50th Anniversary

Looking to the Future: Preparing for New Trends in Church Design and Building Projects

As we’ve looked back and shared stories from the first fifty years of The McKnight Group, one pretty clear lesson is that there will always be change. Naturally, church leaders wonder about what changes lie ahead. While the future is always uncertain, we can share the changes we are noticing now, and what they might indicate for the future. Hopefully, what we share today will help prepare you for your own future church building plans.

Current and Future Church Design Challenges

Some recent church design challenges we are seeing relate to zoning and environmental regulations. Once upon a time, a church building was seen as beneficial to a neighborhood; it brought up property values and people felt positive about having a church as a neighbor. Unfortunately, that has changed in recent years, with more cities and neighborhoods not wanting a church building nearby. This can lead to zoning hurdles.

We also see many more code and environmental regulations these days. Significantly higher requirements and red tape are causing building permits to become increasingly difficult and expensive to get. Fortunately for our clients, we handle the building permit process, so church leaders can focus on creating a church design that will work with their vision.

Overcoming Challenges by Being Good Neighbors

So, what can church leaders do to overcome these challenges? Our best advice is to build good relations with community leaders and your neighbors. For example, if the fire department cites code violations in your church building, don’t put off addressing them. In recent months, we’ve encountered two very different situations that illustrate the importance of good relations. In the first, church leaders wanted to make a change in their existing church building. They opened a dialog with the local building official, and The McKnight Group, describing what they wanted to do in that part of the facility. He was very cordial and appreciative, and forewarned them about code changes they’d have to follow. He even helped that project along, talking to other administrators about zoning. He paved the way.

In the other case, a church spent years neglecting what zoning officials and building officials were saying. Then, when their church design project came up for approval, it took quite a while to go through, in detail, everything that had to be done. It took several meetings, and several months, because the trust wasn’t there between the officials and church leaders. Because the church still has future church building projects planned, they had to invest a lot of time and energy in rebuilding that trust.

Being Flexible about Your Church Building

Another key way to prepare for the future is to design a flexible church building. In prior church design projects, we’ve built sanctuaries that can expand in the future by installing, and later removing, internal walls for classrooms or offices in the back of the sanctuary space. We’ve built multi-ministry spaces for churches that have morphed multiple times: phase-one worship center becomes a children’s ministry space, choir room becomes children’s ministry offices, youth gym later becomes the school gym. With the right church design, internal spaces can change to meet your evolving church vision for ministry.

Finally, some churches will include what we call “shelf space” in their church design. This is empty space within the church building envelope that isn’t finished—just a concrete or gravel floor, no walls or ceilings. That allows the space to be built out for future uses that can be determined later on. Of course, you don’t want to invest in a lot of space you can’t use, but sometimes a bit of shelf space will be the right option, and we are always happy to discuss each church’s individual needs in more detail.

As you can see, it’s important to keep up with all the changes happening in church design and building. This is why we host a series of free i3 webinars every year. We will unveil our 2021 lineup of webinars shortly, so stay tuned!

2020-11-17T20:13:09+00:00 November 17th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Our Fifty-Year Church Building History Podcast Concludes with Stories from Some Long-Time Employees

The year 2020 has been memorable for many reasons. 2020 has been especially important to The McKnight Group because it marks our fiftieth year in the church design and building business. We’ve told our history through our podcast series, which appropriately concludes with the thoughts and memories of our long-time employees. This group of people, all of whom have worked with us between 12 and 44 years, sat down to discuss what working with The McKnight Group has meant to them. We’ll introduce them here with a little about how they came to work with us. (To hear all their memories and stories, you’ll need to listen to the podcast!)

Jennifer L. Snider, Interior Designer

Jennifer has worked with The McKnight group for 16 years. After earning a degree in interior design, she worked in the office design industry. However, after several years, she began questioning the value of her work and discerning a call to a ministry of some sort. A friend of hers told her about The McKnight Group, but she didn’t follow up. Then she saw an ad in the paper for an interior design assistant at The McKnight Group. This time she made the call and began working with us in August 2004.

Diane Anderson, Administrative Assistant

Diane’s a 12-year veteran of our company. She also saw an ad in the paper after moving to the area. She had been working as the assistant to the development director at a Christian school in California for nine years. The ad was for an administrative assistant position in marketing, which fit her perfectly.

Dale Turner, Senior Project Coordinator

Joining The McKnight Group 22 years ago, Dale worked for the church he and his wife attended as a business administrator. The church was looking to expand, and The McKnight Group was called in to do a church building presentation. (Homer McKnight, our founder, used a carousel slide projector—remember those?) We got the job and Dale worked with us through the church building process. Then, when he was ready for a career change a few years later, he gave us a call and we had an opening.

Mark Hall, Warranty Coordinator

Mark learned about The McKnight Group 18 years ago by chance. Mark’s parents were holding a garage sale and their neighbor came over to browse. The neighbor overheard Mark grumbling about his current work situation and asked him what he did. He then informed Mark that The McKnight Group was hiring, and he should interview for a job. He did, and we hired him.

Jeff Hutchison, Project Architect

Jeff joined us 31 years ago. He had a position with another architecture firm, but the primary architect there passed away and Jeff needed to find another position. As a Christian, he decided to use the Blue Pages (which is a “Directory of Companies Rated by Their Politics and Practices”) and found The McKnight Group. Since we specialize in church design, he knew it would be a good fit. Not only that, we had just sent in a hiring ad that same day! (Perhaps another indicator of God at work!) Jeff was the top candidate and got the job.

Dan Doyle, Superintendent

The last name on this list, and also the one with the longest tenure, 44-years, Dan was a subcontractor doing carpentry work with us. He had a sense that the company he worked for wasn’t going to thrive. We approached him, asked if he wanted to join The McKnight Group, and he’s been with us ever since.

These dedicated employees, as you can see, have taken a number of roads to our doors, and have stayed with us through the changes and challenges of our first fifty years. To hear their complete stories, be sure to listen to our podcast.

2020-11-03T18:19:00+00:00 November 3rd, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The McKnight Group Leaders Reflect on Technology and Finance Changes Over the Past Fifty Years

Throughout this year, we’ve been commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of The McKnight Group. Over those fifty years, many aspects of church design have changed significantly, and we talk about those changes in our fiftieth anniversary podcast entitled “Changes.” In a prior post, we shared some excerpts from the podcast related to the physical changes in typical church building designs. This post will focus on some other changes beyond structural design, specifically technology and finance.

Increasing Impact and Shrinking Technology

Obviously, the use of technology in church building spaces has increased exponentially since 1970. Especially because of the coronavirus impact, so many churches today are moving their messaging online. Technology has become a critical factor for churches. At the same time, the dedicated spaces we design for video, audio, and lighting controls in recent years have actually gotten smaller than they might have been 10 or 20 years ago. But the technology is huge.

Many church leaders are also now looking to us for help in remodeling their technology. In our podcast, we talk about one church pastor who was spending considerable time teaching people how to set a dozen lighting controls perfectly for each aspect of a Christmas program—and we were able to update all those controls to a single  panel with programmable settings that allows an usher to just push one button to transform the entire worship space.

Technology’s Transformation of Church Building Materials

One of the unlikely effects of the increase in technological capability is the transformation of interior ambience. In former decades, the feel of a church building space would be determined by the building materials: paint color, stone, carpeting. Now, with dimmable and programmable LED lighting, and movable theatrical lights, the feel of a room can easily be controlled through technology. We’re even doing work now with “environmental projection”—to learn what that’s about, listen to the podcast and click here to see it in action!

Staging Your Church Design with Shifting Funding Sources

Another significant change over the past fifty years has taken place in funding. In our podcast on “Tough Times,” we mentioned the impact of the Dodd-Frank act on church building valuations, as well as a decrease in traditional bank lending. This has led church leaders to become more conservative with their finances. Churches are saving money ahead of time, analyzing church design proposals more carefully, and taking on their church building projects in stages instead of all at once. We have always encouraged church leaders to develop a church building master plan that can be implemented in stages as funding becomes available.

The good news is that denominational and peer-to-peer funding organizations are stepping in to fill the funding gap. Denominations understand their churches much better than banks, making the process easier for church leaders. Creativity is also flourishing because regional leaders understand that not all church visions are the same.

So far, all of our podcast episodes have shared the voices of Homer McKnight, our founder, David McKnight, our President, and Philip Tipton, our Vice President of Architecture. In our final podcast episode, we hear from some of the other employees who have made The McKnight Group so successful. In our next post, we’ll share some excerpts from that episode, but you can listen to all of them now on our fiftieth anniversary page.

2020-10-27T20:06:36+00:00 October 27th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Changing Church Design: The McKnight Group Leaders Reflect on the Past Fifty Years

Fifty years can make a lot of difference, or none at all. This year The McKnight Group is commemorating our fiftieth anniversary as a church building organization. When we began the company in 1970, church buildings looked very much like churches built fifty years before, or even 150 years before: a long, narrow worship space, filled with pews and stained glass, and topped by a steeple. Yet many church buildings today would be unrecognizable to people living in those earlier eras. What happened? Our fiftieth anniversary podcast episode entitled “Changes” tells the story.

The Foyer: Part of a Church Design Revolution

The past fifty years have seen many significant changes in church design principles, and we at The McKnight Group are proud to have been part of these significant changes. One very pivotal change has been in the size and function of the foyer, or narthex, of a church building. For hundreds of years, these small, dark vestibules were used for little more than entryways, allowing you to get out of the weather and your winter coat (and possibly use the restroom) before heading directly into the sanctuary.

In stark contrast, today’s foyers are large, open spaces (sometimes as large as the worship space itself!) that form a central hub in the church design. Incorporating cafés and cozy seating areas, these foyers are designed for much more. As we say in the podcast, “No matter if you have kids you’re dropping off, no matter if you’re going to a class, no matter if you’re coming to worship—at some point, you’re going to go through that space, and you have a better chance of seeing somebody, being able to talk to them, build that relationship, because that is the most important part of the foyer today: it’s the relationship building space.”

Multi-Ministry Spaces that Work

Another aspect of the church building revolution over the past fifty years has been in the use of space. So many traditional churches had one use for each space: worship, Sunday school, fellowship hall. These days, church leaders recognize the real value in having flexible spaces that can be used for multiple aspects of their church vision. Perhaps it’s a worship space that can be used for conferences and banquets, or a fellowship hall that doubles as a gymnasium during the week.

This flexibility has evolved in tandem with a total transformation in the worship space of a church building. The traditional long, narrow, cruciform shape made it difficult for people in the back to see the preacher and feel connected with worship. As we note in the podcast, “we switched to the wider, shallower spaces and, again, multi-use in many cases. Then we began to change from pews to chairs: usually stackable, padded, much more comfortable, and certainly much more flexible.”

Understanding the Church Building as Tool for Ministry

Some of the most significant changes in church design have happened because of a change in perspective. As The McKnight Group President, David McKnight, states in the podcast, “[Recognizing] the church building as a tool has really changed how people view their new facilities and what they want—so, people who understand that this building can be a tool for the ministries they’re trying to do and use to reach their community. Those church leaders are doing some great and new things in their community.”

With all of these changes (and more we’ll cover in our next post, like with technology and finance), there are some elements of church design that we just don’t see anymore. To find out what those are, listen to the Changes podcast.

2020-10-20T20:04:12+00:00 October 20th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Surviving 2008 and COVID-19: Church Building Leaders Discuss Stories of Challenging Times

Highlighting more from our podcast series we created to commemorate The McKnight Group’s fifty years of church building and design, we look more in-depth at some of the ups and downs throughout our history. In our last post, we shared excerpts from the podcast entitled “Tough Times,” which addressed the interest rate spike that occurred during the early years of the company. In this post, we’ll look at more recent challenges, including the impact that COVID-19 is still having on church design and building projects across America.

The Impact of the 2008 Recession on Church Building Projects

The early 2000s were incredibly good years for The McKnight Group. In founder Homer McKnight’s words, “We were at our peak as a company. We were doing about 25 churches a year.” At that time, Homer was also beginning to transition leadership to his son, David McKnight, and Philip Tipton.

Then disaster struck. As Homer put it, “In one fell swoop, with the financial crisis that ended in the collapse of the banks, we did not sign another church loan for almost three years.” Many churches had to pause their church design processes. Fortunately, there were enough church building projects in the pipeline that The McKnight Group had work on the table, but they worked at a declining level over those three years. The future was suddenly very uncertain.

Shifting to Church Design and Remodeling Projects

The longer-term impacts of the 2008 recession also changed church design and building in broader ways. As Philip Tipton points out, “churches really stopped building in a significant way. They did continue to commission church design during that time. We had a lot of churches that were still dreaming, and planning, and putting thoughts together about what they wanted to do when they were able.” Churches also became much more hesitant to go into significant debt to finance a new church building.

This was also the time when denominational funding became critically important. The Dodd-Frank Act reconfigured how churches are appraised. This made it much more difficult to get traditional bank loans for the true cost of a new church design. As a result, more church leaders are turning to remodeling their church building or designing additions to meet the needs of an updated church vision. Churches are also moving into vacated existing buildings, such as bankrupt big box stores, office buildings, and even other churches that have closed down, rather than designing a new church building from scratch. (Listen to the podcast to hear one story of a church that was able to purchase 20 acres and multiple buildings of existing space for $5 a square foot!)

Keeping the Faith During COVID-19

The McKnight Group did of course recover from those challenging recession years, but more recently, COVID-19 has proved challenging for the church design and building process. Again, some churches are pausing their church design and building projects. Others are proceeding with church building projects in order to be prepared for when people can worship together again in person.

The podcast details what thriving churches are doing right now – seeking answers. “Certainly, churches that have been prepared to reach their community outside of the church building walls or use their buildings for tools to serve their community, have a leg up. They’re more used to and already have programs and ways into their community to serve and help those communities.”

Obviously, reaching their church communities through existing church building technology is a big factor also. When we started doing our free i3 webinars to help church leaders plan their church design and building projects, we didn’t have COVID-19 in mind. But it’s good to know we can still support churches in thinking about their buildings as a tool for ministry during these tough times.

We invite you to listen to the entire “Tough Times” episode to hear more about how The McKnight Group and its leadership have kept the faith during challenging periods of our 50-year history.

2020-10-19T17:42:13+00:00 October 13th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Church Building Ups and Downs: The McKnight Group Leaders Share Stories of Challenging Times

Last month, The McKnight Group officially turned 50. As we commemorate our 50th anniversary year, we’ve been presenting a special podcast on our history. In this post, we share excerpts from the first part of the episode “Tough Times,” where our founder, Homer McKnight, talks about how The McKnight Group survived some early challenging times and still grew as a leading church design firm.

Surviving Record Interest Rates

One of the significant challenges that stands out for Homer McKnight over the past fifty years was the interest rate spike that occurred in the 1980s. Back when the company began building churches in the 1970s, interest rates were ranging between 6–9%. Then, in the mid-1980s, interest rates were deregulated and suddenly began rising rapidly, often multiple times in a month. In Homer’s words, “When they hit 12%, we thought they couldn’t go any higher, then they were 16%, then 18%, and then 20%, and then above 20%.”

Of course, churches could no longer afford to make payments on construction projects, and The McKnight Group’s roster of active church building projects quickly plummeted from nine to zero. Fortunately, that period didn’t last long, though Homer had to mortgage his house and stop paying himself in order to keep paying his employees. In Homer’s words, “We believed so much in what we were doing—that God had called us to do this and that he was going to provide. So, there was a lot of faith there.” Homer recounts in the podcast how that faith was rewarded.

How Tough Times Changed the Church Building Funding Process

Naturally, there were significant changes that came out of that interest rate spike. Church building stewardship campaigns became much more popular during that time. Many church denominations had, or developed, funding groups that became much more popular during this time, as churches could no longer afford to build or renovate on their own.

Church bond financing programs also arose in those tough times, although they are no longer common today. With these programs, a bond company would issue bonds to church members and friends, who would act like the bank for a church design and building project.

Rebounding and Growing into a Nationwide Church Design Firm

Fortunately, such high interest rates were not sustainable and did not last long. Not only that, but word began to spread about The McKnight Group’s innovative church design work. During the 1990s and 2000s, business boomed. In Homer’s words, “we became known all around the country. There were many other churches around the country that wanted it done the way we did it, because ours seemed to be the most effective church building anybody was building at the time.” This became the time of greatest growth as a company, reaching even into Alaska and Canada, despite other difficult events like the dot-com recession and 9/11.

In our next post, we will share some stories about more recent difficult times, such as the 2008 recession, and how they affected our church building business. Visit our Anniversary website page to listen to the entire “Tough Times” episode and the rest of our podcast series.

2020-10-19T17:45:24+00:00 October 6th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The McKnight Group’s Church Design Podcast: VP of Architecture Philip Tipton’s Story

It’s officially been 50 years since The McKnight Group started in September 1970. We are commemorating our anniversary with a podcast that shares the group’s church building history and stories of the company. In this post, we introduce the second of two men who are key to the second generation of leaders at The McKnight Group: Philip Tipton, our Vice President of Architecture.

Getting a Very Early Start in Church Design

Philip Tipton is from a family that has often received God’s calling. He’s the son of a pastor and many of his family members have been pastors and foreign missionaries. That wasn’t Philip’s calling, however, and his family didn’t push him into ministry. In Philip’s words, “My parents really just wanted me to do what God wanted me to do, whatever that was.” For him, that was architecture. In our podcast, he shares how: “I was doing a lot of sketching and drawing as a kid. I actually had a Bible that had diagrams of Solomon’s temple and Herod’s temple and drew those temple designs over and over and over, dozens of times, as a little kid. Even all the way back then I was interested in church design.”

Fortunately for Philip, his high school had an internship program where students could spend time in the office of a profession that sparked their interest. At the time, his father was having some building design done at The McKnight Group, and that led Philip to spend three days with the McKnight Group architects—days that just reinforced his desire to get into church design.

Learning about Church Building from the Ground Up

Philip shares his process of finding the right college in our podcast, and you can hear him tell that story there. He decided to study at the University of Cincinnati, and their six-year program included alternating quarters of internships and coursework. He approached Homer McKnight and asked about working in the office, but Homer suggested that Philip needed to learn about the church building process from the ground up.

So, Philip spent his first two internship quarters in church building field construction. In Philip’s words, Homer thought it would be best to “have an appreciation for the difficulties they face in the field, and just understanding that side of it before I began to work on drawings. And that was very wise.” This was also when Philip met David McKnight who would become instrumental in Philip’s future with The McKnight Group.

That’s because one day, when David was visiting the job site, he asked Philip about his plans. Philip told him that there wasn’t room for him to complete his third internship in The McKnight Group architecture office, so he was going to have to find a spot somewhere else. David mentioned this to his dad who opened up a place for Philip. As a result, Philip completed all his internships at The McKnight Group and joined full-time once he finished his degree.

The Pathway to Leadership for Philip Tipton

In this podcast, Philip shares the history of his early employment at The McKnight Group, and how he progressed, how his being an active member of a church helps him understand what a church needs and how those needs can change over time. Learn more about Philip’s journey at The McKnight Group in our Pathways podcast and stay tuned for more 50th anniversary episodes.

2020-10-19T17:48:07+00:00 September 29th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The 2nd Generation: More on the 50-Year Church Building Story of the McKnight Group

September 1970, fifty years ago this month, is when Homer McKnight launched The McKnight Group. As we commemorate our 50th anniversary, we present more about the company’s history through a limited-edition church building podcast. In the episode of the podcast titled “Pathways,” we learn about the second generation of church building leaders at The McKnight Group, starting with current President David McKnight.

Getting an Early Church Building Start at the McKnight Group

In the episode, David tells the story of how he first began working on church building projects during summer break in high school—and how no one liked him because, in his words, “I was the owner’s son and a teenager who didn’t know anything.” Fortunately, he experienced a lot, doing everything from foundations to roofing, and pushing the broom (because construction sites always need to be carefully cleaned).

During college, David got into radio and television, and thought he would pursue that career—but, as he says, “something wasn’t sitting right” with the idea. As he mulled it over, he realized that what he really wanted to do was ask his father if he could major in business and come work for The McKnight Group full-time. Homer McKnight was enthusiastic about the idea, so David finished his degree and entered The McKnight Group office.

Learning Church Design and Building by Example

As David recounts in the podcast, the shift from field to office took a while. He had a lot to learn about the church building construction process from the office and management side. Fortunately, as David notes, “My dad, the way he teaches is by example, so I was just spending a lot of time with him, learning how to handle situations, different issues that come up, how to plan, how to do all that.”

Eventually, David realized that his father “could do only so much himself. [But] the way God wired me is I’m an organizational person. I can see organization and put things into categories and put things into processes.” He began to create systems and processes for all aspects of the church building projects and worked with church leaders to think about their own processes and how those would impact church design and construction.

Recognizing How God Uses Everything in Our Lives

David’s college days spent studying radio and television didn’t go to waste either. As he began consulting with churches on their multi-ministry buildings, he recognized how all his understanding of audio, video, and lighting systems would come in very handy in the church design process. In the podcast, he shares stories of how his personal volunteer work with his church, building Easter and Christmas program sets and serving as lighting director, taught him even more about what churches need for effective audiovisual church design.

Listen to the full podcast to learn about an influential book and how it led David to dive into leadership development, personal development, going to conferences, talking with other people to understand the ins and outs of leadership, and more.

We hope you’re enjoying these windows into the history of The McKnight Group. You’ll find the entire podcast series here. Next post, we’ll feature another of the next generation of The McKnight Group leaders: Philip Tipton.

2020-10-19T17:52:19+00:00 September 22nd, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The Influence of Missions: More on the 50-Year Church Design Story of the McKnight Group

The McKnight Group is commemorating its 50th year in business in 2020. We have introduced a podcast reflecting on our history as part of the commemoration. In episode four, The Mission Trips, we share how Homer McKnight, our Founder, first realized the importance of creating church design that helps the church building become a tool for ministry in the community. His mission trips drastically changed the way The McKnight Group designed and developed each church building and became a catalyst for a major trend in new church facilities. Here are some highlights from the podcast episode.

A Different Kind of Vacation

By 1974, Homer McKnight had been working hard to grow his company for 4 years straight. As Homer admits, “I hadn’t taken a family vacation, a break, done anything other than build the company and do what we started out to do for four years.” Then his wife heard that the central district of their church was planning a mission trip to Haiti and needed volunteers. When she suggested this to Homer, he first shrugged it off. “I don’t have time to do that. We haven’t had a vacation. I don’t even have a weekend off. How can I go to Haiti for two weeks?”

But it seems that Mrs. McKnight didn’t relent in wanting to join the trip. Eventually, he gave in and went to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. He’d never left the USA before, or saw communities where the vast majority of people were illiterate and had no jobs. For Homer, it was a life-changing experience. To hear more about what it was like, listen to the podcast. For this article, however, the important thing to know is that Homer was hooked.

Understanding How a Church Building Functions in Haiti

Part of what engaged Homer was the fact that the church building in these small Haitian towns served the “hub of the village.” It was usually the only permanent building, constructed by mission groups like Homer’s. It wasn’t just used for Sunday mornings, like each church building that Homer was building back home. Instead, the church building served also as a meeting place, a storm shelter, and a clinic when doctors came to the village.

For Homer, this was a revelation. He saw how a church building could function as a key tool for ministry within a community. He began to realize that his business experience as an architect, contractor, and successful company owner gave him the wisdom to help with church design and construction around the world. But he was worried that if he spent more time on missions, his church building business would suffer. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and he explains why in the podcast.

Innovating Church Design Back Home in the US

Homer McKnight had a second revelation from his mission trips to Haiti. He began to ask why church buildings in America were not used as a community hub too. When he would meet with teams at various churches, he would find them focused only on the worship space. In his words, “as I would meet with church boards and building committees, they were arguing for hours over the color in the stained-glass window or the color of the carpet or the padded pews.”

God then gave Homer the opportunity to transform how his own church building could be used. Grove City Church of the Nazarene was relocating. As a member of the board, Homer told them, “We need a building that’s going to allow us to meet the needs of Grove City, Ohio, and our youth. “God gave me a vision,” he explained, and he went home to create a church design that would become a transformative tool for ministry and lead to many more such church projects in the future.

Over a 50-year history, Homer McKnight and The McKnight Group have been involved with hundreds of mission trips to help build churches internationally. To learn more about how those experiences helped forge the vision of the company for churches here in America, listen to the full podcast here.

2020-10-19T18:03:15+00:00 September 1st, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The Early Years: Part II in the 50-Year Church Building Story of the McKnight Group

This year, The McKnight Group is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. One part of the celebration is a series of podcasts reflecting on the history of the company. In this post, we bring some highlights from episode 3, “The Early Years – Part 2” as we look at how our work began to grow in those early years, along with the opportunities and challenges our founder overcame.

Pioneering a Different Church Design Approach to Working with Church Leaders

As with most young companies, The McKnight Group began by giving customers exactly what they asked for. In the words of Homer McKnight, our founder, “When we started, we did church building like everybody else. We would ask the board, the building committee, whoever was in charge, ‘What do you want?’ And they would tell us, and we would try to give them that.”

Soon, however, Homer and Bill realized that church leaders were just seeking to copy church design ideas from other churches. They wanted what they’d seen others do with their church buildings, rather than paying attention to what their specific church and community really needed. So, they changed tactics. Again, in Homer’s words:

“Money spent for study and for ingenuity and for church design drawings is much less costly than building a church building incorrectly or not doing what they want to do. So, fairly early on, we realized we were the ones with the most knowledge of church buildings, and particularly, we had new ideas. So, we became bolder and bolder on sharing those ideas, asking questions and solving problems, and building church buildings that really worked.”

Church Building Turning Points and New Tools

A major turning point for The McKnight Group came in 1986, when they helped Grove City Church of the Nazarene relocate to a new church building which was the first of its kind and worked out amazingly well for them. As Homer says, “As far as our knowledge goes, in the United States, it was the first building of that kind that worked that well. And from then on, we became known as church growth experts.” Their understanding of the church building as a tool for ministry really helped them take off.

This success meant that they were asked to build churches farther and farther from their home base, which brought challenges (in an age before fax machines, computers, cell phones, or even digital images) because they had to visit every site to understand what church leaders needed in a church design. Their solution was to get pilots’ licenses and a single-engine Rockwell plane (later called a Cessna). You can tune into the podcast to learn about their adventures with that plane, which became a critical tool in their church building toolkit.

Trusting in God and Persevering Despite the Obstacles

Everything wasn’t always smooth flying during those early years, however. There was a time when they had nine church design and building contracts, which was work enough for a year and a half. Then mortgage interest rates began to climb, reaching a high of 22 percent. Within a month, every single one of those nine church building projects was cancelled. Obviously (since we’re commemorating 50 years) they made it through, and you can learn how they survived by listening to the podcast [link]. In Homer’s words, “God always brought a solution and an answer, and that’s how we knew he was in charge. And here we are, 50 years later, with a bigger and better company.”

Learn more about the history of The McKnight Group and how it has evolved to the forefront of Design-Build experts in the field of constructing churches. The complete series, along with other details of The McKnight Group’s 50th anniversary celebration, can be found here.

2020-10-19T18:06:45+00:00 August 18th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|