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Dreaming Big with a Multi-Stage Church Design Transformation

Dreaming big is a tradition that has helped America grow. Big dreams have helped many churches grow over the years as well, and it’s another reason why it might be time to transform your church building.

We’ve helped a lot of churches dream big when transforming their property over time with a church design that works. Often that involves multi-stage thinking, starting out small, but planning for growth.

From Too Small to Too Big?

The idea of a thriving church community with a church building that has become too small is easy to imagine. One where every service on Sunday fills the worship center. Church leaders know it’s time to transform their church building, and perhaps they imagine a church design that could hold three or four times as many people as their current church building.

The problem with thinking so big is that there might not yet be enough worshipers to fill the new space making it look empty. Imagine a worship center with 1000 seats, and only 350 or 400 filled. It’s hard to feel like a vibrant, thriving community when more than half the seats are empty.

From Too Small to Just Right to Too Small?

Of course, church leaders could choose a smaller expansion by just doubling the size of the worship space and call it good. Going from 350 to 600 or 700 seats might work simply fine. But that would just solve a short-term need. What about future growth?

Adding onto a sanctuary to gain those additional 300 seats in the future could be much more expensive in the long run.  Sometimes, depending upon your site and building layout there is an opportunity to meet all of your ministry needs now and in the future by  planning for a remodel.

A Church Design that Goes from Too Small to Just Right to Just Right

We’ve used this church design concept with success in the past and it can be modified to meet your church’s needs too. What we do is draft a multi-stage church design.

Imagine taking a worship space that seats 1000 and putting just 600 seats in the front two-thirds. In the back, instead of an open space, we erect temporary walls for church offices and a nursery with a large glass window so parents can watch the service while still being with their young and restless children. Then imagine, in ten or fifteen years, being able to just tear out those offices and add seating in the back portion of the worship space. At that point, you’d have enough attendees to draw upon the newer crowd to support a separate space with more offices and classrooms to meet the growing need there, without having the expense of building a new worship space from scratch.

We are firm believers that any church design issue can be transformed into an asset with the right mindset. We share our wisdom on church building issues in our free i3 webinars. If you think your church design might need some transformation, sign up for our forthcoming webinars, and stay tuned for the next in our transformation series, which will focus on addressing church design issues when your ministry needs change over time.

2021-06-01T20:43:24+00:00 June 1st, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Deterioration to Transformation: Why Your Church Building Might Need Help

The United States of America is almost 250 years old. So, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of older churches scattered across this country, many of them over a hundred years old and still in use. With any older church building the time will come when church leaders must ask: is it time to transform it?

Recognizing Church Building Deterioration

Over time, any building will deteriorate. The earth shifts buildings on their foundations, mortar and concrete decay, and wood slowly rots in damp climates. Deterioration is inevitable and a lack of proper Maintenance can accelerate the issues. Often church leaders realize that the list of repairs and upgrades for their church building is beginning to approach the cost of creating a new church design from scratch.

Reasons a New Church Design Might Be Better

We’ve seen all sorts of deterioration in church buildings over the decades The McKnight Group has been in business. Cracks in your walls or floors are one possible indication that you’ve got structural problems in your church building. Floors become uneven, causing a tripping hazard. Boilers and HVAC equipment age and don’t work efficiently or may quit altogether.

There are other reasons that your church building might no longer be meeting your needs. Older churches usually have lots of stairs and no elevators, making it difficult for people to get around the building or join the pastor on the platform to share in ministry. They have narrow doorways and dark, small foyers that don’t have guests thinking about hanging around after worship on Sunday. Sunday school wings also often have small, unexciting classrooms and no larger areas for children’s worship. All of these are reasons why your older church building might be hindering instead of supporting your church vision for ministry in your community.

Thinking Beyond the Walls of Your Older Church Building

There’s no question that raising the possibility of a brand-new church design can be challenging for some people. Many attendees in older churches have been worshipping there for generations, and it can be hard to let go of the past. Fortunately, you can bring the past with you. For example, we have incorporated old stained glass into the worship center of a new church building. We have made sure that memorial plaques and well-loved furnishings have their place in a new church design. You can also frequently build connecting corridors between new and old sections of your church property, so that portions of the building that are still structurally sound can be put to good use.

Every church building situation is unique. This is why we include a question-and-answer session with each of our free i3 webinars. Whether your church building is 20 years old or 200, we can help you get a fresh perspective on what’s possible, even if your church is deteriorating beyond repair. In our next post, we’ll discuss another reason why it might be time to transform a church building: it’s because you planned it from the start.

2021-05-25T16:50:07+00:00 May 25th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Why It Might Be Time to Update Your Church Building

A key part of The McKnight Group’s mission statement says, “enabling ministries with buildings that work.” We endeavor to do that by designing and constructing buildings of the right quality for the fairest price. But, as a church leader, it may not be obvious when the church building you have no longer works. Other times, it is plainly obvious. Over this and the next several posts, we’ll examine reasons why you might want to revisit your church design and update your church building.  

Reason 1: Your Church Building No Longer Meets the Basic Needs of Modern Ministry

This first reason is, for us, one of the most important. As we’ve discussed numerous times, your church vision for ministry should drive all the decisions you make about your church design.

Let’s consider the fact that churches didn’t change much for hundreds of years. Whatever did change, did so gradually. But in the last 30 years or so, modern ministry has brought about great and rapid change. Older church buildings haven’t been able to keep up. If, for example, your church building is in a neighborhood where the demographic has shifted and younger families are moving in, you want your church design to be attractive to these younger families. Many times, an old-fashioned church building just isn’t going to make the grade.

Taking a Good, Hard Look at Your Existing Church Design

Here are some examples of the ways that a church building might not be meeting your modern ministry needs: Foyers from older church buildings were usually small, dark, and dreary, with low ceilings and no place to hang out. There might have been signs that pointed to restrooms down the hall (or even on a different floor), but nothing was close enough to be easily accessible (or ADA compliant). It is often impossible to tell from the outside of an older church building if there’s anything going on inside, and because there are so few windows, it’s hard to see what’s going on, and for guests to feel safe about entering.

Suggestions for Updating Your Existing Church Building

Modern church design usually includes an expansive, airy, open foyer with plenty of room for mingling. These entry areas frequently contain a café and some comfortable seating that encourages people to spend time getting to know each other and developing relationships. Clearly visible and easily accessible restrooms are another feature in modern church foyers.

Lots of glass lets in good light and makes it evident what’s going on inside when people drive by your church building. Transforming your existing church design also gives you a chance to comply with current building codes and perhaps upgrade building systems, such as HVAC, without having the expense of constructing a new church building from scratch.

Over our fifty-year history, we’ve worked with church leaders to transform existing church facilities into buildings that work as tools for ministry. In the next segment of this series, we’ll discuss reason two for updating an existing church building: deterioration. Meanwhile, check out our forthcoming free i3 webinars, which give you a chance to learn about church design and ask us questions about your own church building situation.

2021-05-18T17:04:34+00:00 May 18th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Four Important Steps to Prepare for Selecting Church Building Interior Finishes

One of the more daunting tasks during the church design process is determining what the interior finishes of your church building will be.  It’s not something church leaders can jump right into. There are so many options and decisions to be made, like the color and types of flooring, fixtures and furniture, paint and wall coverings, to name a few. It may be difficult to know where to start, but here are four steps to help make certain that all of your interior finishes will support your vision for ministry and make your building attractive to those you want to reach.

Step 1: Define Your Church Vision

This step may not seem obvious, but it’s critically important. In fact, we write frequently about the importance of having a church vision for your church design process. Who are you trying to reach? What are your ministries? What do you want to convey as people are entering the space? Your interior finishes are more than just carpet and paint on the walls. It’s about the impression you give to people who walk in the doors. Having clarity on these questions, your finishes, and overall design will align with the objectives of your ministry.

Step 2: Assemble the Right Interior Design Team

As your vision is finalized, it’s time to get your team in place. The interior design team will likely be a sub-group of the construction team. A smaller group will help make decisions easier to complete. You want people who understand both (1) your vision for ministry and (2) that it’s not about their personal needs, desires, or preferences. You want people who can focus on what you’re trying to accomplish. It can be helpful to include some that have some experience or background with interior design or a related trade, but it is not necessary if you are partnered with professionals. Once the team is determined, they should visit other area churches, and even local retail and restaurant locations to understand what people in the area are accustomed to seeing. You know the community but look at the spaces in new ways to see the details. Take pictures of the things you would like to consider including in your design. Doing so will help the final interior finish selections fit into the overall style of the community.  

Step 3: Engage Church Design Professionals

If you’re constructing a new church building or doing major architectural renovations, you should already be engaging with church design professionals who can provide wisdom and resources on interior design. The McKnight Group includes this help for all our clients. This is also an important step for smaller projects. While it may seem like enough to have a church member on your design team who’s recently remodeled their home, or even one who has some commercial experience, they won’t necessarily know the nuances of selecting all of the finishes for your church.

Step 4: Consider Your Church Building Budget

Finally (and yes, these steps are somewhat integrated timewise), you will need to be clear about what your church building budget will allow before you begin choosing interior finishes. Again, if your interior design project is part of a broader church building package, that master plan will most likely already include a budget for interior finishes. If not, then you’ll need to pay careful attention to what you can afford as you begin to discuss what you would like in terms of finishes.

Once these four steps are completed, it will be time to actually do the selecting. But by having done the groundwork we’ve outlined; the task should be much less daunting. For other tips on church design and church building, feel free to visit the webpage for our webinars and sign up for our next free i3 webinar.

2021-05-11T18:14:02+00:00 May 11th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Interior Design|

Being Flexible with Your Future Church Building Plans

If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that the future is in God’s hands. One might think they know how things will go based on prior years, but 2020 proved that wrong. When it comes to making future church building plans, it’s difficult to tell exactly how the next few months will unfold, much less years. It’s why we believe that one key facet of any future church building plan must be flexibility.

The Role of Prayerful Planning in Successful Ministry

Churches are experiencing widely differing impacts from the pandemic. Some are losing significant numbers of members, some have felt no impact at all, and others are still waiting for approval to reopen their church building so they can get a better sense of what will happen.

Does this mean you should put off any discussions about ministries in your church building? Not at all. While comparing 2020’s numbers to 2019’s might not make sense, church leaders do need to keep praying and having a dialogue about what’s happening. It’s important to keep looking at your community to understand its evolving needs.

Another consideration is expense. Planning may be the least expensive part of your facilities, but it has the biggest impact on what things will cost in the future. Delaying decisions today may mean the cost of those plans are out of reach tomorrow, so even in times of great uncertainty, it’s smart to keep looking ahead. When you keep your church ministry moving forward as best you can, with prayer and in faith, God will open doors—sometimes literally!


Imagining a Flexible Future

There are other benefits to engaging in an open and creative thinking process. Economic changes have resulted in some interesting new ministries in response to community needs. Some churches are reaching out to learn more about remodeling their church building to meet those needs. Other churches are realizing that moving into multi-site ministry could be God’s invitation.

Church Building Opportunities Abound, Even in Hard Times

Here are some other opportunities we’ve seen because of the pandemic. Just like businesses, not all churches are going to survive. If you’re looking for a different or multisite church building facility, this could be a good time to go shopping. Churches that are struggling and dwindling in size might have trouble managing their church facilities. They might be open to conversations about merging. In other cases, when church leaders decide they just can’t make it, their church building could come up for sale.

There are more types of buildings than other churches becoming available. As we’ve noted in the past, remodeling some types of existing business buildings can be a wise choice. Commercial retail or office buildings, or schools and theaters, can often be remodeled to meet your ministry needs for less than building a new church building. Depending on your needs, even an existing gym, warehouse or car dealership could provide the structure you need to invest in your next phase of ministry.

Opportunities do exist, even in challenging times, and God may throw open an unexpected door. To learn more about what we see happening for church leaders right now, sign up for our next free i3 church building webinars.

2021-05-04T21:06:58+00:00 May 4th, 2021|Church Building|

Guidelines for Reopening Your Church Building Safely

Most churches shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that vaccines are available and being rapidly distributed and, as a result, restrictions are being loosened, churches are returning to more normal operations.

And while the opportunity to reopen your church building is exciting, it can also bring headaches. Problems crop up in any building that has been shut down and unused for a while, so don’t expect that you can walk in, turn on the lights, and immediately hold worship. If you haven’t been using your church building, take the time to reopen right. Here are some safety guidelines for a facility run-through to reopen your building safely.

Start with Safety Outside Your Church Building

Problems can arise before you even get inside your church building—and we mean that literally. If you have sidewalks on your church property, there’s a chance that tree roots or winter frost have caused sidewalks to rise, heave, and buckle, or cracks to grow. Check all paved surfaces as well, and make sure to fill in cracks large enough to catch the heel of a shoe and cause any injury.

You also want to check the landscaping around your church building. You may need to trim it back to clear walkways and clean up any trash that has blown in. This is also about making a good first impression. Finally, test all the external lighting to make certain it’s functioning, and that no burnt-out bulbs need to be replaced.

Test and Clean Your HVAC System

If you totally shut off your HVAC systems during the pandemic, air hasn’t been circulating around your church building. This presents an opportunity for mold to grow, or for the air to become stagnant and perhaps some smells to circulate inside your church building. Before turning on your system for the first time, make sure to have maintenance done on it and change all the filters.

If molds or smells have developed, you may need to do some heavier cleaning in your system to make certain the air in your church building is both safe and inviting for everyone coming back. (We also recommend running your HVAC system at a minimal level when your church building is not in use, to prevent problems like this and maintain the health of the system.)

Checking for Leaks and Other Safety Issues

Anytime a building has not been used regularly, there are more opportunities for leaks to develop and grow undetected. Any small leaks may have grown significantly over time, so thoroughly check your church building for any signs of leaking, moisture, or mold. If a leak is not promptly addressed, problems can develop in the drywall, wood studs, or even the flooring.

Finally, make sure to check all your safety equipment and systems, such as fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers, to be certain that they are still functioning and up to code. Check that all emergency lighting is functional and exit ways are not compromised or blocked.

As you can see, there’s a lot involved with keeping your church building functioning. In our next post, we’ll address how to plan safely for the future. Meanwhile, you can learn our latest wisdom on safety for your church building and other topics by signing up for our latest free i3 webinars.

2021-04-27T21:31:52+00:00 April 27th, 2021|Church Building|

The Impact of COVID-19 on Your Church Vision and Church Building Use

The pandemic has caused many church ministries to be curtailed or shut down due to its various restrictions. But protecting ourselves from COVID-19 doesn’t mean touching people’s lives for Christ should stop. Instead, there are many great concepts for ministry that are emerging. Here are some of the innovative ways that churches are using their church buildings to help people now and in the future.

Food Bank Partnerships

There’s no question that many people have been hit hard economically during the pandemic. This has meant a greater need for food, and an increased demand on food banks. The McKnight Group has been working with several food banks that are looking to enlarge their facilities. This can be a great opportunity for churches to step in and say, “You can use part of our church building.” Having a food bank on your premises will bring new people to your church, where they can see what you’re doing and perhaps check out your online worship or come back on Sunday.

Educational Opportunities in Your Church Building

We are also seeing an increased need for educational space in many communities. Some church leaders have opened parts of their church building so children can do their distance learning in a supervised situation away from home.

Some schools or daycare facilities need to find additional space because of social distancing needs and occupancy limits. Sometimes daycare centers have shut down completely because the need shrank early in the pandemic, and now there aren’t enough daycare slots as people are returning to work. These are both situations where churches are lending a hand, by providing space.

In still other cases, churches are offering tutoring for students and job training for people who are unemployed and need to learn new kinds of skills. Of course, opening up your church building for needs like this will require extra cleaning and sanitizing to keep everyone safe.

Meeting Various Community Meeting Needs

We’ve heard about other types of community needs that churches are meeting with use of their facilities. A church building can provide an excellent short-term staging area for supplies and meetings in case of a local emergency, such as a natural disaster (floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.). We know many community centers are also being shut down, so folks have nowhere to meet. Church leaders who open their church building doors to community leaders can help to make their church name better known and create goodwill. People will remember that your church stepped up when times were rough. When things start to normalize, or they are feeling the pain of the pandemic, they’ll remember your church building as a safe and welcoming place to pray and to connect.

Of course, all these opportunities must be approached with an eye to safety. In our next post, we’ll share some ways to improve safety around your church building. Meanwhile, to keep up with the latest trends in church design and building projects, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars.

2021-04-20T19:23:26+00:00 April 20th, 2021|Church Building|

Additional Church Design Options for Safer Environments

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we all think about public spaces. Church buildings are no exception. Church designs must now incorporate ways to make attendees feel safe. We previously addressed touchless design elements. Here are some other ways you can make your church building safer.

Church Building Signage

One of the best ways to communicate safely with both attendees and guests is with clear and abundant signage. When people are trying to keep six feet of distance between others, it’s harder to have conversations about where to find the restroom or which direction takes you to the children’s wing. Wayfinding signs, both outside and inside your church building will make it easier, even when social distancing requirements are no longer a big concern. 

Automatic Bottle Fillers

We’re all used to finding drinking fountains outside restrooms and in other convenient locations of a church building. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made surfaces many people touch risky and most churches have shut off their drinking fountains. We’ve also recently seen a rise in reusable water bottles for environmental (and safety) reasons. Therefore, we suggest that church leaders might want to install automatic bottle fillers in place of, or alongside, drinking fountains. That way you can provide a public water source with a low risk of cross-contamination.

Church Design Options for Social Distancing

One big question, of course, is how to bring people together for worship or Christian education under social distancing protocols. If your church design includes pews, you’ll want to rope off certain rows and mark six-feet distances between seats. If you have chairs, you can space them appropriately, individually and in small groups, so that people who aren’t family can stay six feet apart from each other and still worship and learn together.

Of course, this means downsizing the number of people who can safely fit into those spaces. Smaller classrooms may not be feasible, so you may need to move classes and meetings into larger spaces. Some churches are only allowing a certain percentage of people into a room—say, 25% or 33% of what the space originally held—and spacing the chairs accordingly. Of course, this means that if you used to have 100 people in a space, there can only be 25 or 33 people present now.

Another option considered by some church leaders is asking local authorities to come in and determine how many people can safely gather. Here the concern is that once you give that power away to the authorities, it’s hard to know when they will give it back to you again. So, it may be better to come up with your own plan.

Remember, of course, that in at least some seasons, outdoor spaces are also an option, especially for fellowship gatherings. Now might be an excellent time to spruce up your patio with some landscaping and attractive seating areas that can allow people to connect more comfortably outside in nice weather.

In our next article, we will highlight some concepts on ways to use your church building for ministry that have become popular during COVID-19. Meanwhile, you can learn the latest church design and building tips by signing up for our next free i3 webinars.

2021-04-13T19:48:33+00:00 April 13th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Address Safety Concerns with Touchless Church Design Components

COVID-19, most likely, has forever changed the landscape when it comes to safety in public areas. Whether taking precautions to stem the spread of the virus now or to prevent future health issues, church leaders will want to consider incorporating new safety measures in their church buildings. One course of action is the use of touchless safety elements. Here are some that make sense in a future church design, or to retrofit an existing church building to make it safer for attendees and guests.

Dealing with Doors in Your Church Building

There are plenty of doors in any church building, and for safety’s sake, having a way for people to avoid touching their handles is a good idea. Automatic sliding glass doors in supermarkets and other retail stores are a common sight. The good news is that you too can integrate touchless door options into your church building. If you’re starting from scratch, you can include automatic doors with sensors in your church design right from the start. If you’re seeking to retrofit an existing church building, there are automatic door openers that can be installed on existing doors.

Another area of a church building where doors can be a health and safety concern are restrooms because this is one place where people often pay special attention to cleanliness. Avoiding a door handle after washing one’s hands in a restroom has become a more common practice now due to COVID-19. One option is to make certain that your restroom doors swing out from the restrooms, allowing people to push with their shoulder or elbow rather than touch a door handle. If you have the space or are in the design stage of your project, you can also eliminate the doors altogether and simply include sight-blocking walls in your church design.

Incorporating Touchless Features in Your Church Design

Staying with the restroom for a moment, this is another area where further touchless features can go a long way to make people feel more comfortable and safer in your church building. Touchless sinks and urinals are all proven and available technology that you can integrate into your church design or install in a retrofit of your church building.

Among other touchless items that can be used in restrooms and throughout the church are occupancy sensors. These are now required by code in many areas, especially for classrooms and offices, so we frequently incorporate them in our newer church design schematics. These sensors shut off the lights if there’s no movement in the room over a certain period of time. Such sensors can be programmed to turn lights on when they sense movement in the room, which means no one has to touch a light switch at any time.

Bringing Fresh Air and Good Light into Your Church Building

Another safety element you can integrate or retrofit is good light and ventilation. We mentioned the use of UVC lights in HVAC systems to kill viruses and germs, and natural light can have the same effect. Therefore, we encourage church leaders to incorporate good natural light in areas like the church foyer. In addition to making the space feel warm and inviting, it can support a healthier environment. You can also run your HVAC system just before you know people are going to gather for worship and reassure people that they will breathe fresh, or freshly cleaned, air in your church building.

While the coronavirus has made everyone more concerned about health and safety, we have ways to help. In our next article, we will look at safe ways to create space between people. Meanwhile, you can learn the latest by signing up for our upcoming free i3 webinars.

2021-04-06T20:47:42+00:00 April 6th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Helpful Safety Tools to Prepare Your Church Building

There’s no question that COVID-19 impacted every church in the country, to a greater or lesser extent. Church leaders have had difficult conversations and made hard decisions in light of governmental mandates, people’s fears, and the evolving social reality of the pandemic. Regardless of how you personally feel about the coronavirus or the politics surrounding it, you will be dealing with how others feel about it, now and in the future. One way to address this is to make sure that your church building is equipped with the latest tools that can help people feel safer about coming back to worship.

The Return of Crowds to Your Church Building

Naturally, there’s some debate about how much people are going to want to be part of a crowd. During this time of mostly online worship, we’ve noticed two growing groups among attendees. The first are the people who have made the decision to go deeper in their faith during this time, and the second are the people who have, at least for now, left the church altogether.

As we look forward to a time when life will get back to something like “normal” and our church crowds can regather, it’s important to think about how you can make your church building more inviting to both of those groups.

Tools to Keep People Safe in Your Church Building

We’ve all seen the portable hand sanitizer stations that have popped up everywhere over the past year. These are relatively easy to purchase and install, and a pretty simple tool that everyone understands. However, there are a couple more tools that you may want to consider including in your church building.

The first are Ultraviolet C lights, or UVC lights. These tools emit light on a part of the spectrum that can kill viruses, including COVID-19. When these lights are turned on in a room, they kill viruses and germs on surfaces that the light reaches directly. However, people should not be exposed to these lights for long periods of time, so they need to be placed in a room, turned on, and then left alone to do their work.

Another place where UVC lights are proving very helpful is in removing viruses from the air in your church building. By retrofitting HVAC systems with UVC lights, you can ensure that all the air circulating through your church building is regularly sanitized.

Finally, another option is installing antimicrobial surfaces. This is frequently done in some areas of hospitals. If you have counters in the public areas of your church building where you’re very worried about germs collecting and spreading, you can consider installing a copper or silver coating on those counters.

The Cost of These Safety Tools

Of course, each of these tools comes with a different level of cost. Mobile hand sanitizing stations are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. UVC lights are more expensive, and you will need to figure in the labor cost to retrofit your HVAC system, as well. Copper and silver countertops are obviously very expensive, so you will need to “count the cost.” The question is what you can reasonably fit within your church budget, balanced against how many more guests or attendees might be willing to enter your church building once you explain how you are using these tools to keep the crowd safe.

In our next post, we will take a closer look at how the pandemic has impacted elements of church design. Meanwhile, to get our latest wisdom on church design and building projects, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars.

2021-03-23T20:28:51+00:00 March 23rd, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|