The One Thing 346: Building Management Principles (Kate Stace)

When you have a church building and people who don't attend your church want to use it, what questions should you think through first?

Kate Stace from Vine Church is the Ministry Operations Director at Vine Church in Sydney. She shares:

  • Why what happens in your church building matters
  • Using your site as a mission field
  • Priorities for what the building is used for
  • Policy nuts and bolts
  • Questions to ask before outsiders use the space
  • Church members using the building and why they should
  • Mistakes Kate's made (and what she learned from them)


Building Management Resources Kate has made available.


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The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

“G’day, I’m Scott Sanders. Welcome to The One Thing, a podcast designed to give you one solid practical tip for gospel center ministry every week. Now, The One Thing is brought to you by Reach Australia.
We wanna see thousands of healthy, evangelistic, multiplying churches all across Australia. Today, we’re gonna be pushing into the topic of buildings. For many, this brings up a lot of anxiety because their building isn’t sort of fit for purpose, or they know they’ve got a lot of money to spend on it.
But buildings are great assets for ministry, and they’re places where we’ve got a great mission base to reach our communities. And so this week, we’re gonna be hearing from Kate Stace, Operations Director at Vine Church. She’s gonna be talking with us about the sort of intricacies of managing a building and kind of getting into that.”

“For now, you’ve pressed play on another episode of The One Thing, Managing a Building for Ministry and Mission. Now, Kate, welcome to The One Thing.
Thank you, thanks for having me.
Now, people probably don’t know this, but you not only have a child, but you also have a corgi as well. And I’m just kind of interested always in people who get small dogs and have kids at the same time. Was that intentional?
Was that just, you know, just happened?”

“I don’t recommend it to other people. Let me say that. No, our dogs have played together before, very successful.
I think Luna’s a well-adjusted corgi. But no, I am living the chaos of a dog and a toddler at the same time.
Yeah, my parents just replaced their dog. Their fox terrier died, or Maltese terrier apparently is like a pedigree or something, but they replaced it with a corgi. And I grew up with corgis with my grandparents, but man alive, they are just mad as a cut snake, those dogs, aren’t they?
They’re pretty nuts.”

“Do you know? I mean, you probably know this, but they’re Welsh herding dogs. So they’re bred to go under the sheep.
So they’re like a working dog with tiny legs.
There you go. You learn something every day on The One Thing.
There’s the one thing.
That has absolutely nothing to do with buildings, but what it demonstrates is you’ve got a great capacity for kind of dealing with the crazy. And I think that’s often what happens with buildings and in churches as well. Churches are 24 seven places in many ways when they’re actually active and vibrant and thriving.”

“And often when you’ve got a lot of complex property in church life, you need someone like a you and operations manager and operations director who can work alongside the pastor so they can focus on the ministry of the word. So is a church building just a building?
Yeah, it’s an interesting question because I think in some ways, yes, like our theology dictates, what do we think about the actual church building? We don’t think that the church is the building. We think that the church is the people gathered.
But I do think there is an element where what happens in a church building matters. And so an obvious example for us at Vine is if we had a raging party in the church building and people are driving past, there’s all sorts of issues of perception, who is this church, like who are these people? Is this the church?”

“Is it an external group? So yeah, I think there’s a few things you need to manage where if you’re having your building rented out and used either by external groups or by your church, you do need to have thought through things like who are you happy to hire to? What are you happy to have happening?
How does it fit with your church ministry? And how do you run it so that everything fits well together?
Okay, I want to dig into that detail in a moment, but a building is more than just a rain shelter. People, as you say, drive past it, they see it. Their experience of it, whether they go into it or not, they’re experiencing kind of who you are from what they can see from the outside, and also probably what they can hear from the inside if you have this raging party.
Which I like to clarify.”

“I was just going to say, when did this happen? We don’t, that was a hypothetical. So the building says something about who you are as a church.
It’s more than just a rain shelter. It’s a place where people gather. It’s a place where we get to celebrate and worship and give glory and honor to our God, but also an opportunity where we get to love each other and serve each other as well.
So just thinking about the church building, how much does a building get used for ministry during the week?
Yeah, so our building at the moment is very busy. So new building opened 18 months ago. We’ve got three services on a Sunday and then a bunch of things during the week, like a mission focus play group, things like that, Bible study groups, Christianity explored.”

“But then there’s also, we have two office tenants, so spare offices that we’ve rented out. We have probably five or six different recurring groups that use it, so lots of dance schools, birth preparation classes, like pretty random mix of groups. Then there’s lots of one-offs, so kids’ birthday parties, product launches, designer sales, like kind of everything and anything is happening during the week, as well as church member functions, so people’s engagement parties, birthday parties.
So you’ve kind of got sort of four categories that you’ve kind of helpfully sort of listed out. There’s the ongoing regular church-based ministry activities, home groups, on board, evangelistic courses, team meetings that need to happen within the staff team. All your internal stuff happening.
There’s this weird kind of, almost kind of third space. You’ve got people from the community who are renting the space and actually operating their business out of the space. There’s the regular ongoing, where you’ve got a whole bunch of community people just coming in regularly to do activities in the church, and we are just another kind of, I guess, community space.”

“Like just purely a venue for them.
And then there’s this, all this one-off where you’ve got people who are coming into our building because we’ve got a shortage of community spaces, particularly in the inner city.
Yeah, that’s right.
And so we’re just another kind of venue, higher place, but again, an opportunity for us to demonstrate who we are, what we’re on about to this group coming in. So I’m just thinking, how many people do you think not kind of regular church girls would be coming into Vine Church during the week just because of all these sort of activities?
Oh, a few hundred, I would say. So on an average week, I reckon we would have maybe 300 people that aren’t church members coming in the doors.
Yeah. Yep.”

“On a busy week more.
Yeah, so we often only measure the kind of newcomer on a Sunday, but a busy church building that is actually being used by the community will actually see a whole bunch of people on site in and around your space during the course of the week. So how do you make decisions to let, who and why and what in your building? What’s the sort of decision process?
So it’s probably two, one decision making, which I guess is more internal, is how does it fit with your church staff team and your church activities? Because there’s only a certain number of hours during the week. So what do you do if you have a mission event on a Tuesday night and venue hire in our site, the site’s relatively open plan.
So you have to be quite careful about what coexists at the same time. So the priorities we have are mission events come first. So something like Alpha or Christianity explored.”

“We wouldn’t have a tango group using the hall blaring music next to them. We want them to be able to have the whole site set up properly, have a good vibe, have nothing else happening. But something like a-
Now there’s a cost to that because the tango group gives us a bunch of money and they want the recurring ongoing.
Yeah, that’s right. But I think our top priority in that situation is what’s the experience of a non-Christian explorer who’s walking into the building. I’m much more flexible with things like Bible study groups, team meetings, parish council, all those sorts of things.”

“If there’s another space they can use, I will nicely kick them out into a different space, so that we can have venue high at the same time. So some things can coexist. And then externally, I think there’s the decision of who are you happy to use your building?
For us, where we’ve landed is, I’m happy for other Protestant groups to use it. So Reach Australia uses our building sometimes, we allow that. And I’m happy for secular groups to use the site, but I think there’s a bit of wisdom there.
So dance school’s no problem. We have lots of filming that happens, and we have quite a few systems set up to make sure that we’re only filming things that we’re happy with.”

“So Kate, I’m hearing you say, I’m happy, but what is this? I’m assuming you’ve discussed this with the ministry staff to discuss it with the parish council as well. So you’ve got a policy document that has some boundaries, but then there’s a bit of freedom for you as a week to week, okay, let me just make a decision on whether this makes sense.
Yeah, that’s right. So I mean, I think my main advice to anybody remotely involved in managing a building is you need to have consistent processes and policies written up so that when you get an inquiry, you know. So an example for us is, I have it written up that I only do low risk functions on a Saturday or venue hire because church is the busiest day of the week and you have a limited time to fix anything that goes wrong.

“Whereas I’m happier for maybe medium risk things to happen during the week, but I want to have that written down so that when somebody comes to me and says, hey, I’d like to do a 21st on a Saturday night, I don’t have to make a decision on the spot. Is this a good fit or not? I can just go, no, sorry, we’re not able to do that.
What about managing church members’ expectations? So I’m a member of the church, I’ve been here five years, I’ve given to the building project. So we want to have a birthday party and we should be entitled.
You are very welcome.
That was me hypothetical.
All of the Sanders.
But how would you, yeah, how do you manage that expectation?”

“Yeah, so we actually do want church members to be having their functions at church, whether it’s a kid’s birthday party or something like that, because it’s a fantastic mission thing for your church members to go, hey, this is my church. I’m having my kid’s birthday here. It’s a great space for kids.
You can meet some of my friends from church and here is this community that I’m part of. So we have heavily discounted rates for church members because we want to actually encourage them to use the building. But I have a few policies written up in terms of what do we expect when people use the building.
So what are they able to use? What are they not able to use? What do they need to do at the end of their party or function, whatever it is, so that ministry can come first.”

“So in some ways that kind of sounds like a no brainer. You want to encourage them to use the space. Yes.
That helps them with their mission, but it also helps them see this is our church. Yeah. What do you do with the yoga group?
What do you do with the raging party or the product launch that you like? I’m just not sure about.
Is that a product that we actually want to launch in our church?”

“Yeah. So my main advice would be have a system set up where you get as much information as possible from the get go, because you don’t want to slowly discover that your event isn’t quite what you thought it was. So we have quite an extensive higher form where they have to write down if it’s a product launch, what are they launching?
If they’re applying to film, what are they filming? If they’re a dance school, what type of dance is it? Because you wouldn’t want pole dancing happening in your church hall.
But you’re happy with tango?
Happy with tango, happy with ballet. Something like Pilates happy with, but yoga not happy with because it’s not a secular practice. It’s got the connections to Eastern religions.”

“And even with product launches, you need to be careful of things like, do they plan on bringing alcohol? What does that look like? And then being in Surry Hills, we often have quite obscure just requests to hire the hall.
So there was a group that promised to cure infertility with womb massage. And I said no to that one because I think that there’s all sorts of connotations about what their beliefs are that don’t match up with our beliefs. But much easier to get that information at the first contact rather than discover.
So it sounds like in this sort of process, there could be lots of conflict. How do you manage that conflict? So the womb massage person, well, hang on, I thought you guys were four and in favor of kids and birth and life.
How could you be against this?”

“Yes. So at the moment, we are in a position where we can say no to groups using the site. I also think that it’s not necessarily the wisest thing to lead with saying, hey, we’re not going to rent to you because we have different beliefs, just because of the context that we’re in, particularly in Surry Hills, but really anywhere I think at the moment.
So what I broadly do is get all the information to start with. I don’t promise anything. So I say, I’ll have a look.
And then often there are reasons that it won’t work. So the Womb Massage Group, the hall has a huge glass wall. You know, it’s very open.”

“So there might be other reasons that I talk to, or I just say, I’m so sorry, the hall’s not available that day, but here are some venues that you might have success with, because although I don’t think it’s right that they use our hall, I want them to have a good experience of us. And even that’s a mission contact to me in that moment.
Yeah, that’s good, that’s good. So systems help you process documents, but also just being really clear from the get go about whether it’s a yes or a no. So you’ve talked about some of those systems.
Obviously, there’s a detailed application for form. You’re getting as much information as possible. You have a contract with everyone?”

“Yeah, so we do a license agreement, which is just a template that we roll out with every group. And I explain to the groups, look, here are the procedural things that we have. It’s standard for every use so that they don’t feel like they’re being perceived as untrustworthy.
So got a license agreement that goes through what they can use, what they can’t use, times, all that sort of thing. For every group, they also need public liability insurance. And we get that right at the start to go in the contract because otherwise people don’t want to get it.
And then we take a $500 refundable bond for every hire. So I would do that for church members as well. And I just say, look, it’s standard.”

“These are the things that it might get used for, which is extra time, extra cleaning or damage, and we’ll return it to you next week. Don’t anticipate any problems, but just letting you know. And so then that creates a relationship where I can say to them, hey, once we had a dance school who way overstayed their time, and I said to them, we talked about beforehand, this is what the bond gets used for.
I’m just gonna return this amount of your bond because that’ll account for the extra time. So all about setting really clear expectations. And then with one-off hires, because they’re inherently more risky.
So a returning hire, they want to come back next week. Kids’ birthday parties, I realized, are where things go wrong. I mean, you’ve got four kids.”

“Kids’ birthday party, people go crazy. So we once had a kids’ birthday party.
Not a married kids’ birthday party.
No, no, not the sentence.
We run a very good, tight ship birthday party.
So we once had a kids’ birthday party where they had a surprise petting zoo, and somebody drove past church, and they had parked 20 cars on our front entrance plaza, which is very much not a plate, like it’s essentially a big footpath. And so you’ve got to have mechanisms in place to deal with those things. So very clear.”

“Are you having external suppliers? Who are they? Are you using caterers?
And then I’ll give them a summary sheet, which is here’s where you can find everything. And just a reminder, you know, you’re welcome to use the kitchen, but not the coffee machine. You’re welcome to use tables, chairs.
And I should say as well, we have the actual Sandstone Church part is on a different lock. And that’s very strategic for us with Venue High because we want to set up the building knowing that people have all sorts of different expectations, but that your Sunday ministry is the highest priority at that point.
Yeah, so that’s really helpful, I guess, for people to picture Vine Church, there’s the auditorium, yes. The worship space, the corporate gathering space. There’s a church hall that’s separate and a foyer that kind of connects all those with a kitchen.”

“Yeah, and a big garden, which is very popular.
Yeah, a big enclosed garden. So you have the ability for people not to kind of interact with the church gathering space. Because I imagine that just makes it easier for Sunday setup in terms of sound, cabling, musical instruments going missing, people playing the drums, all the things that could go wrong.
Everything expensive is in there. And I think something that’s important in building management is working out what problems can you solve? So I have no idea how to work the AV desk.
And so if there’s a problem, I personally can’t solve it. And so that means I need to involve my staff team if something goes wrong, which is just a huge no-no for me.”

“Yeah, so that was another question I had for you. You’re set aside to manage this and to be involved in driving this so that other staff team don’t need to get involved.
So that’s the strategy that we’ve gone with, and we pass on as many costs to people as we can. So they’ll pay for a function manager depending on what it is. We’ll hire Linen and then we’ll use a Linen service because we don’t have the capacity to personally manage every function.
And I want the building to be able to kind of run alongside church activities with as minimal disruption to the staff team. Other churches might go a different strategy where they feel like they’ve got the capacity. They’re very happy for staff to be more involved, but for me, that’s not the case.”

“So I’ll recruit some people who are happy to do kind of paid hospitality work for some functions if we don’t have the capacity, and I pass that on to the people who are hiring the space.
So Kate, can you tell us what have been some mistakes that you’ve made in building management over the years?
Yes. One mistake I made was actually, we were previously at Grey City, and we had a group use the site there where it was like an end of year dance concert, and they unplugged all of the sound wiring, and then replugged everything back into the wrong inputs. So your violin, or your drums, what it previously was, was actually plugged into the piano.”

“This is not your first radio. You’ve been building manager in a number of different places.
So that’s a classic example of what you want to avoid. I can’t fix that, and Sunday’s the most important, but this group had actually also used confetti cannons. So that was a hot mess to fix.
And sound, I always find sound and AV guys are often the most, you know, they’re happy with sort of change, things not being in the right place. They love a bit of change on a Sunday morning, first thing, 8.30 in the morning.
And that’s a terrible experience for your sound team, right? They turn up for church, and nothing’s plugged into the right thing. So that’s kind of huge mistake number one.”

“A close call we had last year was, you might have seen the Battuta Advocate filming program on Hillsong and the church. They applied to film at Vine, but I’ve realized TV companies often aren’t super clear about what they’re actually filming. So they don’t tell you straight up, hey, we’re doing an expose on the church in Hillsong.
They say, oh, we’re doing a historical piece on the church, and we’d love to feature your church. Yeah, so in that process, through digging and asking, because you sign away the rights to how it’s going to be used. So that was a close call where I’m very glad that they didn’t film.
They’re gonna find somewhere else to film, but I don’t want Vine Church to be.”

“That place.
Awesome, awesome. So again, big learning, having policies, processes, systems in place to be able to say no, to be able to say yes, but having clarity as well for both the hirer and for the user church sort of minimises mistakes. In a moment with the toolbox, no doubt, we’re gonna be having a whole bunch of links to different examples.
I think the learning from that though is, you’ve actually got to go through the process with your leadership team and with your ministry team so that you have clarity around those priorities and those issues. So Kate, what’s the one thing you’ve learned about managing a building?”

“I think it’s that your building can be a great community space for your local community and your church members, but it’s also high risk having people use your site. And so you really need to make sure that you’ve got your processes in place before you start.
Awesome. Well, Kate, it’s been really good talking with you about buildings. I’m looking forward to my next birthday party and the chaos that ensues.
I just want to jump in the toolbox. As I said, we’ll put a couple of links in there to examples of agreements and policies that Vine Church have used. And higher forms,”

“It will just give you a whole suite. Again, the key is not to just copy and paste, but actually to have that conversation with your team so that you’ve got that clarity. Now, if you’ve got a topic that you’d like us to cover, please email us at resources at
I’m Scott Sanders.
I’m Kate Stace.”