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The Cost of Getting It Wrong

Most churches we partner with or serve in some capacity are usually focused on making decisions to address an immediate need.  Whether that is financing, staffing, space/facilities or other ministry initiatives, they have a pain point…they need a solution…so they commit their energies and efforts to addressing those immediate issues.  This is understandable and I would even suggest it is needed.  A natural progressing in this process is for church leaders to start thinking about the cost of the decision they are wrestling with.  What will the right salary package be for this position? What is the interest rate and closing costs of the loan?  Will we have to hire additional staff to accomplish the ministry initiatives? What is the cost of a new or renovated facility?  These are all viable questions to consider.

However…the questions too often over looked are What if we get it wrong”?  “What will it cost us if we don’t get this right”?

These questions are not meant to paralyze leadership or to stymie a decision, but rather to help a church not comoditize these critical decisions. Think about these questions in the following contexts:

  • What will it cost if you make a bad hire?  Not just in the terms of monetary, but in poor performance, opportunity costs, corrective measures and emotional energies.
  • What will it cost if you go to the wrong doctor for diagnosis or treatment?  What if the unskilled eye does not notice the lump on the x-ray?
  • What will it cost to have the wrong audio and acoustics in your worship center? Again, this is not just the cost to fix the issue, but the frustration quotient and emotional capital. What are they worth?
  • What is the cost if you use facility components that are  inefficient and run up energy costs and have shorter life cycles? Keep in mind that 70-80% of the total cost of facility ownership over  a 40 year period is associated to facility operations.  And those costs are at inflated rates for the life of the facility.
  • What if the design and construction is wrong?  What if the facility does not appropriately convey your unique story?  What if the facility is not flexible to accommodate changes in your ministry initiatives in the future?

In a past blog, we looked at what happens when we turn these critical decision into a commodity.  Let’s look back at the first bullet above.  When you are looking for a candidate to fill a new position, does the following play into the discussion: “We will hire the person with the lowest salary requirements”.  I would venture to say, NO.  That does not mean that you select the highest paid candidate either.  What you really want is the RIGHT person on the bus.  And when we look at decisions with that (right) as a primary lens, we tend to make better decisions.  Might we pay some percentage higher than the lowest salary range candidate…yes…but what is the total cost of that lower paid person if they are not effective, do not share your DNA, consume emotional and leadership energies to direct and lead them as well as the opportunity costs during the time you are having to nurse-maid them.

Let’s jump to the last 2 bullets.  What if you get these wrong?  Next to staffing, facilities and operations are the 2 largest budget line items for most ministries.  When we look at the Real Cost of Facility Ownership, we see that the cost of “sticks and bricks” is only about 20% of the total life cycle cost and the cost of the architect AND contractor is only about 3%.  Even with this knowledge clearing in front of us, we tend to look for ways to reduce the design cost or the builders profit margin.  We try to lower the smallest piece of the total cost of facility ownership which in turn can drive up the largest portion of the life of the facility as well as having the likely potential of having a facility that is not congruent with our story, vision or mission.  

So…what is the cost of getting THAT wrong?