There are many reasons why a church building needs to be transformed. One of the truths about ministry is that your vision is going to change over time. In order to reach people for Christ, you need a church building that attracts guests and a church design that makes them want to stick around to learn and grow in your community. This post begins a new series about churches whose current vision mandated a building transition. We’ll show you how The McKnight Group took these older church buildings and updated their design to meet today’s needs.
Reason to Transition: Modern Ministry
One of the most common reasons that church leaders need to transform a church building is that it no longer meets the needs of a modern ministry. Here’s an example of how we’ve taken a church design from the seventies and transformed it into a welcoming worship space for today: Bridgetown Church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio. The church had worked with a local building firm up front but could not get the help they needed because, although the firm had experience working with churches, they did not specialize in church building. Once the church partnered with the McKnight Group we started working on solutions for their new vision of ministry.
One of the big issues for this church building was the façade. The new vision of the church had them focusing on reaching younger, unchurch families. The shape of the church, and the colorful, abstract stained glass window, were definitely “hip” in the seventies, but are not in style now. It doesn’t say “church;” it says “history.”
But the problems didn’t end when you stepped into the building. The foyer was small and dark, with low ceilings; it felt like a cave. This outdated church design also didn’t function well in the modern world. There were literally no handicap-accessible restrooms. The women only had a restroom upstairs by the sanctuary. And the men’s restrooms weren’t any better; most of them were downstairs.
Finally, a coat closet had been converted into a tiny café, but it was really just a bunch of coffee pots lined up on a counter. There wasn’t any place for visitors to sit, enjoy that cup of coffee, and build relationships with other church members.
The Church Design Solutions
So what did we do about this? From the outside, you can see that we removed the outdoor walkway and expanded the entire lobby area into that space. We made the ceiling higher and brought in lots of natural light with the addition of plenty of windows. Those windows also have the added benefit of making the place light up at night, attracting visitors who might wonder, “What’s going on in that church tonight?”
Inside this bright and open lobby, we created seating spaces and a small, but more efficient, café that clearly says “hospitality space.” You can see that they integrated their stained-glass history with a framed piece of the old window on the wall next to the café. We also placed convenient, handicap-accessible restrooms just across the lobby, making them easy to find and completely ADA compliant.
You Don’t Have to Transform Everything to Make a Difference
Of course, we know that a lot of churches are afraid that transforming an existing church building means creating an entirely new church design that will be difficult to fund. Here at Bridgetown, we worked with the church to prioritize the work, focusing on what brings people in and helps visitors become members.
Obviously the lobby was key; with the worship space itself, we didn’t make a lot of changes. We focused on a facelift to address key ideas: comfort and flexibility. Replacing pews with chairs increased seating capacity, comfort and flexibility. New carpeting, lighting and paint made the place feel more bright and welcoming. And a transformed HVAC system, along with energy-efficient windows over the existing stained glass, brought improved heating and cooling comfort.
One of our recent, free i3 webinars covered the fine points of transitioning churches to meet modern needs. It’s the type of topic you can learn more about by signing up for our webinar series today!