12 diseases of a church facility

By Tim Cool

A while back, Gary Nicholson, a church architect formerly with LifeWay in Nashville, wrote a blog about 9 diseases of church facilities. Since that post, our researchers have determined that there are additional diseases that many church facilities — and those involved in church facility care and development — may suffer from.

I thought you would enjoy “playing doctor” and diagnose if your facilities suffer from any of these ailments.

3d shiny red number 9Diseases of the church facility

Just as our bodies contract diseases that can lead to problems and cause pain and discomfort, many diseases can infect church facilities so that the church can experience functional problems and great discomfort. Rarely are these merely cosmetic, but are often outward signs of much more deep seeded problems. Examples include:

1) Growing Pains — Consistently filling of a space or spaces in the church to beyond 80%, often a positive sign of growing numbers in a church. If not addressed, can become a limitation and lead to stunted growth. The remedy is not always to build new space, but to examine the possibilities of a) Redistributing the people into underutilized areas, b) Utilizing the space in an additional session at a different hour or time slot, or c) Considering adding space that allows for future growth.

2) Bumpus Maximus — When too many people are in your church foyer or lobby. Occurs primarily between services and Bible study sessions. Made worse when the preacher doesn’t stop preaching on time and people are waiting in the foyer to get into the next service when the previous service is not yet over, so that people are exiting the worship center at the same time others are trying to enter. (Can be made even worse when the entire congregation ate nothing but beans the night before at the annual world hunger banquet.)

3) Circulatory Disease — When hallways and corridors are clogged or jammed full of people so that movement becomes difficult. Worst in cases where multiple services are occurring so that there is traffic both coming and going in the halls at the same time. Easily rectified by a good church squabble to thin the flock and reduce the numbers, leaving only the few who will not leave regardless of the dysfunction in the fellowship.

4) Architectural Senility — A rather sad state whereby antiquated facilities relate to the past much more than the present. Can take on many forms. One often cited example is extremely small rooms designed for adult Bible study groups of 6-8 people instead of today’s larger groups, or built for activities that never materialize, like a recreation facility that no one uses. Another example is a very small platform with room for piano and organ and no other instruments because that was the way church was done in the 1950s.

5) Flashback Syndrome — The visual state of a room that induces instant flashbacks in a person who enters — usually to the 1970s or some other era — by the nature of the color scheme and patterns, such as shag carpet with harvest gold, or avocado green color schemes. Symptoms might also include floral wall paper, or garish plaids and mauve color schemes from the eighties, etc. Communicates that the members are out of touch with the present, or simply do not think church is important enough to bother updating the environment.

6) Architectural Vertigo — When a church facility has been designed with no sense of balance such as between the spaces allotted for areas such as building a huge worship center without regard for the space to balance it with children’s program space, or building without adequate parking. The result is often the communication of an unintended message such as: Bible study is not important, or even that we don’t care about kids.

7) “Scatter brain” Syndrome (scatterus incognito) — A common ailment where the various age groups and programs are not arranged in any logical order and finding the appropriate room becomes extremely difficult for new or infrequent attendees.

8) Religious Edifice Confusionitis — When a congregation builds using architectural styles or trappings from a different religion while declaring it to be “the way a church ought to look.” Greek and Roman temple forms used in 19th and 20th century church buildings are often confused as “Christian,” when actually they were created as tributes to ancient gods like Aphrodite and Zeus. Makes people wonder if you know why the church even exists.

9) Pave-it-all Landscapeosis — A disease often seen in churches that have taken the desire for a low-maintenance landscape plan to the ultimate level. Everything (except the cemetery) is paved. Asphalt has replaced the grass all the way up the building with no room for landscaping because, well, that’s the point: They don’t want to have to maintain a landscape. It has an unattractive appearance, but at least it they don’t have to do anything to take care of it.

10) Life Cycle Anemia — This is a very serious disease that affects the majority of churches in America. It is cause by a lack of planning for the future and not setting aside ample funds for Capital Reserves. The reality is that you will replace many of the building components of your buildings…PERIOD! You will replace the roof. You will replace all the HVAC equipment. You will replace all the carpet. So, to avoid this serious condition, plan accordingly.

11) Committee Atrophy — When a committee can not move forward or is stuck in the sister disease of Paralysis by Analysis, you may have to take serious action. In fact this disease often requires you to go all “Medieval” on the committee. Unfortunately, this are not many cures to this other than slicing and dicing.

12) Cheapitis –– Cheap is TOO Expensive. I will not belabor this condition…check out last week’s blog here.

Infected with one or more? The cure can be a lot of hard work, but so worth the effort to be free of such maladies and able to function as a church should. I recommend diagnosis by an expert in church such diseases.

TIMCool-stairsTim Cool @TLCool is founder of Cool Solutions Group, and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre-construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool Solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures; Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space; and Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled “Intentional Church.”


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