Deferred maintenance in the church is like an onion; it has layers and it stinks.
Deferred maintenance is defined as “the practice of postponing maintenance activities such as repairs on both real property (i.e. infrastructure) and personal property (i.e. machinery) in order to save costs, meet budget funding levels, or realign available budget monies.”
In the church, we tend to encounter the practice of deferred maintenance in three distinct ways.
The first way we defer maintenance in the church is the one that comes most easily to mind. As church membership and attendance fail to keep pace with escalating maintenance costs of aging buildings, putting off needed upkeep and repairs is an all too common strategy for balancing a church budget. For a season, this practice allows the church to put off hard decisions about program and staffing but with each subsequent year the hole that is dug gets deeper and deeper.
The problem with deferred maintenance is that it is borrowing upon the promise of the future for the sake of the present. A broken physical plant is a terrible thing to gift upon the next generation.
Understanding the second way we defer maintenance in the church requires us to think about the nature of change. In a healthy system, change occurs over time in incremental steps. This doesn’t mean that healthy churches don’t change dramatically but moments of quantum (transformational) change become part of the natural progression of the community. A certain level of discomfort is valued in a healthy system as is diversity. Each aids in keeping the system on its feet, so to speak, and in developing a culture that asks good questions about its communal assumptions.