagnose a problem, sometimes it's better to start at the end and work your way back to the beginning.

In the hectic day-to-day life of renovations, preparing for the holidays, finishing budgets, setting up for the young adults class that starts at 6:30 this evening (and oh, by the way, your pastor needs a [enter pretty much any object of any condition here] as a prop for tomorrow’s sermon), we face many recurring challenges that we have come to accept as “part of the job.” This could be lack of funds, always “chasing your tail,” the inability to find good contractors, lack of communication or a litany of others.

With no time to sit back and think about the bigger picture of what’s going on (because, let’s be honest, in the church world you’re not spending your day sitting behind the desk), it’s difficult to catch your breath and think about what the root cause of the issues we’re facing is.

In a recent article, I discussed the “APPEM” model for maintaining your facilities (Assess, Prioritize, Plan, Execute, and Maintain). However, this framework can be utilized for almost anything that requires planning.

Today, I want to look at it in reverse (because it’s good to shake things up, right?).

Starting at the End

Let’s look, for example, at the inability to get out of this hole of deferred maintenance to do more than make band aid fixes (inability to properly maintain). Is it a lack of time? A lack of money? More than likely it’s a result of one (or both) of those reasons.

How often do we hear “we’re a church, we can’t afford that”? This is the execution, or lack thereof. Ask: Is there really nothing we can temporarily cut in order to extend the life of the most expensive assets entrusted to us, and create a safer, controlled environment for our members? I commend folks for being cautious of how they are spending the money entrusted to them, but is it really a bad idea to invest it in something that is going to help us become more proactive and save us money in the long run?

Sometimes the resources really aren’t there, and I don’t want to ignore that, but often maintenance doesn’t have the resources to execute because resources are assigned to other projects that are given a higher priority. The root cause for this could often be remedied if we used the data we have to back up our story and plan for the needed resources. The mission of the church is to make new disciples and send them out, but in order to do that we have to be a sustainable organization.

A significant factor to this is having a baseline understanding of what we have. In order to do this, we should have the information at our fingertips to assess our assets and their current value based on purchase date and cost, warranty, and maintenance history, to minimize surprise failures down the road.

Addressing the Root Cause

This is why the Information Age is impacting every type of organization. Like the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Revolution, the Information Age will change our society, particularly the way we make decisions (especially when many departments are competing for budget). Utilizing the information garnered from your daily operations, you can began working backwards to diagnose the root causes. Figure out what the root cause of your challenges are, and use the information and data you have to help tell your story and the ramifications today’s decisions will have on the church’s mission down the road.

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