It was Friday morning. Blind Camp had gone smoothly and only two days remained in the first week of summer camp. I helped finish cleaning the cabins and then grabbed breakfast in the cafeteria. The largest cabin in the boys’ village sat along a gentle slope. As I approached the large cabin, I saw doors and windows open, floor mats flung askew along the porch railing, and luggage strewn about. Camp staff were throwing water out of the front door. I stopped to assess the commotion and quickly saw the cabin was flooded with sewer water.
Largely because of this unfortunate situation—which was not quickly solved—campers had to be sent home Sabbath morning. The main sewer line beyond this large cabin had become plugged, causing water from the cabins above to pour in through the floor and shower drains. Surprises like a plugged sewer line or other mechanical or building breakdowns are not uncommon. But you can reduce and prevent these events with a good seasonal preventive maintenance program.
It is tempting to ignore or put off seasonal preventive maintenance because of tight budgets, lack of staffing, countless other projects, or more urgent maintenance needs. Equipment and facilities that appear to be working fine are easy to forget.i
A seasonal preventive maintenance program conserves and enhances ministry, protects stakeholders, better manages time, and saves money.
Conserving and Enhancing Ministry
Studies conducted to measure student performance in differing school building environments have found that “students in deteriorating school buildings score between 5-11 percentile points lower on standardized achievement tests than students in modern buildings, after controlling for income level.” Some researchers suggest this negative impact may compound the longer a student is exposed to this environment.ii
Could the same be true for your ministry? Might it be possible that the condition of your grounds and buildings can weaken the ministry impact and message conveyed to those you serve? I’m not suggesting that we build new structures and purchase fresh properties, though that may be appropriate in some situations. However, I believe facilities that are orderly, updated, and in good repair can conserve and enhance ministry, while facilities that are not hurt ministry.
When roofs leak, air conditioners and heaters fail, refrigerators quit, or buildings appear run down, ministry and stakeholders are always affected. Failure events have a direct impact on your ministry and could lead to disruptions during repair downtime.
Seasonal preventive maintenance and maintenance items that are dealt with immediately are less expensive in financial outlay and human resources. Equipment failure, which can often be an emergency repair, and building damage exacerbated by unattended smaller maintenance items hurt ministry and cost significant money.iii
Protecting Stakeholders and Providing a Better Experience
Grounds, buildings, and equipment under a seasonal preventive maintenance program are safer and reduce the possibility of personal injury to stakeholders and staff.iv Good stewardship concerns itself not only with the property, but also with the occupants and visitors. Accidents and injuries disrupt ministry, negatively influence people’s experience, and damage the reputation of the facility and church. Stakeholders feel safe and more comfortable at well cared-for properties.
Injuries may also lead to insurance claims. While insurance is a tool to help the injured and protect the entity, repeated use of the policy and large claims directly influence premiums. More money spent on premiums means less money for ministry.
Improving Time Management
Following a seasonal preventive maintenance plan is more productive than performing emergency or major repairs. Fixing and preventing minor problems requires less time and is less draining on staff resources than major repairs resulting from neglect.v
Building Life Cycles and Budgeting
“Facility stewardship isn’t just prudent because God has entrusted these facilities to us. It’s also the right thing to do,” says Smart Church Solutions founder Tim Cool. Proper upkeep allows buildings and equipment to last longer and look better, and it reduces long-term costs, increases energy efficiency, and avoids possible fines from regulatory agencies.
Every building and piece of equipment has a life cycle, the amount of time it is expected to last. Research shows that a properly maintained building will deteriorate at a rate of 1-4% per year.vi Regular seasonal preventive maintenance typically achieves the life cycle and may even extend it. Deferring maintenance significantly reduces the life cycle, leading to premature or irreparable failure. Repairs turn into early replacement, costing more in the long run.vii
If your building and equipment are important and you want to save time and money, budget appropriately and do seasonal preventive maintenance.viii
Here is an example: “Smart Church Solutions recently performed a facilities assessment on a 40,000-square-foot church. They found $1.9 million in deferred maintenance. If the church had budgeted correctly for maintenance and staffing over the last 20 years, they would have spent about $900,000. A $1 million difference!” ix
How could you use the $1 million savings for ministry?
If you have a seasonal preventive maintenance plan, that’s fantastic. If you do not, start one today. Budgeting and scheduling are keys to a successful program.
Two common budgeting methods are to estimate the current replacement value and to calculate the maintenance per square foot. For the replacement value method, a minimum 1.5% of the current replacement value of a building is appropriate funding for preventive maintenance.x For the maintenance-per-square-foot method, the industry standard for budgeted maintenance cost per square foot is $1.63 to $2.23, depending on the facility type.xi
Scheduling and follow-through are necessary for a successful program. While seasonal preventive maintenance lists will differ by facility and location, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has resources to get you started:
- Spring Seasonal Maintenance
- Summer Seasonal Maintenance
- Autumn Seasonal Maintenance
- Winter Seasonal Maintenance
Seasonal preventive maintenance is a winner. It conserves and enhances ministry, protects stakeholders and provides a better experience for them, saves time and money, and is good stewardship of the resources God has provided.
i Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. (2022, March 11). The High Cost of Deferred Maintenance for Ministries. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/safety-library/risk-management-articles/buildings-and-property/building-maintenance/the-high-cost-of-deferred-maintenance/
ii Council of the Great City Schools (2014) Reversing the Cycle of Deterioration https://www.cgcs.org/cms/lib/DC00001581/centricity/domain/87/facilitiesreport2014.pdf
iii Cool, T. (2020a, August 4). Pay Me Now Or Pay Me (a lot more) Later. Smart Church Solutions. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/resources/blog/pay-me-now-or-pay-me-a-lot-more-later/
iv MaintWorld, & Christiansen, B. (2021, November 8). Understanding The Hidden Costs Of (Not Doing) Maintenance. Omnipress. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.maintworld.com/Asset-Management/Understanding-The-Hidden-Costs-Of-Not-Doing-Maintenance
v Cool, T. (2021, July 9). Importance of Preventative Maintenance for Church Facility. Smart Church Solutions. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/resources/blog/importance-of-preventative-maintenance/
vi Cool, T. (2020b, August 6). Preventive Maintenance: Revisited. Smart Church Solutions. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/resources/blog/preventive-maintenance-revisited/
vii MaintWorld, & Christiansen, B. (2021, November 8). Understanding The Hidden Costs Of (Not Doing) Maintenance. Omnipress. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.maintworld.com/Asset-Management/Understanding-The-Hidden-Costs-Of-Not-Doing-Maintenance
viii Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. (2022, March 11). The High Cost of Deferred Maintenance for Ministries. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/resources/safety-library/risk-management-articles/buildings-and-property/building-maintenance/the-high-cost-of-deferred-maintenance/
x Cool, T. (2020a, August 4). Pay Me Now Or Pay Me (a lot more) Later. Smart Church Solutions. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.smartchurchsolutions.com/resources/blog/pay-me-now-or-pay-me-a-lot-more-later/
xi Upkeep. (n.d.). How Much Should I be Budgeting on Maintenance at My Facility. UpKeep. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.upkeep.com/learning/how-much-should-i-be-budgeting-on-maintenance-at-my-facility