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Answers to More Church Design i3 Webinar Questions

We get great questions during our free i3 church building webinar series. The answers to these questions can be as informative of the church design and construction process as the webinars themselves. In this post, we answer three more questions that church leaders have asked during recent webinars.

Question 1: Do you have someone on your church building team who helps figure out sound and lighting design?

Clearly audio, video and lighting (AVL) are important elements of any modern church design. We do understand the needs churches have for AVL and how to create a church design that takes it into account. When it’s time to work out the details, we are flexible in how that is handled.

We have AVL designers and contractors that we can recommend. We can subcontract them ourselves and include it in our scope of our work. Or we can recommend them to you, and you can do the interviewing, hiring, and paying directly. We are also happy to work with sound and lighting experts that you might already know and have a relationship with. The key point here is that we’re flexible. We want the best for your situation, so we’re happy to work with you to accomplish that.

Question 2: What is your subcontractor selection process, or do you always build with your pre-selected subcontractors?

The McKnight Group functions as a general contractor for all of our church design and building projects. This means we provide a project manager and project superintendent who work onsite on your church building project.

Most of the actual church building work is done by local subcontractors and suppliers. We go through a competitive bidding process, put together the best package of people and businesses, and present that to you as a single contract with a guaranteed construction cost. This ensures you are getting the best prices from local people.

The selection process involves making sure that the subcontractors and suppliers have the proper amount of people available to do the work, they have a good reputation, they pay their bills, and they have a track record of successfully handling any issues that arise during the work. This way we are responsible for handling their work, rather than relying on church leaders who do not have experience with church building construction.

Question 3: What is the cost of each phase of the church design and building process?

The cost of the initial church design study can vary.  In 2018 we estimate anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000, based upon the complexity and size of the project, and what you are trying to accomplish. Yes, that’s a wide range, but there’s a wide range of problems and situations that individual churches have to address.

Construction documents and construction itself would depend on your actual church design and the budget you have prepared for the church building or remodeling project. The budget will include the architectural, engineering, and building permits, as well as the actual construction costs.

With all of those variables, it’s impossible to give you generic cost estimates for each stage of the church building process without visiting your church and discussing the what you are trying to accomplish. However, you can learn a lot about each of those variables in our free i3 webinars, which is why we encourage you to sign up and join us there to learn more. Meanwhile, if you have specific cost questions related to your existing church design, give us a call at 800-625-6448 and let’s begin a conversation.

2018-10-02T18:58:46+00:00 October 2nd, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Addressing Recent Church Building Questions from our I3 Webinars

Joining The McKnight Group for our free i3 webinars is a good idea for many reasons. For one, we cover a great range of information on church building and church design. Another reason is that our webinars give you a chance to ask us questions

In this post, we respond to some of those questions that have been put to our presenters during recent i3 webinars.

Question 1: Do you often suggest tearing down a church building rather than remodeling?

Actually, we seldom recommend tearing down a church building. We do know that, frequently, church leaders and even attendees can come to dislike their church building. Maybe they think it doesn’t present the right first impression now that there’s a new church vision in place. They might be frustrated with an aging boiler or a leaky roof. They might get caught up in church building envy, wanting something new and fresh, like that the ultra-modern church design two towns over.

However, the bottom line is that it almost always costs a lot more to create a new church design and build a new facility from scratch than it does to undertake even an extensive remodeling of an existing church building. If you’re going to be good stewards of your property, it’s usually a good idea to investigate how your current church building can be remodeled with an excellent church design to meet your current needs.

There are a very few exceptions to this rule. If your church building is no longer structurally sound, then it makes little sense to remodel it. This doesn’t just mean the leaky roof; this means the entire structure is too far gone to be salvaged. Another reason that it might make sense to tear down a large, old church building in disrepair is if the congregation has become so much smaller that they literally cannot afford to care for their property—even if it was repaired.

Question 2: Have you ever dug out a basement under an existing church building?

No, and we wouldn’t recommend it, either. It’s technically possible but creating a basement floor under an existing building is an engineering challenge and an expensive proposition.

If you want to expand your existing church building and have very limited land available, the best church design option is to build additional floors, rather than creating a basement. Even if your existing church design requires significant shoring up to support additional floors, it will still be cheaper and a lot less hazardous to build up rather than down.

Question 3: Does The McKnight Group have availability to begin a church building study in the fourth quarter of 2018, for projects that would begin in 2019?

If your preferred schedule has us visiting you by the end of the year that should not be an issue. The completion of a study will vary depending upon the complexity, size and the availability of the land and/or facility documents. A design study typically requires six to ten weeks to complete after all information is gathered. To find out what information we need from you, email us at or give us a call at 800-625-6448.

If you’re not quite ready to take that step, we encourage you to continue gathering information. You can learn a lot from our free i3 webinars, so register for our upcoming events at the bottom of our home page. Also stay tuned, because we will respond to more questions in our next post.

2018-09-25T15:56:49+00:00 September 25th, 2018|Advice, Church Building, Church Design|

Discerning Transformation: When a Church Renovation Is in Order

Our philosophy at The McKnight Group is that a church building is a tool for ministry. As with any tool, it can get worn out, outdated or even damaged and no longer be efficient at fulfilling its purpose. When it happens, church leaders often begin discussing the need for a new church design to fit their evolving vision for ministry in their community.

But this raises a very important question: How do you know when it’s time to invest in a church renovation? Here are three components to a good discernment process. If these elements are in place, you’re probably ready to consider a new church building or renovation project.

#1: A Vision for Ministry in Your Church Building

The first and most important component is a clear and compelling vision for ministry. A church design needs to support the kinds of ministry that you want to achieve in your community. To learn more about how to discern and perfect a great vision for ministry, check out this post on the subject.

It’s also important that the great majority of your attendees—leadership and worshippers—are on the same page about this vision. When it’s time to raise money for your church renovation, it will be critical that the congregation agrees on the outcome. If not, you could end up with a tool that doesn’t work in the way you want it to.

#2: Understand What Your Active, Growing Ministries Need in a Church Design

The second component in the successful church renovation discernment process involves a close examination of the various ministries that use your church building. Which of your ministries are growing and thriving? Which could do even more if they had larger or better space in which to thrive?

It might be a preschool that’s bursting at the seams or an outdated youth ministry space that’s no longer appealing to kids in the neighborhood. Perhaps, your vision for ministry involves an after-school program or Christian school, but you’ll need to renovate your church building before that can happen.

#3: A Well-Planned and Affordable Budget for Your Church Renovation

The last critical component to a successful church renovation is to make certain that you can afford it. You need to pay careful attention to your resources and understand what’s possible. It’s great to begin by dreaming large, but it’s just as important to be realistic about what you can afford.

This does not mean giving up on the big picture. Instead, it might mean completing your church renovation in stages, or choosing different options to support your various ministries. When you work with an experienced church design team like the McKnight Group, we can help you plan the creative church renovation project solutions that will work with your available resources.

Remember that resources aren’t limited to finances. Time, land and people are other components which need to be carefully worked into the full equation. That way, when everyone is on board at all levels, you can begin a church renovation with confidence that the end product will support your vision for ministry.

To learn more about church renovation projects and how an experienced church design team can help, sign up for our free i3 webinars. You can find them at the bottom of our home page.

2018-09-18T18:15:43+00:00 September 18th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Remodeling|

Church Design: Planning a Renovation for Your Church Renovation

We live our lives in stages. It took many steps to reach where we are today. The same is true with the lifecycle of a church and of the church building itself. There are many steps and stages that occur over time — some large, others small. Sometimes, church leaders work with a church design that addresses immediate needs. At other times, it’s possible to intentionally plan ahead. In this post, we share the story of a church that actually included a future renovation into their current one when planning their new church building.

Introducing Beavercreek Nazarene

The leadership of Beavercreek Nazarene in Beavercreek, Ohio, had a vision to grow their church. In the beginning, during the early 1990s, they had a worshipping congregation of about 300 people and they needed a new sanctuary to keep growing. They had dreams of seeing 1,000 people in attendance in the future, but they also knew if they built a worship center to accommodate that many, those current 300 attendees would look small and lost in comparison.

Introducing an Innovative Church Design Solution

Their innovative church design solved this problem with two stages of church renovation. They decided to construct a full-size church building but build a pair of walls into the back of the sanctuary, as you see here in this first picture. Behind those walls are classrooms and offices. This left space for 600 in the worship center, which was plenty of room to grow without the congregation appearing too small.

A dozen or so years later, when the Beavercreek congregation had become large enough, they took out those back walls, as you can see in this later photo, and enlarged the worship center to seat the full thousand they had originally envisioned.

Advantages to Planning Multiple Church Renovation Stages

There were several advantages to this staged church renovation process. First, the outer shell of this worship center only needed to be constructed once. All the infrastructure was in place for expanding the sanctuary, which made it very cost-efficient to do when the time came. It also meant that attendees didn’t lose what they felt was “their” worship space when it came time for the second church renovation.

In the beginning, that first church design also housed offices and classrooms in one consolidated church building. Later, when the entire sanctuary space was needed for worship, they also had a larger congregation to draw from in funding the construction of a second space to house the classroom and offices for the church.

Planning ahead with your church design is an excellent way to be good stewards with a limited budget but without limiting your church’s vision for the future. If you’d like some help thinking about innovative solutions, sign up for our free i3 webinars on our website, which give you lots of examples of church designs that address specific church visions and needs. You can also give us a call at 800-625-6448 to talk about your particular church building needs.

2018-09-11T18:02:23+00:00 September 11th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Remodeling|

A Final Church Building Trend Example: Traditional Church Design

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been sharing examples illustrating various church building trends. With this post, we will conclude our series of church design photos with a trend that is a surprise to many people: a return to traditional worship spaces.

Why People Seek a Traditional Church Design

At first glance, a return to traditional church design would seem to fly in the face of earlier trends in our series, like third place design. However, the key reason for any church building project or renovation is to support your church’s mission to reach people in your community. What we’re finding today is that the oldest and a segment of the youngest people in many communities are seeking a traditional-looking church design.

Why is this? For those older, the answer is easy to understand. Most of them grew up worshipping in a traditional church and hunger for something that’s familiar, especially as they age and face the challenges that come with it. A traditional church building brings them comfort and hope.

For unchurched millennials, the answer is a bit more complex. Many of them have not been raised in church, but they seek a spiritual life and a connection with something deeper than what social media and work provide. Millennials also seek a sense of history. This is evident in the popularity of genealogy research and DNA testing with young people today. When this group is exploring worship options, they often look for a church experience, and church design, that reflects traditional images and connects them to the past.

Examples of Traditional Church Building Trends

This trend is so new that we’re going to share some 3D rendering of church designs we have recently completed rather than actual photos. In this first example of a traditional worship space, you can see that the traditional look brings with it white walls, white pews, federal windows, wood trim and a very bright, light feeling.

Since couples getting married, especially millennial couples, often want a traditional feel, churches with this type of worship space will use it extensively for weddings. Millennials are also more likely to return to a church where they were married, so having a traditional worship space is a good way to draw them into your church community. In fact, some churches are building two worship spaces, one contemporary and the other traditional, to meet both types of needs.

Keeping Multi-Ministry Options Open with Traditional Worship Space

In this second church design example, you can see a more flexible traditional style church building option. Here, as in the first example, the space is painted in a bright, neutral color and the floors are flat. In addition to making it easier for people to get around, flat floors (and the movable chairs instead of pews) allow this worship center to be a multi-ministry space. Dinners and training events can also be held here, while not sacrificing the more traditional, historical feel for Christian worship.

We hope that this series of church building trend examples has been helpful in your own church design considerations. To learn more about the latest in church building trends, sign up today for our free i3 webinars. If you have specific questions about how your own church building can support your mission for ministry, contact us today at 800-625-6448 or

2018-09-04T17:59:25+00:00 September 4th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

More Examples of Church Building Trends: Indoor Play Areas

In this post, we continue to use photos of our church design and building projects to highlight recent church building trends. This time, we look at one that has stood the test of time, perhaps in part because it connects with other church design trends that we have already discussed.

The Enduring Popularity of Indoor Play Areas in Church Design

Indoor playlands first became a popular addition to many a church design back in the 1990s. Some church leaders—and even some of our church building leadership here at The McKnight Group—thought that this would be a passing fad. However, we are still incorporating a lot of children’s playlands into our church designs. Certainly families with children love a church that includes a place where kids can run around with each other and have a good laugh. We think this enduring popularity might also be because of the connection between indoor play areas and third place design. When parents know there’s a safe, indoor play area in the community, they are very likely to make use of it, especially in bad weather.

Examples of Church Building Trends in Playlands

This first photo is of the indoor play area at Westerville Christian Church in Westerville, Ohio. This play space may look large, but it’s actually a relatively small playland. In this case, size doesn’t matter that much. The church gets an unbelievable amount of traffic here—as many as two thousand people came through this space in the first year after it was completed. Part of the reason it’s so popular is that the church rents it out on weekends for children’s birthday parties. This means that families all through the community bring their children to this playland—and come to think of the church as a warm and welcoming place.

This second photo is of a playland we built in Overland Park, Kansas. It is a much larger playland that’s clearly designed with a farmland theme. The space is bright and has a couple of unique features, including a giant tree to climb and multi-use spaces inside the “barn” doors that can be utilized for classes, art projects, or ice cream and cake time for children’s birthday parties.

Play Areas can Support Third Place Church Design Vision for Ministry

Birthday parties are not the only reason that children visit indoor play areas. The principle behind third place church design is that people want a third place to hang out besides home and work or school.  Gateway Church of the Nazarene, Oskaloosa, IA has provided that with its indoor playland. The church did it by simply putting the playland next to a café (another of those church building trends) in its church design. This playland and café are open during the week, so that kids have a place to play while their parents can have coffee and conversation in the adjacent café.

As you can see, many church building trends are interconnected. Because all we do is we design and build churches, we can see these connections and help you think through them when you’re planning a new church building or the remodeling of an existing church design. To keep up with all the latest church building trends, sign up today for our free i3 webinars.

2018-08-28T17:09:21+00:00 August 28th, 2018|Children's Spaces, Church Building, Church Design|

More Examples of Church Building Trends: Cafés

While no two churches will be exactly alike, there are some trends in church design that become common enough that we take notice—and we think you should, too. As we continue to show examples of these trends, we focus on cafés, which have become one of the most universal features that we see in churches today.

Not All Cafés Are Alike

Of course, with every church design trend there are some caveats. In this case, it’s about the scope and type of café. Historically, church cafés have their roots in “coffee hour” or “coffee fellowship.” Basically, a church gave away free brewed coffee and maybe some snacks to encourage people to stay around after worship and get to know each other.

Some of today’s cafés do look like those historic coffee hour set-ups, but other churches have taken the trend much farther. Many, today, have a full-service café, complete with smoothies, lattes, espressos, and snacks for sale. You can see a photo of this type of café from Grove City Church of the Nazarene. People feel very much at home in a café like this because it’s much like the coffee shops they visit in other parts of town.

Full-Service Cafés Are a Big Investment

It’s very important to understand that a full-service café is a big financial decision. As shown in these detailed photos of the one at NewPointe Community Church, there’s a lot to handle. These cafés require staff, and the cost of additional employees in the budget. Even if you’re able to use volunteers from your church to run the café, they still need to be trained, and vetted to handle money. You’ll need to put procedures in place, obtain additional insurance—there’s a lot involved.

Some churches decide that this level of cost and complexity is worth the investment. Often, they’re looking to draw people in from the community, or they’re wanting to help members connect around discipleship and activities that are happening in the church. If your church decides this is trend worth pursuing, the important thing is to do your research thoroughly and your calculations carefully. Know what you’re getting into before including a full-service café in your church design.

Downsizing Your Investment in These Church Building Trends

Don’t worry, though. If you decide that your church can’t embrace a full-service café, this doesn’t mean you can’t still participate in this almost ubiquitous church building trend. Instead, return in spirit to the historic idea of the coffee hour and bring it up to date. We’ve drawn up many designs—for churches great and small—that include large coffee islands, where free coffee pods are set out for free brewed coffee. In this way, you can promote coffee and conversation without having to invest in cash registers and training for employees or volunteers.

All church building trends have a life cycle, which is why we want to keep you up-to-date with the latest in church design. To learn more about what’s brewing(!) in churches today, sign up for our free i3 webinars.

2018-08-21T21:00:44+00:00 August 21st, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Church Building Trends: Gathering Community

Recently, we’ve been showing photo examples from church building trends we first shared in one of our free i3 webinars. Trends matter to every church leader because they show what types of church design is working in other communities.

Community Spaces is Another Trend

Before we dive into the illustrations, we need to clarify how the “gathering community” trend differs from “third place design.” As we shared in a prior post, third place design is intended to make your church the “third place” people think about hanging out in, beyond home and work or school.

Gathering community is different. It’s critical to include community spaces in your church design so that members have a place to meet, talk, learn and grow when they attend. These meeting places help keep members engaged and give them a place to talk with guests who come to visit and learn more about your church community.

Examples of Church Building Trends in Foyer Gathering Spaces

One very current church building trend is to increase the size of community spaces. As you can see in these photos of Cypress Wesleyan Church in Columbus, Ohio, their foyer is massive. A few years ago, the standard ratio for foyer space was roughly one-third the size of the worship space it serviced. Today, that size has increased significantly. Sometimes the foyer is half the size of the worship space, while in other church designs, it’s the same size as the auditorium.

These foyers now serve many functions, in a way that antiquated, tiny foyers could not. In older, traditional churches, those foyers were simply pass-through spaces. Today, foyers are central to the community life of the church. The café and fireplace you can see in these photos help make the foyer feel warm and welcoming, while the square cushioned benches provide small gathering spaces for community to grow.

Beyond the Foyer: Additional Community Gathering Spaces

As you can see in this image from Grove City Church of the Nazarene, church building trends in gathering spaces aren’t limited to foyers. Grove City Church chose to focus one gathering space around its children. This bright and welcoming space is at the entrance to the preschool wing. Here, adults can gather to build community while their children can play nearby or participate in scheduled church activities. Any guest who visits this space will know that Grove City is making children a priority, and that supporting community for their parents matters too.

Following the Trends

Are you thinking about community gathering spaces as part of your new church design or church remodeling project? We share our i3 webinars for free because we know there are many different facets to a successful church design to consider and implement. To learn more, sign up for our next i3 webinar today.

2018-08-14T20:35:27+00:00 August 14th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Examples of Church Building Trends: Third Place Church Design

As we show examples of the latest church building trends, one in particular is well-suited to pictures rather than words: Third place church design. In this post, we’ll make the concept clearer by sharing some photos of one church that has been embracing third place church design for a couple of decades.

A Refresher on Third Place Church Design

The name may sound funny, and if you missed our earlier post on this topic, here’s a brief recap on the concept of third place design. The idea is that most of us have two places we go in our lives: home and work (or school). Third place design seeks to create another place beyond those two where we can gather, a town square-like concept, where social and personal needs can be fulfilled.

The idea behind third place church design is for churches to become a community gathering space. By offering amenities like full-service cafes, bookstores, play spaces, recreational and community buildings, even doctors offices, churches can insert themselves into everyday culture.

An Early Adopter of the Third Space Trend: Vineyard Christian Fellowship

One of the earliest adopters of third place design was Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio. Way back in the 1990s, they installed one of the first church cafés, which you can see pictured here. This full-service café was revolutionary for its time. It was always intended for more than coffee and conversation after church on Sunday. People could order soups and sandwiches as well as beverages. There was live music on weeknights. It was a community gathering space.

A Prime Church Building Trends Example

Today, Vineyard has grown and expanded the concept of third place church design quite a bit. Pictured is a newer, brighter café adjacent to their spacious foyer. Next to the café—and you can see it in more detail in this photo—they have installed a bookstore that provides another reason for people to drop by during the week or stop in for a gift on the way to a party.

Vineyard has also more recently expanded and built an entire new church building embodying this hot church design trend. They call it the Vineyard Community Center and it’s got all sorts of activities to attract members of the community: indoor and outdoor play lands, daycare, and a variety of classes. There is this spacious game room that’s also used for youth ministry. Those garage doors lead out to a large gym where they do intramural athletics of all kinds.

But the focus isn’t just on children. Vineyard is a large church with many members who are doctors, dentists and nurses. They’ve taken advantage of that gift and created exam rooms where medical members volunteer their time, giving free exams.

Are You Ready to Make this Major Investment?

It’s important to mention that church building trends like third place design can be expensive. These dedicated spaces, and the staff to run them—even if some are church volunteers—requires a big financial commitment from your church community. But if your vision includes making your church part of everyday culture, third place church design is a great way to do so.

For more information on church building trends and other helpful information on church design projects, sign up today for our i3 webinars.

2018-08-07T16:51:24+00:00 August 7th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Examples of Church Design Trends: Remodeling Existing Commercial Buildings

We’ve been revisiting some current church design trends to provide photos and details to demonstrate what’s possible within today’s tight church building budgets. In our most recent post, we discussed remodeling existing church buildings. Now, we will focus on the church design and remodeling possibilities when you start with an existing commercial structure like a big-box store, movie theater or office building.

The Costs of Conversion

First, remember that remodeling an existing building will still require a sizeable investment. Renovating a commercial property into a workable church design usually requires significant modifications to structural, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems. The good news is that all this work can still cost less than constructing a new church building from the ground up.

It’s also important to make certain the look of a remodeled commercial building will help achieve your vision for ministry in your community. A big-box building will never look like a traditional brick gable church building. Nevertheless, especially since the economic downturn in 2008, remodeling commercial buildings for church use has become one of today’s most common church building trends.

Church Campus Example: Good Deals are Out There

Due to the just mentioned design considerations and their cost, it’s important to carefully consider the purchase price of an existing building. There are good deals out there. The best one we heard about—and it was highly unusual—was a church in Detroit, Michigan. They shopped around and were able to purchase a complete campus, with several buildings, for a cost of around $5 per square foot. While deals like that won’t be easy to find, there are still good ones that will make it possible to remodel for less than a ground-up build.

Church Design Example: Office Building Transformation

In this first picture, Heritage Wesleyan Church purchased a former insurance office building in Bettendorf, Iowa. You can see the institutional-like columns in the before picture on top. In the after picture below of the same façade, notice how we transformed the look of the building, even raising the roof to accommodate a spacious worship center on the upper level.

One way we transformed the building was to add a lobby around the front of the building. Here you can see the interior of that lobby and gathering space. We changed the color of the existing brick to help it blend into the welcoming environment that fit this church’s vision.

In the final picture group, you can see how bright, vibrant and secure children’s spaces were included in the design. What were once offices are now classrooms. We also combined some of the offices to create a larger space for a children’s church within that secure area.

All It Takes is Some Imagination

Church building trends, like remodeling office buildings, often require some creative thinking, and sometimes a bit of luck to find the right property that’s within your budget. With a good church design, it’s possible to successfully transform a commercial building into a church. We hope that these photos inspire you. To see more, sign up for our free i3 webinars, where we give you lots of examples about what’s possible.

2018-07-31T18:38:50+00:00 July 31st, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|