Guest-Friendly Environments: Aaron Stanski on Effective Facilities for Your Church

Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Aaron Stanski, the founder and CEO of Risepointe, with fifteen years of church design and ministry leadership experience.

Do you feel frustrated with your church building, or like it’s holding you back from fulfilling your mission? Aaron’s experience has given him unique insights into the common challenges churches face with their buildings. Listen as he shares how a church can align its facilities with its mission and vision.

  • Think about the problems as projects. // When it comes to building issues, there are common constraints churches face, such as seating capacity, kids ministry space, and parking. However, other considerations might include classroom usage, leveraging the lobby space, and the condition of facilities like bathrooms. It can be overwhelming for churches to discern what to prioritize in addition to raising the funds, navigating building codes, and dealing with construction costs. Start by putting problems in a project format and attack them in a way that won’t limit the ministry but rather support growth.
  • Look through the lens of a new person. // When working on a church building, it’s important to view the facility through the lens of an invitation to a lost person. What in your church facility might be a hindrance to inviting guests? What environments are you missing? Buildings don’t do ministry, people do. So we need to create environments where it’s easy and effective to invite and engage with new people.
  • The Needs Analysis. // To understand the needs of a church facility, Risepointe starts with The Needs Analysis. This process involves spending a day onsite with the ministry team and doing exercises to understand their mission, vision, and the context of the church and its community. Risepointe also takes pictures of the building and gets blueprints which they convert to 3D files. Finally, they ask questions to assess the long-term plan for ministry on the campus, identify the right next steps, and determine any low-hanging fruit solutions. Budget considerations are also taken into account.
  • Lean Church Indicator. // As Risepointe has studied how churches have been using their buildings and how that’s changed over time, they’ve seen a lot of consistent data that can be used as a benchmark for other churches. Some factors they consider are how many seats a lean church has per square feet of building, how much storage and support they have so they can easily turn multi-purpose rooms, and how they are leveraging technology in their environments. With the data they’ve collected, Risepointe has developed a tool on their website called the Lean Church Indicator to help churches evaluate the effectiveness of their space and identify areas that may need improvement.

Click here to learn more about Risepointe and take advantage of their tools and resources, such as the free PDF “10 Things to Get Right Before You Build”.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953 CDF Capital has helped church leaders and individuals bring light to the world through the thoughtful stewardship of their capital. The Church, including your church, requires more than just financial capital, it also needs spiritual and leadership capital. While separate in purpose, these three forms of capital are intertwined and inseparable for the cause of kingdom growth. Together, when we partner with the Lord to bring spiritual, leadership, and financial capital to a church, the results are transformational. At CDF Capital our ministry is simple: we lend money to churches.

CDF Capital, in partnership with Barna Group, conducted a research study to better understand what happens in churches after a new leader comes in. Barna Group interviewed 111 pastors online who have experienced a leadership transition within the last 12 years. Click here to get your free download of the study.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know, every week we try to bring you a leader who will inspire and equip you. And I know that today is one of those days. You’re going to love today’s conversation because so many of the churches I talk to have the kinds of problems that we’re going to talk about today, are wrestling with the kinds of issues that we’re going to talk about today. So you’re going to want to lean in. We’ve got my friend Aaron Stanski with us. He’s the founder and CEO of Risepointe with 15 years of church design and leadership and project management experience. He’s really an incredible guy that you’re going to want to get to know. Their church architects and designers have experience working with churches and schools and nonprofits, all kinds of people all across the country to solve real world problems. They want to help you fix some of your physical problems in your building and help move forward from there. So, Aaron, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Aaron Stanski — Thanks, Rich. Yeah, I’m glad to be here.

Rich Birch — Why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of the Aaron story; give us a bit of the backstory and then connect that to Risepointe.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, sure. I mean, I grew up in ministry. My dad was a pastor, growing up. We actually planted a church in Boston when I was a kid. So…

Rich Birch — Nice.

Aaron Stanski — …got to move out to the East Coast. Got to kind of experience all of that. Of course, that was back pre-social media and all of that stuff. So one of my jobs was to run up to the houses and like stuff the little flyer in the in the door handle to get the word out that we were planting churches.

Rich Birch — Love it!

Aaron Stanski — So I remember doing that on Saturdays and stuff like that. So grew up in and around ministry. Um, ended up going to school for engineering and studying engineering. Got super involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and so did that, and then graduated. Started working for Harley-Davidson Motorcycles as a manufacturing engineer. So that was fun…

Rich Birch — Hogs. Love it.

Aaron Stanski — …doing big projects, capital expansion.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, all of that stuff. Um, but just still wanted to be in ministry…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …wanted to do something with more kingdom impact. So left Harley Davidson and I actually joined staff with with CRU, did that for a few years, was here in Chicago helping plant movements on college campuses that didn’t have anything. And so ended up meeting my wife and so she went back to school to be a nurse, and I joined staff at my church. So…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Aaron Stanski — …on staff at Park Community Church for a while. And we went through a big building project. We were a big multi-site church here in Chicago. And since I had project experience and I spoke engineering, I had to help, uh, hire architects and hire engineers and AV companies.

Aaron Stanski — And so went through that whole process and found myself constantly translating, right…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …between architects and engineering language back to my pastors and my friends who were on staff. And I was like, man, if I could if I could do this for the rest of my life, if I could go and help other churches go through a process to really kind of identify like, how do we align their facility with their mission and their vision. Like, how do we decide what we should and shouldn’t build, and how much money should we spend. So for the last 15 years, that’s what I’ve done. It’s got to crisscross the country…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Aaron Stanski — …and hang out with a bunch of cool churches and learn a ton along the way. So it’s been fun.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. I’m super excited for today’s conversation. We’re going to take advantage of the fact that you are in the trenches. You are seeing a lot of these projects. I was talking about you to a friend recently. I said, you know, I’m excited to have Aaron on because, you know, you’re working on projects and you’re a part of conversations that are, you know, by definition are 18 months, two years down the road. So it’s like we’re getting a look up over the horizon of what’s happening in the church. But let’s be just totally honest. Man, so many churches I talked to are just frustrated with their buildings. It’s just like, man, it feels like the building is holding us back. What are some of the common things you heard, you hear…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …when maybe somebody gives you a call and says like, Hey, here’s some problems we got to fix? What would be some of those things you hear all the time?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah. I mean, you know, intuitive leaders, I mean, they sort of understand, right? Like, okay, we need more seats.

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — Or our parking lot is crumbling, or our kids ministry is just drab. It needs to be refreshed and stuff, right? And so most intuitive leaders, like they understand like what some of those things are. Um, you know, they just, they just struggle with, okay, what type of capital investment can or should be should be used to address those things, right? Like how do we prioritize those projects? And then once we get into it, right, it’s raising money, it’s building code, it’s construction costs, and all of these things can be really overwhelming…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — …and can basically cause like decision fatigue and how do we prioritize these things. And so, you know, most of the most of the leaders that we work with, they sort of understand what some of the issues are that they need to address.

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — It’s just like, how do we how do we put this in a project format and how do we attack it in a way, you know, that’s not going to limit, you know, our ministry, but actually going to allow us to do more, you know, moving forward.

Rich Birch — Yeah. So this is why there’s so much there I’d love to unpack. This tension of like ministry versus kind of the practicality of, like you say, building codes, budgets, inspections. Man, that is that’s like it seems like almost like a death cycle. Like it’s like, gosh, we can get caught in this. And it’s like it’s going to and then we just say, forget it. We’re not going to we’re not going to do this.

Aaron Stanski — Right, right.

Rich Birch — Is there common constraints that you’re running up… is it like kids ministry spaces are you’re seeing are the kind of hold back? Is it parking? Is it, you know, main auditorium? Is it, you know, or is it all those together? It’s like we just need a bigger box in general. Are there common kind of constraints that you’re running into that you see, you know, that kind of get the conversation rolling?

Aaron Stanski — I mean, the the most common are, yeah, seating capacity. We’re out of seats. If we’re not out of seats but kids ministry is just like busting at the seams…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …and we can’t fit any more kids. Well, you’re not going to fill those seats if we don’t have enough room for their kids…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …or their grandkids or whatever to come to church with us. Parking parking’s always an issue, like just to to kind of be aware of what’s happening in our parking lot. How full are we? Are people able to get in and out and stuff? And so we sort of hold those three and say, okay, our is one of them out of whack? Are they all in line? And once they’re in line, we can say, okay, now we but we do have to scale them up together if we want to, to continue to grow, right? But outside of that, we start to look at the rest of the building and say, okay, but how often are we using all of our classrooms? How often is the lobby being leveraged for our community during the week? So there can be some other restraints, you know, like if if the bathrooms are terrible and smelly…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …then like new people, like that’s going to be a turnoff to new people, right? Even if there’s room for them to sit in the auditorium.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally. Okay. So let me be honest. You and I are friends. I’m going to ask a question here. Friends, here like, I can’t believe he said that. He’s does he know what Aaron does? But I’m like, I feel like folks in your general industry. Of course not Risepointe, but in the general industry, it’s like…

Aaron Stanski — Of course.

Rich Birch — …I, you know, you come to the table with all kinds of very pretty drawings, but that’s like disconnected from what my church actually needs. It’s like, it’s like that might be like great on paper. In fact, I was you know, I’ll give you an example. Recently, I was in the last year I was in a church and I was giving some feedback on the building. And I said, you know, I was basically saying to this church leader, you need more signs in here. Like, you can’t you can’t couldn’t tell where the kid’s ministry was. And I said, you know, I bet you your architect said that if we put this this carpet on the floor and we kind of because it’s all got these like arrows and stuff in it, that that will direct people to where it’s going. And the church leader starts laughing. And he said, that’s exactly what our architect said. Now, I know it was not a project that you did.

Aaron Stanski — [laughs]

Rich Birch — It’s it seems like these kinds of firms, they are more or they can be more interested in—I don’t want to, again, this is not everyone—but can be more interested in their awards rather than our needs.

Aaron Stanski — Correct.

Rich Birch — How do you guys battle that? How do you how do you how do you battle that pressure?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, well, I mean, part of it is we are architects, right? Like we are architects and designers and interior designers. We’re licensed in like 30 states. We’re providing a professional service, right? Like there’s…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Aaron Stanski — So there’s all this tension to be an architect, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — And and that’s, that’s sometimes the problem because when you hire an architect, I mean it’s like buying a hammer, right? A hammer is just like going around looking for a nail that it can hammer down in.

Rich Birch — Right. Good, good. Right.

Aaron Stanski — And architect is looking for something that they can build…

Rich Birch — Yes.

…or something that they can design.

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — And with all of the cool tools that we have now, we don’t actually even have to go get it built in order to feel like we designed something really cool, right? Like it’s a 3D rendering, and we love it and stuff. So and so you can lose track, right, of what the actual goal is. So, you know, we have an awesome leadership team here at Risepointe. One of the guys was on staff at his church for ten years. He’s now an elder at his church. All of us are actively serving in our in churches. And so I think that helps keep our perspective there.

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — The other thing is, you know, we have to we have to view our facility—and so we as designers have to do this as well, and church leaders—like we have to view it through the lens of the invitation to a lost person. So…

Rich Birch — Oh, so good.

Aaron Stanski — …imagine a member of your church, right, extending the invite to a neighbor or a coworker. And if the next thing they have to say is it looks really traditional on the outside, but don’t worry, you know, you can still wear your jeans. Or the kids area is a little smelly, but we really love kids. Or you might have a hard time finding it, but there’s a weird pattern of carpet on the floor that doesn’t make any sense, right? Like all of these things are are hindrances. And so, you know, we have to keep in mind like buildings themselves don’t do ministry, right. And we have to remind ourselves that as architects at Risepointe, right. Like buildings don’t do ministry, people do. So how are we creating environments where it’s easy and effective to make that ask and to invite that lost person, right. We we also need to ask like, what environments are we missing, right? Like what invitations would be made if we had the space to do that? And so I think if we can look at that through that lens, all of a sudden, like the fancy stuff or the trendy stuff, like we can filter all of that away…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …and very clearly say, okay, these are the things we need to go get done. And, you know, like, will it work in the context of our church and our community and, and, and go from there.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah, I love that. And, you know, we talk about this all the time at unSeminary that the difference between stuck and stagnant churches and growing churches is growing churches train, equip and mobilize their people to invite their friends. And I love your perspective of saying, hey, when they make that invite, does the building actually connect with that? Do they do we look at it from a first time guest or a new here guest perspective? How do you help churches understand that about their facility? Because I that to me is a profound question.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I don’t know that churches are necessarily always asking that question.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I mean, so for the vast majority of the churches that we work with, we start with something that we call The Needs Analysis.

Rich Birch — Okay. Yep.

Aaron Stanski — And The Needs Analysis is where we get on site, we spend an entire day with the ministry team. We walk through a series of really fun exercises to understand the unique place God put the church, and the community that they’re in, and their mission and vision. And what are some of the drivers that we see driving our ministry success. We take tons of pictures of the building, we get all the blueprints and turn them into, you know, 3D Revit files. We do all that work and then we sort of come back and we say, okay, we’re going to answer these four questions, right? What’s the long term plan for ministry on this campus? Is there room for growth or are we looking at relocation or are we planting churches or going multi-site? What’s the long term plan on campus? What’s the right next step? Um, you know, do we do have to add kids square footage? Or do we need to address some issue on our campus? Like what’s that right next step? The third thing that we always try to answer is like, what’s the low hanging fruit, right? What are some other churches doing, or what are some things that we could just go execute right now to solve some ministry problems?

Rich Birch — Love it.

Aaron Stanski — And then the fourth thing is budget, man, everything drives back to budget. So if we can put some budget numbers around some projects…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — …well now I have something that like as a leadership team, we can pray through and understand, right? It’s like, Oh man, I didn’t I didn’t realize it was so inexpensive to do that. Let’s go get that done now.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — Or it’s like, Holy smokes, that’s way too expensive. Let’s go plant three churches or dig wells in Africa, or any number of other things that we could do with that money, right? And so most churches start with that Needs Analysis. If we can understand the context, answer those four questions, you know, draw out some simple plans and be effective about it, I think that helps, you know, push our perspective towards that, that invitation.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Listen, that seems like the kind of thing that, man, if I’m a church leader listening in today, man, we should take action on that. We should reach out to you guys, find out about The Needs Analysis, get plugged in. Like that, you know, when I do, coaching on churches will do these things where I go on a weekend and be there. And we talk a little bit about the building stuff just from my even that kind of thing.

Aaron Stanski — Sure.

Rich Birch — But man, having someone like yourself be able to or your team be able to to from a thoughtful perspective actually, you know, give some feedback, what an incredible gift, you know, that could be. How far out, if people are thinking about a Needs Analysis with Risepointe, how far out should they be thinking about that? Like can you do that like the next 60, 90 days typically? Or is this the kind of thing like, I got a book six months from now, what’s that look like?

Aaron Stanski — No, I mean, it’s typically, you know, in that 90 to 120 days, you know, sort of a window.

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — So I think, you know, the other thing that you have to overlay that with is if you’re if you’re thinking about doing a capital campaign next year or if you’re thinking about trying to address some of these things, getting that done on the front end…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — …you know, so that we can figure out what those right next steps are, is is critical right. So it’s just it’s timing.

Rich Birch — Yes. And well, and I love what you said there. I’m going to push you on that.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Man, there are I’ve got way too many calls from church leaders where they’re like, yeah, so we want to start a thing like now. And I’m like…

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — …you know, even if you’re thinking about, hmmm, we might end up there, or if you’re building is starting to get full, or one of the tripwires, I’ll say, I say to church leaders all the time, when you go to that third service on a Sunday morning, people think the third service will give them all kinds of extra space. It typically doesn’t. It’s an acknowledgement of there’s another decision coming. If your church has three services and you haven’t had a Needs Analysis, you should call Risepointe, get booked in…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, for sure.

Rich Birch — …because you have to look at space. Like you said like you’ve got a space issue that if you don’t fix, you’re going to cap the kind of redemptive potential of your church.

Aaron Stanski — And I mean, even if you I mean, even if the church called us up and wrote us a check for like $5 million today, like it would still be over two years…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — …from today before they’re actually in that building and sitting in those seats and stuff. Right. And so that time horizon is out there.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — And so understanding, okay, how are we going to leverage our largest capital asset, right, our building?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Aaron Stanski — How are we going to leverage that for Kingdom impact? I think having a strategic plan around that is critical.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. So friends listening in, if you are like if you’ve launched a third service, if you launch the second service and you’re like, you know, you’ve got questions around this, I’d reach out to Risepointe. Aaron and his team are trustworthy. I trust them. They’re friends. You should you should definitely do that. Well, can I take advantage of the fact that you see a lot of different churches?

Aaron Stanski — Sure.

Rich Birch — What are some of the things that you’re kind of learning in this space? You know, kind of lessons that are learning or questions that you seem to keep bumping up up against constantly? Like what are we seeing post-COVID even in the last couple of years? It seems like every question, you know, is kind of couched in that.

Rich Birch — What’s what’s new in these last couple of years on the facility side?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah. Well, one of the things, you know, that back in the day we used to just say, okay, when you’re when you’re 80% full, like you’re full, right.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — Because people are walking in and they’re saying there’s no space for me here. And if you if you trained your ushers and really got after it and they were really aggressively seating people on a Sunday morning, you could potentially get up to 90% full, right…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …in your in your in your sanctuary. What’s happening post-COVID is, you know, regardless of where you land on the political spectrum, when you go to church, like what used to be comfortable, what used to be like, well, I’m going to leave a seat in between me and the dude next to me because I don’t want to sit right up next to him. Now I’m just a little bit more sensitive to my personal space, but also I’m kind of sensitive to his like…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …does he does he find that offensive? Like, I don’t know what his background is and all of that sort of thing. And so instead of leaving one chair, I’m going to leave three. Right.

Rich Birch — Right. That’s a huge difference.

Aaron Stanski — It’s a huge difference. And so what happens, even even if the ushers come down and say, hey, can you scoot in and make some room? Well, then I’ll go from like 3 to 2.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s so true.

Aaron Stanski — So I think the question, the question we’ve been wrestling with right, is like, okay, if 80% was the perceived full before, what is it today?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Aaron Stanski — And think it changes like based in different areas of the country and you know based on the type of church you are and all that other kind of stuff. But what we do know is that it’s no longer 80%, right.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — You know, it’s it’s somewhere in the 70% or even less than that…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — …where people walk in and just feel like, oh, man, there’s not a place for me here. And as soon as that happens, we’re losing out on opportunities to preach the gospel. We’re losing out on opportunities to disciple people. So we just need to be aware of that.

Rich Birch — Okay, this is great. I love this because this connects with some of the church growth stuff that we’re I’m constantly working with churches on. So I what I hear you saying to reflect that back is, hey, it used to be 80%. We used to say that all the time. Not sure what the number is, but it is lower.

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — It’s and I would echo that, that’s for sure. The other interesting piece of this puzzle is if if it’s if as a from a church growth point of view, if it’s perceived that there is no space for me to invite a friend to.

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — So if the parking lot is crazy full, there’s no space in the kids ministry area. There are, you know, feels like there’s no spaces here. I won’t invite my friend because I’m afraid that they’re going to have a negative experience when they come.

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — And so you’ve got to and this has always been true. We all we have to build space, empty spaces for then our church to and then invite people to ultimately fill. So wow, that’s what a great insight. I can I can totally see that. Anything else we’ve been learning. Or anyway maybe you’ve changed…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …as Risepointe has been working with churches that looks a little different these days.

Aaron Stanski — Well, I mean, I think one of the things that we’ve been, you know, trying to study and understand, right, is is how our churches using their building and what does that look like moving forward? Because it’s changed over time, right. And so I’d say for the past five years or so, we’ve been collecting data from, you know, churches that we work with. And we’ve begun to benchmark some simple things that are helpful when we evaluate the effectiveness of our space. So I’ve got lots of senior pastors that ask, Do you think we can fit more seats in here, right – that sort of thing. And so, um, I’ll start by stating the obvious, right? Which is every church, you know, does ministry in a unique geographic location.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — They do ministry a little different. The people they’re reaching have unique needs. So all of that should factor in. However, we started to study and understand like how many seats does a lean church have per square foot of building, right. How much storage and support do they have so that they can constantly and easily turn multipurpose rooms. So they can say yes to community requests and they can use those rooms sometimes three times a day, right. So how many rooms can they do that with? How much space do they have for kids ministry, and how are they discipled people, and what percentage of their building gets used, what percentage of the time? How are they leveraging technology in their environments, right? And so we start to see some pretty consistent best practice emerge. And in the midst of, you know, churches using their spaces in some like, like unimaginable, like really creative ways, we still start we still start seeing this very consistent data start to come up. So this week, actually, we’re launching on our website this thing we’re calling The Lean Church Indicator.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Aaron Stanski — It’s a really fun tool. Basically, you go in and you plug in some rough numbers for your church…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Aaron Stanski — …and it just benchmarks your facility against what we’re calling the lean model, right? So it’s going to help you better understand like what areas may need improvement. And there’s also a team portion…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Aaron Stanski — …where you can survey your entire staff team, your entire leadership team. They all get to kind of weigh in, and you can see what areas of space are driving your mission and vision forward and what areas might need attention. So that’ll be a fun one.

Rich Birch — This is this is what I love about you, Aaron. You have like real, helpful solutions for church leaders. I’ve joked in other contexts, I’m not an expert, I just play one on the Internet. And you are an actual expert. You actually know what you’re talking about. Like one of the things I’ve said, and it’s and it’s purely just like from walking through a lot of church buildings, is this the kind of thing where I’ve been like, it feels like most churches don’t have enough crush space or enough lobby space.

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — They they, you know, they they build, they exactly what you said. They’re like, let’s maximize the total number of seats, and they don’t have enough flow space. And so then from my perspective on a church growth side, man, if we have the more lobby space we have or if we can maximize that, that that number, figure out what that is, figure out what the percentage is and ratio is…

Aaron Stanski — Right.

Rich Birch — …we can turn the building faster. I love that you’ve developed a tool to try to help churches go from those kind of vague hunches to like, Oh no, here’s some stuff you could actually do. Is that the kind of thing like what kind of information am I going to need…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …to enter to to be able to understand how lean my building is?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, we tried to keep it really simple.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Aaron Stanski — I mean, I have this very complicated Excel file, Rich, because I’m an engineer…

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Aaron Stanski — …and yeah, just I love playing with Excel…

Rich Birch — Yes. Excel formulas – yes.

Aaron Stanski — …and writing macros and formulas and all that stuff. Yeah. But we really tried to boil it down and so, I mean, it should be things that you can pretty easily like just rattle off or things that you can go find out quickly. So it’s kind of like how many acres do you have on your site? Like how many seats are in your main auditorium?

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski — I think some of the harder questions are like total building square footage. I mean, you don’t have to get it to the exact…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Aaron Stanski — …right thing just to understand…

Rich Birch — Just 50,000 square foot building, you know, between [inaudible]…

Aaron Stanski — Right. In general.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. Yeah. Okay, great. Okay.

Aaron Stanski — Compared to other churches, in general, what areas might be deficient or not, you know. And so I think it’s just a starting point, really.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — But I think I think churches will have fun with it. I think us, you know, us pastor types will enjoy plugging it in and seeing how it seeing how it works.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that is so good. I know just recently my wife was in a conversation—she’s on staff at our church—and she was there, we’re looking at some building stuff. And she was in a, we’ll call it a heated discussion around storage space…

Aaron Stanski — Yes.

Rich Birch — Because it was like, friends, in her area—she’s like all on the assimilation guest connection side—she’s like, we and we have privilege, we have campuses. We don’t have enough storage space now. Like we’re always trying to, you know, shoehorn stuff in. And so I’m going to get her to go over there, do that, and then she can point to the guys leading the project on that.

Aaron Stanski — There you go.

Rich Birch — I try to stay out of that, but that’s great. I love it. So good.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I have a mini, I have a mini sermon that I sometimes preach on storage because…

Rich Birch — I love it.

Aaron Stanski — …it’s hard, right? Like every church says, like, we need more storage. But are you storing the right things in the right places? And the fascinating thing is if you can get the right storage next to the right space…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — …you will be able to say yes to so many things, right. Because…

Rich Birch — So good.

Aaron Stanski — …you have the support and you can turn that room and you’ve got the things in it that you need. But if you if you’re storing the five Christmas trees in that very critical closet, yes, you’re out of space and, you know, clutter ends up happening and all this stuff.

Rich Birch — Yes. Love it, love it. Or the flip side of that, I remember we did this one renovation at one of our campuses. And it was great. It was a killer, it was amazing. Like it was it really turned out great. But this one, this one room literally cost us almost $1 million just to do this one room. Like it was…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …like a it was an amazing space. And man, that number stuck in my brain so much because then we would put like, really bad programs or like stuff was like not that effective. And I’d be like, We’ve got $1 million room here and we’re doing like crappy ministry in there. What’s happening? You know, crazy.

Rich Birch — What so can we talk about kind of revitalizing spaces?

Aaron Stanski —Sure.

Rich Birch — So one of the things you’re seeing is talk about post post-COVID statistics, a true stat from our friend Warren Bird: 40% of of campuses that are being launched in churches right now are some version of rebirth or mergers. So an existing church joining a multi-site church, 40% of new campuses are those. I’m sure you’re running into these kinds of projects.

Aaron Stanski — A lot of those.

Rich Birch — What what are the are there some general things we should be thinking about on that side? Or what are your kind of comments around that?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I mean, you know, I love it as a strategy, right? I mean, you know, we have, you know, a huge, um, you know, a huge backlog of church buildings that are going underutilized across across the nation. So, you know, the idea of like having to build new when there’s so much stock available, right?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — Is definitely like, let’s go, let’s go grab that, let’s go do that as a strategy. So I absolutely love it. Um, you know, however, a lot of times when we jump into those situations, like we still have to like up fit them or, you know, get them to a place where we feel like again, right, like we can invite someone to that, to that campus or invite someone into that facility and not be ashamed of it and stuff like that. So, I mean, I think we still have to look at it from like a capital asset and investment standpoint, right? And so I think what happens a lot of times is like if, let’s say if your church averages like that campus or something, it’s got 500 seats and stuff in it, and and we’re going to revitalize that, you know, that place. And we hope to have like a thousand people who are worshiping there and stuff like that. Well, we can probably take those those numbers out and say, okay, it would it would probably cost us in the neighborhood of like $10 million to buy the land and build that thing up new. And the parking lot and the kids ministry and all that other kind of stuff.

Aaron Stanski — And so I think what we have to do is say, okay, so the question is like, what’s the right amount of money then to invest to make that $10 million asset that we’re acquiring more 50% more effective for ministry or double the kingdom impact that it’s going to have, right? And so I think when we look at it that way, we can say, okay, then what’s the right amount to get that thing up to speed…

Rich Birch — Right.

Aaron Stanski —…and we can have that conversation. Um, but I mean definitely seeing it as a trend and I think it’s, I think it’s a fun way to, to kind of breathe some life back into these churches that are right in the middle of communities a lot of times. They’ve got lots of history and investment in them.

Rich Birch — And you obviously if you you’ve done that kind of work with churches where you’ve helped them try to revitalize or reuse…

Aaron Stanski — Yes.

Rich Birch — You know, what do you call that like refresh an existing building. There’s an interesting challenge there. Recently I was in a church, again, this is in the last couple of months, and I was in exactly that situation. It was a campus that had been given to them. And I said in a kind way, I said, the inside of this building is not reflected on the outside. The inside was beautiful. Like they did a really, really good job, but the outside just didn’t have that same… because it was an older building. And and, you know, and I wasn’t trying it wasn’t a dig at them. I wasn’t trying to be, I’m like, this is a great, but but I think that could be a problem. Is there a way to to refresh those…

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …a more traditional building that was built in the 50s to so when you look at it, you say…

Aaron Stanski — Oh for sure.

Rich Birch — It looks great. Yeah. What kind of things should we be thinking about on that front?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I mean, we’ve done things as simple as just like like painting a portion of the building or highlighting the entrance or like, doing the really nice sign. Um, it’s it’s tough, right? Because we’re not adding more ministry square footage. And so we are spending a certain amount of money just on the look and feel. But when we think about brand and we think about like the promises, right? A brand is a set of promises that you’re making to your members…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Aaron Stanski — …to your visitors, to your community. And the more consistently you deliver on those promises, the stronger your brand. And so, like churches understand this when it comes to like their website and their print material and stuff. Like we want people to drive by and understand, oh yeah, that’s the church that loves on the students at the at the elementary school. That’s the church that goes out and does that on a serve day. And so how we express the brand on the exterior of the church is important. And, and so, yeah, I mean, there’s some simple things that we’ve done. I mean, just like paints and replacing some brick with some aluminum panel and stuff like that. But it’s a, it’s an important piece to understand for sure.

Rich Birch — Yeah. So good. This is, this has been fantastic. Now you’ve got a resource that I want to make sure people pick up.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah.

Rich Birch — It’s called “10 Things to Get Right Before You Build”. Tell us about this resource and where can we get it? Where do we want to send people to pick it up?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I mean, I think. We get a lot of times people will come over to the website or, you know, they’ll be talking to us and they’ll they’ll say, Hey, like, man, it feels like we have so many things on our end that we have to go fix before we are ready to hire an architect or something like that, right? And so we just kind of tried to grab some of the things that we’ve heard the most often stick it in a PDF, so you can just kind of go down through it. And like most of the stuff isn’t, isn’t that hard, right? Like you can just wrap your mind around it, understand kind of where you’re at, but it’s important to do it before you jump full fledged into some sort of a of a building project. So yeah, I mean you can just go right to risepointe.com. Um, it’s down there at the bottom of our homepage.

Rich Birch — That’s with an E – Risepointe with an E.

Aaron Stanski — That’s right. Risepointe with an E dot com because we’re cool like that.

Rich Birch — Yes, love it.

Aaron Stanski — So Risepointe.com – go down to the bottom. You can click on, you can click and grab that resource. It’s a, it’s a quick read but it’s it’s definitely a good one.

Rich Birch — So good. Well, we’ve got multiple takeaways for you today, friends. We want you to go over there. Same place on the Lean Church Indicator go over to risepointe.com. You can fill that out while you’re there, pick up that that pdf. So so good. As we’re kind of coming down to land anything else you’d like to say? Thank you so much for coming on. What a, what a gift this has been to kind of get to peel back the doors a little bit, or peel back the plans and look at what’s been going on in in church church building these days. I thank you so much for this. But anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, I mean, I think I just say like, um, you know, a lot of times people don’t want to call the architect, right? Because they’re not building some huge project or they come over to our website and they see some of these like big buildings and stuff. And what they don’t understand, right, is 85% of the work that we do is just is interior modification. It’s expansion. So like we don’t just do big multi-site projects, big construction projects. We really roll up our sleeves and say, okay, you know, you need to redo your kid’s area. We want to help you with that, right?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Aaron Stanski — Like we want it to look awesome. And so we have a great team of people here at Risepointe that would love to just come alongside your church in that season. Serve well. It’ll feel like you have some extra staff members for a time, but that’s because we’re shouldering the brunt of the of the project work for you. So I’d say, you know, it doesn’t matter where you’re at, reach out. We’d love to have that conversation.

Rich Birch — Love it. I know there’s a lot of growing churches that listen in, a lot of executive pastor types that wonder about these issues and are thinking, I wonder what we should do on this front. It’s like you have the questions, but and you have some but you’re not sure on the answers. If you’re in that category, if you’re like these areas seem full. We seem to be, you know, like you say, we launch a second service, launch the third service – man, things are tight. Give Aaron and the team over there, I highly recommend them. They’re they’re good friends and they’ll definitely work with you. Where do we want to send people online? Just as we wrap up today’s conversation to track with with Risepointe.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah I mean I’d say like our website is is by far the best place to do that.

Rich Birch — Perfect.

Aaron Stanski — If you’re ready to have a conversation, you can schedule a call right there, either myself or one of our other, you know, ministry minded leaders there will pick up and and we’ll do that for you. So schedule a call, you know, let us know how we can help.

Rich Birch — Good stuff. Thanks so much, Aaron. Appreciate you being here.

Aaron Stanski — Yeah, thanks, Rich.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.