Going Pro
What to find out before choosing a maintenance contractor.
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Churches hire people good at counseling, teaching, preaching, shepherding, and administration. Any church, however, has more moving parts than these. When the lawn needs mowing, the roof needs a patch, or the parking lot needs plowing, churches often look elsewhere to get the job done. These are the kinds of jobs that often require hiring an outside professional.

Church leaders must be sure they require outside help. If they do, they should use a number of best practices to ensure they make the best selection possible.

"One of our church's high values is that we will not outsource something when we have qualified volunteers who can—and wish to do—the work. I stress the word 'qualified,'" says Jim Boyd, director of support services for Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and vice president of communications for the National Association of Church Facility Managers.

Ken Meines, the director of facility services at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says he likes to do preventive maintenance in-house, and then outsource major repairs to professional contractors.

"I usually try to troubleshoot the problem far enough to either be able to order the part and fix it or know which vendor to contact," he says.

Making the Match

When churches look for outside help on their facilities, they most often need assistance with landscaping, cleaning, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical work, and snow plowing.

The immediate objective is to match the job with the talents of the person or company you wish to hire.

"Sometimes a contractor will take a job because they need the work. But it may be outside of their primary area of expertise," says Frank Sommerville, an attorney and specialist in nonprofit law. "Develop a really good profile of your ideal candidate and ask questions to see how closely this particular candidate follows the profile that you created."

Enlist the help of other churches, businesses, and community organizations in your search for a reputable contractor. Do some of your own investigative work before you ask the candidates for references. Checking a company's website or telephone directory listing can yield good information, but these should not be the only sources. You need second and third opinions.

One way to start is by checking with consumer-oriented services, such as the Better Business Bureau or Angie's List. But other churches may be your best source of information. Ask questions and, if possible, go inspect the company's work.

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May 20, 2010

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