Stephen Upham, President of Crosspointe Architects explains his process for helping churches develop their physical spaces from concept to completion and beyond.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio, TexasBusinessRadio.com is the website. 844-814-8144 is our 24 hour call-in line. Get your calls in. Where you can the experts and make sure those questions get answered. I’m your host, Matt Register. Jay Curry’s the guy sitting over there in the co-host chair. We’re talking about architecture. We’re talking about building. And I tell you what, if you listen to this show for any length of time, you know we love niche businesses. We have an interesting one in here. We have an architectural firm that focuses solely on building churches. What an interesting niche within the architectural community. What do you think, Jay?
Jay Curry: I think it’s just really refreshing when you find somebody who’s taking their professional career and matched it with a passion. You put those two together, it makes for a great business.
Matt Register: Yep, no doubt about that. Crosspointe Architects. Steve Upham is the president of Crosspointe. Welcome to the show, Steve.
Stephen Upham: Thank you very much.
Matt Register: So tell me about Crosspointe. What do you do and who do you it to?
Stephen Upham: Well, we founded Crosspointe in 1992 with an express purpose of helping churches grow, helping churches, designing buildings that will grow churches. And our whole ministry or business is, like a ministry, is focused on helping churches become who they can be and do what they’re called to do better. So we design buildings that are easily expandable, that are designed for the personality of that particular church and congregation. In other words, what’s distinctive about that particular group? We want to discover it and we want to make sure the building and the interior design all incorporate that.
Matt Register: Well, it’s interesting. Churches have a very specific needs. Generically, churches have very specific needs for their buildings. And across different churches, they would have different needs across different churches.
Stephen Upham: Exactly.
Matt Register: How in the world did you make a decision as an architect that that’s the direction you were going?
Stephen Upham: I had the opportunity in college to design a church as a school project. And I discovered I loved it. I worked with the church building committee and I enjoyed the process and I realized it was a way of putting my faith together with my professional skills and abilities and my training. So it’s a ideal mix. Since then, I’ve worked with 20 different denominations. I’ve worked with almost 70 non-denominational churches. So it’s been a broad cross-section of Christian churches, and it’s been great fun.
Matt Register: That’s interesting. Talk to me a little bit about how you design … Because we were talking in the break, and you were telling me that your motto is building churches to grow, that have the ability to grow. How in the world do you go in make sure that the building itself is setting the church up for success that they have a desire to grow?
Stephen Upham: First, in several ways. One, the physical building, like for example, the worship space, we design it so it can be expandable. Nearly all of ours are expandable. Sometimes internally, sometimes externally, sometimes a combination.
Matt Register: Why would it need … So why not just build what you think you’re going to need? Why would you want it expandable? Is that just to make it modular and chop up the cost associated?
Stephen Upham: Well, no. Sometimes it helps the cost, but also it’s designed so that many churches have an evangelical focus. In other words, they expect to grow, they expect to create new believers and disciple new people, and therefore, if they’re doing what they’re intending to do, they’re growing. And if they’re growing, they need more places for people. So we design the buildings to grow. We virtually always create a master site plan so they know how the campus will grow. But we also make sure that they individual spaces like the worship space can be expandable. So that’s part of what we do.
Matt Register: How is … I’ve worked with some churches and some things. Their decision making process is upside down. Almost everything about it is very unique and I was going to say weird. It’s not weird, it’s just very unique on … Upside down from normal business. You guys, evidently, have gotten good at working through all of that. Right? Talk to me a little bit about some of the ways that you guys can help these guys work through.
Stephen Upham: Absolutely. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a building committee, or a leadership team, or an individual person that we’re working with. We have different mechanisms for doing it. One of the ways we do it, we developed many unique tools. One of them is we have something we call our design summit workshop. The design summit means we come to their location, meet with them over a period of several days, long, extended meetings usually where we’re designing together. We’re talking about their needs and goals. But we start drawing in that first meeting. And we design together. So it’s interactive. And it’s really exciting for those people to see their ideas and our ideas together turn into something physical. And they start seeing the rooms in the spaces and it comes alive. And by the end of that week, or several days together, they’ll have a complete floor plan, they’ll have a master site plan, how the building and the campus is going to grow, and they’ll have the look of the building.
Matt Register: But will they have any money yet though?
Stephen Upham: Not yet.
Matt Register: That’s the-
Stephen Upham: Then the next thing is over the next four to six weeks, we’ll create the fund raising visual tools they need, artist renderings, animations, whatever they need-
Matt Register: Okay, yeah, that’s the part right there. That’s where it’s upside down from the rest of the business world, right?
Stephen Upham: That’s right. That’s where they stop and raise money and share the vision with the congregation. And so our contracts are even not like traditional architects. We have two part process. One part is for the vision tools they need, then we stop, and then part two is for the construction plans and all the way through construction.
Matt Register: Gotcha.
Stephen Upham: So everything about our business has been constructed with churches and ministries in mind, and built around that business model. The other thing that is unique is we developed a catalog of church prototype plans. So we’ve got dozens of unique building designs that are really effective. They have all the bells and … Or, many of the different bells and whistles that churches are looking for, the beautiful cafes, the incredible children’s spaces, the fun things that churches are looking for. And so churches can say, “Hey, I like your Sierra Plan,” or whatever, or they can say, “We like this design, but we’d like you to modify it. We’d like to change this, we need a bigger sanctuary, we need less classrooms.” We can do any of that.
Matt Register: How often are you teaching them about what they want? Right, because I would imagine some of them don’t have a clue. They want to grow because that sounds like something they should be doing, and they have no idea what they want or what kind of features they want, right?
Stephen Upham: When we do our design summit, there’s a lot of what we call church counseling as part of it. A lot of informational, instructional information, interactive discussion to help them think about why they’re doing … Making the decisions they’re trying to make. Are these really the ones that fit their congregation and their goals? And to help them be sure what they’re doing is very effective for their intentions.
Matt Register: Yeah. No, it’s an interesting niche. At what point is the right time for you to get involved? Because I would imagine one logical place to do it would be after a building committee has figured out everything that they’re going to need, or is it earlier than that? I mean at what point do you like to get involved?
Stephen Upham: Well ideally, it’s before that. Because if they just sit down and write down a list of, “This is what we need. We need eight classrooms and so forth,” they’re often thinking with very outdated perspective. And so they’re not aware of the church growth trends necessarily. They’re not aware of things that are happening and new technologies that make other ideas possible. And so we recommend that we get involved once they have property, or once they have the decision to make that relocation. Sometimes they want us to create that conceptual design to present so they can raise money for the new property. And that’s fine too.
Jay Curry: Now, Steve, you don’t build it, right?
Stephen Upham: No, but we’re involved during construction.
Jay Curry: But I was going to ask, how long do you stay at the back end?
Stephen Upham: We are involved all the way through construction.
Jay Curry: All the way through to the end?
Stephen Upham: Yes. And the State of Texas requires that architects are involved in what’s called construction administration. That helps protect the church from contractors and subcontractors that may not be ethical, or might charge too much, or you know.
Jay Curry: Right, some short cuts, save some money, make a little more profit, right?
Stephen Upham: Shortcuts, faulty materials. All kinds of things.
Matt Register: Well I’ll tell you what, that work on the front end, I mean you guys are one part consultant, one part architect, right?
Stephen Upham: Exactly.
Matt Register: I mean there’s a whole lot more involvedness. Interesting stuff. What is the easiest way for somebody to get in touch with you should they want to learn more.
Stephen Upham: Probably the easiest way is our website, CrosspointeArchitects.com. And Crosspointe has an E on the end, and architects is plural. So it’s CrosspointeArchitects.com.
Matt Register: We’re going to have that linked right from TexasBusinessRadio.com as well if you’re driving, can’t take notes. We’re going to have it linked, CrosspointeArchitects.com is the website. At what point do you want somebody to give you a call? Because if they’re just have a concept at some point, is that too early?
Stephen Upham: It’s never too early to call. We can help them determine whether it’s too early or not if they’re uncertain. But we’re glad to consult with them and help them figure out what their process is. And sometimes they invite us to come in to help them decide, “Do we stay and do something to our current facility, or do we need to relocate? Have the demographics changed around us? Do we need to change our location? Is this building worth repairing, remodeling, updating?”
Matt Register: I think I changed my mind. You might be two parts consultant, one part architect, right?
Stephen Upham: There’s a lot of it.
Matt Register: Steve Upham, president, Crosspointe Architects. Steve, thank you very much for joining us.
Stephen Upham: My pleasure, thank you.
Jay Curry: Great story.
Matt Register: All right, interesting stuff. What a niche in the architectural space. We’re going to take a break. We’re going to hear from some of our sponsors. We’ll be back right on the other side of the break with a whole lot more Texas Business Radio. Don’t go anywhere.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.