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Maintaining and Improving Your Church Building

Why practice effective building maintenance?

All buildings decay. Effective maintenance includes not just the routine cleaning and painting that have to be done over time, but looking for hidden problems as well. Foundations, support beams, insulation and electrical wiring, plumbing, sub-roofing and the block-outs for windows and doors are all subject to gradual degradation – or rapid assault by destructive insects, rodents and other pests.

While it may be possible to ignore these problems for a period of time, eventually your building will need structural attention. If your faith community has an established practice of preventive maintenance that includes the structural level, the costs of keeping your facility fit and usable will be less overall, and low enough on an ongoing basis to find a place in most congregations’ annual budgets. That sure beats having to mount a capital needs campaign for a major remediation or restoration.

On the other hand, if you do need to generate capital to fund renovation or building work, see the resources under the Congregations tab, subcategory “Stewardship and Finance.” And if you are considering hiring an outside fundraiser, read this important article from The Center for Congregations on screening and selecting the best fundraising consultants.

Assessing Your Church Facility

A facility assessment is a perfect way to develop a “big picture” understanding of your building’s current state. A good general contractor with experience in church building renovation and construction can help your congregation conduct a needs assessment that identifies what immediate repairs need to be made, and develop an ongoing plan for repair and maintenance. Such an assessment can also help you discover any latent problems, such as the discovery by First Baptist Church in Cumberland, Ind., that a 10-year-old classroom addition had been poorly done, resulting in accumulating water damage. The Center for Congregations offers a number of guides relating to assessing and improving your sacred space.

Your congregation can particularly benefit from an energy audit. Not only does it have the potential to identify ways that your congregation is wasting money, but it can help you learn how to improve your stewardship and reduce your congregation’s carbon footprint. An energy audit can also provide a good example for members and improve your image in your community.

Conducting a study of your facility’s structural needs and energy consumption patterns can be leveraged into a larger exploration of your current and anticipated facility needs. As your congregation ages and as the baby boomer generation passes the 60-year-old threshold, issues of accessibility will become increasingly important. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship explores worship accessibility and the steps to making your building more accessible to people with disabilities.

Because congregational vitality is strongly linked to the presence of children and youth, consider improving and updating your children’s and youth spaces as part of your building plan. The Center for Congregations provides more on the benefits of making your church youth a priority in your congregation. The center also offers lists of resources covering planning, design, funding and maintaining of faith community buildings.

Helpful Resources and Checklists

Renovation of sacred space requires paying attention to the message delivered in the architecture and decoration of your facility. Read the “Ten Things You Need to Know about Sacred Space Projects,” culled from the extensive experience of the Indianapolis Center for Congregations’ years of helping local churches on issues related to their buildings.

For more on meeting the needs of older adults, read this account of a pastor who asked what her older members needed, and what came of it, from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Also, be sure to explore the range of articles and links in Insights Into Religion's Building & Grounds section.

For more on teens and young adults – how they see the world, the role of faith in their lives and what attracts and keeps young people in church – explore the articles and resources in our Youth Research section.

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