10 Ways to Reduce Your Church’s Energy Bill

What could your church do with an extra $1,000 or $30,000?

When it comes to the subject of saving energy I would automatically assume you would be talking about my personal energy, not the building. Conserving energy wasn’t in my job description as a pastor and I don’t recall it as a subject in pastoral classes.

However, living in a stressed and stretched to the limit economy, ministry budgets are rapidly decreasing. During these times the question of, “Where can we save or do without?” is asked. This question is being asked no matter what size church you pastor. The ideas below were gathered from real life sources whose job requires them to know this stuff, like an energy engineer, and can be applied to any church. Some of the ideas you may have tried and others just might make a difference.


Top Ten Ideas To Save Your Church Money On Your Energy Bill

Top

Energy Saving Idea

1

Have an energy audit done by your local electric company (most will do it free). Depending upon the size of the church, it may fall under a “key account” program with the utility. Be sure the utility member service rep also provides a copy of the current rate schedule the church falls under for billing and that the church fully understands how they are billed. Things like demand charges and power factor penalties sometimes drive power bills sky high.

2

Start a Green Team as a think tank for energy saving solutions, to maintain those solutions, communicate results and offer in house training.

First poll the church members and see if there are any construction managers, utility types and/or engineers willing to step up and serve in this fashion. Be sure the one(s) that pay the bills sit on this team so you know just how much you spend on utilities. Be sure to look at gas/propane and telecom bills too...there are always ways to save! Be sure the Green Team develops a professional relationship with their utility reps.

3

Develop sustainable procedures and practices to monitor doors and windows to control air quality and temperature. When utilities do energy audits, windows, doors and insulation are usually the main culprits for high bills. (Green Team Task)

4

Develop sustainable procedures and practices to monitor and adjust thermostats for usage and seasonal breaks. Also check air filters, insulation, window, doors and vents. (Green Team Task)

5

Unplug power transformers (Wall Warts) and machines when not being used. Solid state devices can use power even when not turned on or connected to devices.

6

Replace standard thermostats with programmable, a MUST for churches! This is especially true if the church is only used on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings!!!

7

Install in offices, classrooms, bathrooms, small rooms etc… occupancy sensors (an occupancy sensor is a light switch with a built in motion sensor).

8

Replace Incandescent lamps with Compact fluorescent lamps. CFL’s have a great return on investment.

9

Replace LED lights in EXIT signs.

10

Replace outdoor specialty lighting with LED spots. LED’s are a great new energy technology. They will become even more affective as they come down in price.


What's At Stake?

Savings and Stewardship

Could your church do with an extra $1,000 or $30,000? Our stewardship must include making wise choices with the resources we are given to do ministry. Our unwise choices can close the doors to ministry.

Testimony

It’s not just about the money, the reputation of your church and leadership is at stake. Your building is on display for all to see, hear, smell and touch. Parents are growing more concerned about not only what you are teaching but whether the church is a safe and clean environment for their family.

Healthier Setting

Studies show that improved lighting can improve learning. Clean air can reduce sickness. Conserving energy not only saves money but stimulates happier and healthier living.

What is an Energy Audit?

An energy audit is an evaluation of a building’s energy usage and leakage to determine ways to save money (and energy) and to solve comfort issues.

The term has been used to describe actions ranging from simple reviews of your energy bills, to complete professional energy analysis.

Make sure you know what they will do before you sign on. Once you receive the audit prioritize the list according to estimated savings (Task for the Green Team).

The Energy Audit Process

An energy audit usually take less than a full day and does not disrupt most church activities.

Analysis generally included in a complete, professional energy audit include:

  • Past Energy Usage Review
  • Major Appliance Review
  • Water Heater Evaluation
  • Heating and Cooling System Review
  • Duct System Testing
  • Window Evaluation
  • Attic and Basement Insulation Inspection
  • Lights and Ballast Inspection
  • Infrared Photography
  • Air Infiltration Test
  • Leak Location and Documentation
  • Computer Modeling
  • Thermal Envelope Evaluation
  • Thermal Envelope Inspection

Article Contributors

Jamie Stark: Engineering Manager at Lincoln Electric Cooperative
Contact if you need solutions for your Church
Email: MJamieStark@hotmail.com

Rev. Mike Smith: Church Office Online, COO
Contact if you need Church Online Management Software or if you have questions about this article Mike@churchofficeonline.com
http://www.churchofficeonline.com

Randy Jones: Energy Auditor
Conducted a complete Energy Audit on our Church
rjjones@interbel.net

Don Smith: Good Samaritan Director Facility Management
Mountain View Manor – Eureka Montana


Thanks,

Church Office Online

4/18/2012 5:01:00 AM

New Feature Release - March 2012

Thanks to your feedback, we've released a bunch of new features and enhancements in Church Membership Online once again.

Contribution Payment Methods

We added the ability to track the payment method (cash, check, credit card, etc.) that was used for an individual contribution. This allows you to track the methods your congregation uses to give and provides you with insight into what giving methods are important to your people.

Chart - Total Contributions By Method

Dedicated Check Number Field

There is now a dedicated check number field you can use when entering individual contributions. The contribution notes field can be used for this as well, but now there is a nice dedicated spot for this information if your church chooses to use it.

Enhanced Individuals Report

The Individuals report has been enhanced to provide more information about the people in your church.

  • Ministries: You can now choose to include ministry information in the report. If you select this option, all ministries that an individual is part of along with the role they play in the ministry will display.
  • Notes: You can now choose to include individual notes on the report.

Household - Add New Individual Options

We have added a couple of requested fields to you can populate when adding a new Individual through a Household.

  • Exclude from Directory: You can now choose whether or not to exclude an individual from the directory from within the Household feature
  • Anniversary Date: You can now select the anniversary date for an individual from within the Household feature

Thanks,

Church Office Online

4/2/2012 4:42:00 AM

Picture Directory Now Available in Me.ChurchMembershipOnline

You ask, we listen! Thanks to a suggestion in our feedback tool, we have now added a Picture Directory feature to our individual access application Me.ChurchMembershipOnline. How much does individual access cost your church? Why it's free of course, along with your Church Membership Online subscription.

Church Directory Screen


Thanks,

Church Office Online

2/13/2012 2:12:00 AM

Top 3 Ways to Bring Change to Church Finance Management

This recent but not uncommon letter from a pastor prompted me to write this article:

“Thank you for the trial account on Church Office Online. I'm afraid we will not be proceeding with the account - I have not been able to get the church admin team to agree on a way forward with replacing current church paperwork with a computer system.”

Sub Titles:

How do I transition my church from recording contributions on a paper ledger to a computer program?

The recording of our church finances are stuck in the past, how do we bring it to the present?

Our church treasurer is reluctant to use a computer to record church contributions, what should I do?

Have you ever heard the following in your own church?

  • What if I push the wrong button?
  • I’m comfortable with the way I have been doing it.
  • If it’s not broken why fix it?
  • I’m afraid I will break it.
  • It’s just too difficult to learn.
  • I’m not willing to learn how to use a computer program.
  • I’ll mess up and crash the computer.
  • I’ll make a mistake and delete something.

As a pastor of 25 years I can say I’ve heard them all; that is, those excuses and statements used by those who doggedly defend their position of not wanting to change. If you couple "change" with the church’s "finances" you have a blockade to change that seeks impregnable. Don’t get me wrong and think that I believe everything needs to be updated to today’s technology. But when it comes to finances, while the important principles of biblical stewardship need to remain a constant, the tools definitely need to keep up with the times. I would even say that if you are still recording your contributions on a paper ledger you are in deep need of change.

This short blog will focus on two topics:

  1. Principles and Practices for Bringing Needed Change to your Church
  2. How to Move your Church Contributions from Paper to PC

Principles and Practices for Bringing Needed Change to your Church

First, “time” for me looked more like an evil enemy preventing me from seeing the change I believed was needed NOW. I’ve always thought myself patient when it comes to seeing change. Yet, time after time things/people/practices/programs that were as old as the church would win over my patience.

Second, I had the notion that I was the “go-to-person” who could “influence” change to take place in the church, LOL. Wow, talk about being wrong there. I later learned that in some cases the person that was the most influential for a specific change was not even on my radar.

Third, the likelihood of change taking place had more to do with people’s perception of what, when and how a specific change was “communicated” than its details. I never asked the question: “What do they think I am asking them to change?” What I did ask was, “how they felt about change”. This type of subjective “touchy-feely” and “I feel your pain” questions always led change down the black hole of good intentions that prevented change to move forward.

So, if you desire change to take place in your church here are my top three tips you need to consider:

  1. Time is NOT Your Enemy
    I recently had to go to my dentist to get an upper back molar extracted. My very wise dentist stated that if you provide a constant pull and enough time he can extract the most stubborn tooth. He then said: “Time is our friend” and with both pressure and time the tooth was removed. We are all pressed in ministry to consider everything as urgent. We yank and yank to make change happen and wonder why relationships become shattered and very little of the change we desired happens. Think slow a steady. Those that work the numbers and figure out the budgets will be more apt to change if you are willing to approach it at a steady pace. People are more apt to move when they know you won’t give up so easy and you are willing to wait it out.
  2. The Most Influential Person is NOT Always You
    God’s ways are not our ways. Allow for the likely possibility that someone in your church, other than you, can move the church to a specific change. This became evident to me when I asked a business man who attended my church if he could help only after I spent much frustration with my own efforts to bring change to the way a 100 year old church did its finances. He had made similar changes in his business finances and knew what it would take. It took him only a month to do what I couldn’t do in two years. Pray about it, plan for it, expect it and step aside when it becomes evident that someone else is better suited.
  3. Communication is NOT a One-Way Activity
    Communication is one of the biggest challenges facing the church today. Why? Because of the following:
    • Contacts are no longer stationary but transitory and mobile. Invest in an online church management program that allows members to update their own contact information using an Individual Member Access feature.
    • We gravitate to the subjective and the abstract in our communication; the subjective (I feel, you feel, we feel) because it makes us feel connected and the abstract because it makes us feel safe. Inject some objective conversation into you communication.
    • Our Hurried-Up life style causes us to drop the call before the other person even gets to speak. Our society is “mobile”, ignoring it won’t make it go away. If we are to be effective in communicating with today’s culture we must learn how to use its devices. The good news is that they are more than willing to help. Enlist them in your communication team. Empower the team to set up a website, Facebook/twitter/LinkedIn/connection, and Individual Member Access to your Online Church Management program.

How to move financial records over from Paper to PC

Paper records written in financial ledgers can be entered into a PC but let me clarify a few things first.

  1. Ask yourself, “Do I need to enter all records from the beginning of time?” The answer should be NO. You should only be looking at entering those records for which no end-of-year contribution statements have been sent. So if you sent a contribution statement out for 2011, you only need to enter those contributions from the beginning of January 2012. If you just want the information to look back on consider just entering the individual’s total year contributions for each contribution category for the last month of the year (IRS does not need a week by week record of each contribution). The weekly breakdown is for the benefit of the member not the IRS. After you determined the range of contributions to enter you are half way there.
  2. The next thing you will need to do is to find out what the contribution categories are (i.e. General Budget, Tithe, Missions etc…) that you will enter into the program you will be using. You can find these categories in the income area of your church budget. Those categories will need to be entered into your program before you can enter amounts into contributions. Most programs allow you to add categories as need. You will also need to add your federal ID number which will be placed on the Individual Contribution Reports.
  3. Many have asked about using scanners as a way to turn handwritten/ typewriter text into PC text. I would strongly caution you not to as very minor jot, spots and creative writing can change a five into a six and so forth. You will end up doing more work and missing errors than if you enter it. I encourage you to enlist someone who will read off the name and amounts as you enter them in. It will move along faster and be more accurate (est. 2 people = 500 contributions entries per hour). Cloud based church management systems allow multiple users to access the program at the same time. You can divide up the entry work up even more depending on how many people your church gave permission to view financial records to.
  4. After the records have been entered pull up a contribution report and compare it to the ledger.

If your church treasurer or clerk is still having problems ask them to evaluate the program if they haven't done so. Also consider that you don't need to convince them to swallow the whole thing. Ask them what part of the program did they feel would make their job easier. If getting the program up and running seems daunting to them most programs have a data import service or utility. We have many churches that start their service with just using the member management features and later use the contributions.

If you employ these principles I know you will experience change not only in those outdated practices but in yourself.


Thanks,

Church Office Online

2/13/2012 2:01:00 AM

Cloud Based ChMS Helps Churches Save Thousands

Traditional church management software (ChMS) can cost the average church thousands of dollars.

Desktop or server based church management software is complex to install and configure, requires expensive computers to host and the responsibility for backups and security is left up to the church staff. Even after the initial expense for infrastructure to host the software is in place, the church management software itself requires a large initial investment and then lump sum payments each year for support, maintenance, upgrades and training. The hardware, software and specialized church staff to install and maintain it adds up to a several thousand dollar investment for most small to medium sized churches.

Enter cloud based church management software.

A computing revolution has taken the software industry by storm over the last few years called "cloud computing." Cloud based software, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), takes advantage of large web hosting companies’ economies of scale. Cloud computing enables small software companies to enjoy the same benefits and economics of large software companies. The ability to provide world-class hosting features such as geographically separated servers, large database backends and unlimited computing power for a fraction of the cost of owning the infrastructure enables agile companies to inexpensively offer incredible software as a service to a global market.

Large companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Rackspace have already made a significant investment in server hardware, engineering employees and infrastructure. By leveraging their existing investment they are able to allow others to rent servers and hosting infrastructure for a fracture of the cost while receiving all of the security, features and benefits of their investment. Think of it like using electricity in your house. The electric company invests in the infrastructure, employees and support structures. You use the electricity that the electric company provides, paying for what you use and not worrying about all of the costs and complexities of supplying the energy.

For example, cloud based ChMS systems such as Church Office Online can save an average church thousands of dollars while providing a superior church management service thanks to cloud computing. Manual setup processes are gone, software support staff can be based anywhere and dedicated computer engineers to manage servers are no longer necessary. All of this translates into reduced overhead for nimble software companies and in turn significantly lower prices for churches.

Thanks to cloud computing, Church Office Online is able to offer a fully featured church management software service at incredibly low prices. Starting at just $14.75 per month for a subscription, and no setup fees, the total yearly cost for a church with 200 members is only $340.00. Compare that to similar services that require thousands of dollars in setup fees and hundreds of dollars per month in subscription fees and the savings add up quickly.

To learn more about cloud based ChMS, contact us and see the difference in features and pricing for yourself.


Thanks,

Church Office Online

2/8/2012 6:25:00 AM

Contribution Statement Windowed Envelope Examples

One of the nifty little features in Church Membership Online is the ability to print a contributions statement formatted specifically for windowed envelopes. This reduces the workload of sending out contributions statements as you don't have to print out the To and From addresses on envelopes. Here are two examples of window envelope dimensions that will work with our contribution statement windowed envelope formatting.

Single Window

Contributions Statement Single Windowed Envelope Example

Double Window

Contributions Statement Double Windowed Envelope Example


Thanks,

Church Office Online

1/27/2012 4:39:00 AM

Video Tutorials - Gmail and Outlook Contacts Sync

These video tutorials show you how to quickly and easily sync your Church Office Online individual information with Gmail or Outlook contacts.



Thanks,

Church Office Online

1/18/2012 2:04:00 AM

New Feature Announcement! Envelope Contributions

If you require an envelope contribution feature for simple, accurate, confidential recording of weekly offerings then Church Office Online has just met your need.

Our Envelope Contribution Feature maintains confidentiality because it does not require the name of the individual or household to appear on the envelope that is placed in the offering.


Envelope Contribution Benefits

  • Simplifies record keeping
  • Maintains Confidentiality

How simple is it?

First, with your Administrative, Pastoral, or Financial user login enter the number in the “Envelope Number” field located in the individual’s record in the overview tab then select “Save”.

Second, go to Contributions and select the “Add Envelope” contributions where you will enter the date, envelope number, category and amount of contribution. The program automatically assigns the contribution to the individual.


Envelope Contributions Video Tutorial

There is a very short video tutorial which will also show you how to export a file to permanently assign those numbers to Individuals or Households and use it to help you get started.


Thanks,

Church Office Online

1/18/2012 1:59:00 AM
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