"We've gotten busier over the years and have realized the more streamlined we could make the facilities management part, the easier it would be to accomplish our mission which is doing the work of our church." Nathan Parr, FBC Belton
Are you in charge of overseeing the overall functioning of your worship facilities' physical plant? Does your facility have multiple rooms with activities going on more than once or twice a week? Do you need to keep track of what's going on in the maintenance-and-repairs department?
If so, chances are good that a facilities management software program would make your life a lot easier.
In the world of worship facilities, think of facilities management as "facility stewardship," says Tim Cool, chief solutions officer and project facilitator for Cool Solutions Group, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based provider of software solutions for church facility room scheduling and facility management. From his perspective, facilities management software is best described as "software that assists the user to best steward the facilities God has entrusted to them."
According to Cool, outside of the realm of churches, this kind of software is actually referred to as CMMS, an acronym for "Computerized Maintenance Management System," with a focus on maintaining a computer database of information about an organization's maintenance operations. In the church world, there is often ("far too often," according to Cool) more emphasis on how these packages expedite event/room/resource scheduling.
A CASE STUDY
Whatever the emphasis, the right software enables facilities management staff to focus more on the core mission of a church.
Nathan Parr is operations manager at First Baptist Church in Belton, Texas.
He has nine full-time staff and a couple of part-time college students to help manage this facility. The church's main campus, located on a nearly-11-acre tract in the city's downtown, is comprised of an approximately-105,000-square-foot main building and about 14,000 square feet-worth of external buildings.
Age-wise, a wide range of structures are managed by Parr and his team. The oldest building was constructed in 1948, according to Parr, with additional buildings coming online in 1961, 1980, 1991, 1997, and 2007.
These buildings are home to a number of uses, including a private school; a state-licensed child-care facility; a Chinese-language church; and a Hispanic mission church. All told, these buildings generate an average of around 11,000 "room uses," i.e., events utilizing a room or rooms, annually.
The church currently uses Cool Solutions Group's eSPACE software package to help manage its facilities. This package combines what were previously separate software packages, which included called MINISTReSPACE, which was a room and event scheduling software; and a second entitled FACILITeSPACE, geared toward work order and maintenance management.
Parr says that he and his team have been using this package for a little more than a year but that they long ago saw the wisdom of utilizing facilities management software, initially to track facilities-usage events.
"We'd always used some kind of scheduling software in order to better manage facilities usage through buildings," says Parr. "With all the meetings, discipleship classes, schools and other things we handle, we've gotten a lot busier over the years and have realized that the more streamlined we could make the facilities management part, the easier it would be to accomplish our mission which is doing the work of our church."
MULTIUSER CAPABILITIES IMPORTANT
Elements of First Baptist of Belton's current eSPACE facilities management software that Parr likes best include its ability to better accommodate multiple users (including 15 ministers in the case of this church), allowing them to fully access the program as they create, plan and modify events, i.e., "room scheduling and calendaring."
He also finds eSPACE's allowance for individual entering and editing of events is superior to the previous packages the church has used, "and is certainly easier than trying to track things on paper."
When staff members go online to, in essence, "book" a space, they are shown immediately if a particular space is already scheduled and, if so, by whom.
"This means that conflicting requests for an event space can be resolved at the user level, well before it comes up to the administrative level for approval," says Parr.
At the same time, event "owners" (i.e., those who request space) have a great deal of control over editing/making changes to the events they have scheduled, notes Parr, "which means that the administrative team is not constantly trying to hunt down folks to get more information regarding their events."
In a typical scenario, "An event owner say a minister of children's education wants to have a Sunday night meeting and serve ice cream logs on to the system and enters the details of the event, where and when they want it to take place, what they will need from us as far as set-up, and anything else," Parr explains.
Once approved by the administrator, "The event is now on the schedule, where the owner can still make changes and resubmit if need be," says Parr.
SOME BUYING TIPS
Parr has a number of tips for his colleagues in the worship facilities maintenance world when it comes to finding the right facilities management software package.
Deciding if you need such a package is apparently simple enough: "If your church has activities more than just on Sunday and Wednesday, you should consider facilities management software," says Parr.
From there, shop around to find the package and the vendor that fits your church's needs best. In First Baptist of Belton's case, the church had already used these software packages, so they had some familiarity with various products.
Contact other churches and ask about what they are using. Go online to the various vendors and take a run through their online demos/"test drives. And last, but definitely not least also check out the National Association of Church Facilities Managers (NACFM) at http://nacfm.com/ , "a great resource," according to Parr, where you can check out forums where members discuss questions about his and other related topics.
Meanwhile, look to get both CMMS/work order and event-scheduling capability in your package, advises Cool. And when you find such a product, "Look for a vendor that provides live customer service, has church experience, understands how churches function and is constantly adding new features based on input from their subscribers," he says.
CMMS packages should, of course, provide the capabilities to create and evaluate work requests from staff; and from there, generate and track the actual work orders from beginning to end and, very importantly, maintain a history log for future reference, Cool notes. The better systems will also handle tracking of suppliers, vendors and other subcontractors, he notes, as well as provide automated e-mail notification functionality.
Non negotiables in the CMMS arena
"Make sure your package includes the capability to track both scheduled and preventive maintenance," Cool says. "If the systems you are considering do not offer this feature, then run for the hills, as this is one of the most critical features for any organization that is intentional about the life cycle of their facilities."
Be certain any CMMS system you buy into is web-based
"While this may not be what first comes to mind, I assure you this is a feature you will not want live without," tells Cool. "We are seeing an exponential increase in the need for access to systems, when you are out of the office where your desktop may be plugged in. Don’t get an application that tethers you to a desk," says Cool, adding, "Whoever was able to fix a toilet or replace an air filter while sitting at their desk?"