Church Building

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|

Examples of Church Building Trends: Remodeling an Existing Church Design

Remember the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words? We really believe that’s true, especially when explaining church design trends that can save a lot of money. As we mentioned in a prior post, many churches today are faced with the reality that they can’t afford to take on a new church building project. Where fifteen or twenty years ago, building a new mega-church was common, the recession in 2008 changed all that.

Instead, we’re seeing many churches lean toward remodeling existing facilities to meet updated church visions. In this post, we’ll share some before-and-after photos that clearly show how your current church building can be an asset instead of a hindrance in fulfilling your church’s vision for ministry in your community.

Let There Be Light

Sometimes what a church building really needs is a lighter, brighter feel, like at Mount Vernon AME Church in Columbus. As you can see in the top “before” picture, the worship space was dark and dated. The dark-brown wood paneling and a deep-red carpet were very traditional, but they also made the space feel more like a cave instead of a church.

In the lower “after” picture, you can see that we didn’t change the fundamental church design. Instead, we raised the ceiling, repainted the walls, and put in a lighter, neutral carpet. We also extensively reconfigured the lighting and added various types of fixtures that fill the entire space with light. Even the existing pews look very different in this clear, bright worship space.

Embrace Flexibility

Bellefountaine First Church of God in Bellfountaine, OH, is another worship space that started with a dark and dated feel. In addition, this church community felt really constrained by the permanent platform, which included choir risers and an installed organ. They could really only use this space for traditional worship because the platform and pews made it difficult to do anything else.

As you can see in the after picture, we again kept the same church building but transformed the interior church design. The new platform is lower, broad, and on a single level. There are choir risers, but they’re movable. The front pews are replaced with movable chairs for more flexibility, and the carpet has been upgraded to something light and neutral. Again, we’ve added multiple types of lighting and even installed an audio/video/light control booth on a second level of the worship space.

No Church Design Change Is Too Small

Sometimes trends seem to require that everything change in the church building, but that is not the case. Our final set of photos from Bridgetown Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio. show some very minor changes that made a big difference. Here you can see another traditional worship space with red carpeting and pews.

In this case, the after photo shows that those are basically the only things that changed—but what a difference! Now the carpet doesn’t fight the colors in the monumental stained-glass window. And permanent pews don’t restrict what can happen in this space. The platform is also less cluttered while still serving its function as the focal point for worship.

Church Building Trends Aren’t Limited to Worship-Space Remodeling

While we’ve just shown you worship space pictures in this post, the remodeling trend in church design isn’t limited to worship. Existing spaces can be remodeled to take on new ministries, such as converting an old fellowship hall into school classrooms or an old, outgrown chapel into a dedicated space for youth. To learn more about these and other church building trends, stay tuned to our blog and sign up for our free i3 webinars.

2018-07-24T14:46:47+00:00 July 24th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Examples of Church Building Trends: Multi-Use 2.0

As church design leaders, we try to keep a close eye on church building trends. We know that it’s helpful for churches to hear about what others are doing to fulfill their mission within their communities. Earlier we highlighted many of these trends here on our blog, including one we’re calling Multi-Use 2.0. In this post, we’ll share more details, including some images, that can help you understand how the multi-use space trend has evolved.

Early Multi-Use Church Building Spaces

These first photos of NewPointe Church in Sugarcreek, OH were taken about ten years ago. This large church wanted a 1400-seat auditorium. They also had a strong existing athletics program, so it made sense for their largest space to be multi-use. As you can see here, the floor is wooden to accommodate a basketball court. Adding carpet runners between the sections of seating helped to make the auditorium feel more like a worship space.

Another consideration with multi-use spaces is the need to move the chairs every time you change the use. It’s easy enough to ask everyone gathered to stack their chair after worship, but setup can be more labor-intensive. It also requires a committed crew of volunteers who are willing to make this a weekly part of their busy lives.

Shifting to Multi-Use 2.0

This image from Cypress Church in Columbus, in contrast to the images above, helps give a sense of Multi-Use 2.0. This is one of the most common church building trends today. The floor is flat, because sloped floors make other uses more difficult and any step-down flooring simply won’t work in this space. The chairs are clearly removable.

In this church design, athletics have not been factored into the plan. Instead, this space can easily be rearranged for banquets or training events. As a worship space, it’s warmer, more performance-oriented and it resembles a traditional sanctuary more than the spaces being designed in prior decades.

Church Building Trends Still Allow for Athletics

The church design shift to Multi-Use 2.0 doesn’t have to eliminate athletics. In this photo of a smaller multi-use room at Crossview Church in Grabill, IN, you have to look very carefully to see the athletic components that have been built into its design. The square in the carpet actually defines the basketball court itself. If you look closely at the top center of the photo, you can see one of the basketball hoops, which has been cranked all the way to the ceiling. On an average Sunday morning, the hoops won’t be noticed, and the flooring pattern doesn’t scream “athletics” the way a wooden floor might.

Thinking Beyond Your Worship Space with Multi-Use 2.0

Another aspect of church building trends like Multi-Use 2.0 is that we’re thinking beyond the worship space for multi-use options. In these final photos (also of Crossview Church), you can see how even a foyer can be recruited to serve multiple uses. In the back right of the first photo, you can see a section of the foyer that has its own screen and lighting.

In the second image, you can see there is an operable wall which separates this portion of the foyer during worship, forming the space for children’s church. With this flexibility, the church has almost fifty percent more space available in their foyer when worship is over.

Flexibility is the key aspect of the Multi-Use 2.0 church building trend. The options are only as limited as one’s imagination. To learn more about all the latest trends in church design and construction today, we encourage you to join our free i3 webinars. If you have questions about how to engage Multi-Use 2.0 in your own church building, contact us today at 800-625-6448 or

2018-07-17T19:44:22+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design|

Answers to Church Funding Questions

Financing your church building project can be a challenge on many levels. In addition to learning all the finance terminology, church leaders need to consider how the realities of the construction market will impact their church funding. In a recent, free i3 webinar, we talked about the realities of financing a church building project in today’s economy. At the end of our presentation, there were some excellent questions about the material we covered. We thought those questions and our responses would be worth sharing here.

What’s the current rate of inflation, and how does that affect church building costs?

We track reports that show annual construction inflation for 2017 was between 4.25% and 4.75% and very recent data reports indicate a 2.91% cost increase through just the first two quarters in 2018. The specifics depend on your location. Here in central Ohio, the construction market remains very active and this translates to increased labor costs especially where there are not enough skilled laborers to fill available job slots. In other areas of Ohio, and of the country where construction is not booming as much, labor costs are increasing at a lower rate.

Another issue that will impact construction inflation is rising costs for materials. Last year, we talked about how costs for basic construction materials, such as gypsum and lumber, were on the rise. Recent news about tariffs on steel has already led to an increase in prices. Red iron steel went up 7% in March alone, while metal stud and sheet metal prices have risen a few percentage points each month this year. All signs say inflation is likely to continue to rise, and to affect church funding, budgeting and building costs.

Is church funding through bond sales a good idea?

During the 1980s, when interest rates were in the double digits, many churches funded building projects using church bond programs. In essence, it was a way to self-fund a church building through the sale of bonds that have a lower rate of interest than lending institutions were willing to give. Today we have the opposite problem, because lending interest rates are relatively low, so selling bonds would require offering them at higher rates of interest.

Another challenge is that a church selling bonds can confuse people. Because the typical church funding package includes donations, pledges and institutional loans, church members can be confused about why church leaders are also trying to sell them bonds. For these reasons, we discourage the idea of bond programs under current circumstances.

What tips do you have for successful fundraising campaigns?

We believe the primary key to a successful church funding campaign is always good leadership. There are two levels to this. We’ve recently shared our thoughts about the value of engaging a professional consultant for your fundraising campaign. However, that consultant isn’t being paid to do all the work. Instead, he or she will empower and train volunteers in the church community to undertake the fundraising campaign.

Within the church community itself, you also need good leadership to fulfill that campaign as it’s being directed by the consultant. A good “internal” fundraising leader is someone in your church who is organized, gets along well with people, and understands what’s happening with your church building project. With an enthusiastic leader, your church funding campaign is much more likely to find success.

Do you have more church funding questions? Reach out with your queries at We also encourage you to sign up for our free i3 webinars, where we might answer more of your church building questions.

2018-07-10T16:01:52+00:00 July 10th, 2018|Advice, Church Building, Financing|

Church Funding Lexicon: Understanding Lending Terminology

Every new adventure brings with it new experiences—and sometimes new terminology. For example, if you decide to begin rock climbing, you’ll need to learn the difference between an anchor and a carabiner, among other terms.

When it’s time to construct a new church building or renovate an existing property, you will also encounter some specific terminology—having to do with church funding and financing.

To make the process easier, we have gathered together some of the more common and useful terms you may encounter when seeking funding for construction projects. We often use these words in our free i3 webinars, so this list will hopefully also make our webinars more accessible to you as you pursue your church building vision.

Church Attendance

This is the number of people in your church or congregation. Lenders want to know if your weekly attendance is growing, the age of your attenders, and the geographical area they come from. The age of the congregation is important because, for church funding purposes, different age ranges represent different giving habits, as well as different financial responsibilities that might affect people’s giving potential.

Giving Units

The number of different groups and individuals who are giving to a church is expressed in terms of giving units. Usually a giving unit is a family—even if both parents work, the family commonly gives one gift to the church, so they are considered one giving unit.

Annual Revenue

Annual revenue is the amount of money a church brings in over one year. The number includes not just money that has been given to the church but also other sources of revenue, such as church building rentals for birthday parties, income from schools or after-school programs, etc. Lenders will want to see three to five years’ worth of annual revenue numbers to get a sense of trends and what types of income are growing or decreasing.

Appraised Value

This is the amount that the lender thinks your new or remodeled church building will be worth when the work is done. Lenders will generally loan only about 80 percent of the appraised value—and that value will likely seem low. That’s because appraisers factor in the resale value of a building, and since a church building is usually seen as a “one-use” property, they anticipate it will be harder to find buyers.

Debt Service

The amount to be paid on the loan for your church building project is called your debt service. The amount of these mortgage payments over a year should not exceed 35 percent of your annual budget (or 35 percent of your annual revenue), except in a few very extraordinary circumstances. Many lending institutions also believe a church’s annual debt service should not exceed $1,000 per giving unit per year.

Dodd-Frank Act

The Dodd-Frank act was passed by Congress in 2010. It set strict guidelines for how appraisers did their work, requiring documentation, backup support, and historic resale information on similar types of buildings to justify their valuations. This caused problems for churches, since most church buildings are sold for a relatively low value.

Congress has recently rolled back many of the Dodd-Frank restrictions (on all but about 10 of the largest banks), so more lenders may be willing to work with churches in the future. We’re waiting to see what the practical effect will be for this rollback.

New Webinars for Your New Church Funding Vocabulary

We will keep you informed about the effects of updates to Dodd-Frank as we learn them, so keep an eye out for future posts. Also, Dodd-Frank and other facets of church funding and construction are frequently discussed in our free i3 webinars—which is why we encourage you to sign up for them today. Simply visit our home page to register.

2018-06-26T16:02:16+00:00 June 26th, 2018|Church Building, Financing|

Overly Generous Funding: The How and Why to Avoid it

In an earlier post, we talked about the importance of finding a lender that understands churches to insure getting the best possible church funding. As you put together the various parts of a funding package for a church building or renovation project, it’s important to find lenders who understand the particular issues and needs of churches.

Every so often, however, church leaders can find themselves in a situation where a lender is eager to be supportive and offers overly generous funding terms which a church can’t realistically afford. That may sound like a classic “good problem to have,” but it can cause serious repercussions down the road. Here are some considerations to help keep your church financially healthy in the long term while borrowing money.

Understanding Church Funding Maximums

After more than 40 years in the church building business, we’ve learned there is a general rule of thumb for how much debt church leaders should take on during a construction or remodeling project. This guideline is typically used by lending institutions that are experienced and well-acquainted with making loans to churches.

The formula is this: The loan amount should not exceed three times the church’s annual revenue. For example, if your church brings in $300,000 a year in revenue, you should take on no more than $900,000 in debt for your church building or remodeling project.

Factors That Influence the Maximum

Bear in mind, though, that the above formula is used only in “ideal” situations. Other factors can alter that optimum situation.

These include whether the church is well-established; the type of growth the church been experiencing both in attendance and the amount of giving; and church leadership factors like the senior pastor’s length of service. If any of these aspects are less than ideal, the amount of church funding will be adjusted downward by the lender to fit the relative risk involved in lending money to the church.

Why Avoid Overly Generous Funding for Your Church Building Project?

If a church is thriving and has a great vision for its ministry in the community, occasionally a local lending institution may want to be supportive by loaning more than the established standard of three times annual revenue—say, maybe four or five times.

As attractive as that may sound, it could also adversely affect the church’s debt service for that loan. Debt service is how much a church has to pay on all its debt each month. If that number goes over 35 percent of a church’s budget, the church runs the risk of not having enough money left over to pay bills, salaries, and other costs necessary to minister to the community.

Learn More Through Our Webinars

We’ve seen a lot of church funding proposals over the years while working with churches to help them find that balance between their vision for ministry and the financing necessary for a church building that will support their vision. One way we share what we’ve learned is through our free i3 webinars. To register for one or more webinars, simply visit our home page.

2018-06-19T15:52:55+00:00 June 19th, 2018|Church Building, Financing|

Getting Professional Support for Your Church Building Projects

We, at The McKnight Group, have been immersed in the church building business for over 40 years. We’ve walked alongside church leaders as they’ve sought funding, developed innovative church designs, and successfully completed many, many renovation and building projects.

Among the professionals those church leaders often work with are church funding consultants. Read on to learn how such experts can improve your chances of success, and about other professionals you may want to consult with to ensure your new project is completed according to your specific church vision.

Why You Should Use Professionals for Your Church Building Stewardship/Capital Campaign

In our prior post, we discussed the importance of finding the right lender for your church building project when you seek traditional funding. Another aspect of the church funding process is often the stewardship campaign. A stewardship campaign lets you reach out to your church community and invite them to invest in your vision for future ministry.

Engaging professional church funding consultants for the campaign makes a big difference. In our experience, we’ve seen that professionally led capital stewardship campaigns can raise two to three times the amount of annual giving pledges over the course of a three-year church funding process. Churches that self-direct their pledge campaigns, on the other hand, typically raise up to one times the amount of their annual giving pledges.

A Further Impact of Engaging Church Funding Professionals

Using professional fundraising services has another, less obvious, benefit. Traditional lending institutions will typically look more favorably on a loan application if they know that professional consultants will be working with the church to raise funds to pay back their loan. This can lead to a more advantageous financing package than a church might receive if it were intending to raise all the funds on its own.

Where to Find Church Funding Professionals

Naturally, finding honest and effective professional consultants can be a concern for church leaders, especially since church funding isn’t necessarily their area of expertise. That’s why we’ve developed a resources list where you can find a number of reputable capital stewardship organizations.

Groups are on this list because church leaders we have worked with have had successful working relationships with them. To be clear, this does not mean that we endorse the organizations, nor do we have any official affiliation with them. Based on the successful work we’ve seen them do, however, we feel they can be helpful resources with which to discuss your church funding needs and what might be a good fit for your particular church building project.

Additional Resources Available on Our Website

Beyond our Capital Stewardship list, you’ll find lots of other useful information on our website’s Resources page, including links to church funding resources, audiovisual professionals, and church health consultants who can support and guide you through every stage of your church’s development.  

This is also where you’ll find a link to our i3 webinar page. Our free webinars on the church building process provide you with church design ideas and share other innovations you can use when considering a church remodeling or building project. Visit our webinars page today to learn more and sign up.

2018-06-12T15:57:17+00:00 June 12th, 2018|Church Building, Financing|

Doing Your Due Diligence: Preparing for Church Funding with Traditional Lenders

Unless you’ve received a truly magnificent bequest, if your church is thinking about a major church remodeling or new building project, funding has to be part of the picture. When it comes to modern church funding, know it will likely involve a mix of different options. In this post, we will take a closer look at traditional lending.

Different Sources of Financing

While some of your church project funding will come in the form of outright gifts, much of it will come in the form of pledges that will be paid over time. Still more of it will come in the form of a loan that covers the balance of the funding so that you can begin work on your church building sooner rather than later. If you wait until you have every dime in hand to begin building, and this will take years to achieve, your church will miss out on opportunities to live out its vision for ministry in the community today, not to mention having to deal with rising costs of construction over the time it takes to gather all the funds.

Finding a Knowledgeable Church Funding Lender

The most important component to maximize the chances of getting a church funding package is to find a lender that understands churches. Not all traditional lenders will.

When you are a church leader, you know well that there are many different kinds of churches. Not just different denominations, but also churches in various stages of health and at different places in their life-cycle. These variations are not so obvious to many traditional lenders. That is why before you do all the work necessary to get loan approval, you should be sure the lender you are working with understands all the nuances.

If a lending institution thinks all churches are alike, it can be problematic.  For example, if a lender has read some national statistics about how some traditional denominations are losing members, they might think that all churches are dying and want to be hard-nosed about the terms for a loan. If they don’t understand the difference between a stagnant church and one that’s active and growing, you are not going to receive the most favorable of church funding packages.

On the other hand, by finding a lender who has helped various churches successfully fund a church building project, you are much more likely to receive favorable terms and develop an encouraging, supportive relationship for the duration of your church building project.

Find the Right Lender, then Prepare the Right Documentation

Once you’ve identified a traditional lender who understands the unique aspects of lending to churches, you can move on to preparing the documentation that will be needed to secure the funding. We’ve covered some of the preparation you’ll need to do with a funding checklist here.

In our free i3 webinar series, we talk about finance and other real church building issues that are facing leaders today. Please go to our home page now to register for our upcoming webinars.

2018-06-05T14:55:32+00:00 June 5th, 2018|Church Building, Financing|