50th Anniversary

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 McKnight Group leaders: Philip Tipton.

2020-09-22T22:19:08+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.

2020-09-01T21:13:10+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.

2020-08-18T21:20:42+00:00 August 18th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The McKnight Group’s 50th Podcast: Bill Hosterman Joins the Company

In 2020, the McKnight Group is commemorating 50 years as a church building firm. One way we are recognizing this significant milestone is with a podcast featuring our Founder, Homer McKnight. In it he tells the story of the firm and how it grew to build so many churches and support their vision for ministry in the community. Here are some highlights from the installment: Early Years, Part 1.

Forming the Partnership “Group” in The McKnight Group with Bill Hosterman

At the end of the first podcast episode, Homer McKnight tells how he had created the church design for Grove City Church of the Nazarene and accepted a call from God to build the church as well. Soon, other church building projects came into his pipeline and, in Homer’s words, “Those days are kind of a blur, but I remember I was working all the time. I was on the job during the day and drawing at night.” Homer realized that he couldn’t keep up. There just weren’t enough hours in the day, and he also really needed a licensed architect (since he was still in the licensing process).

Fortunately, God had a plan. Homer asked a contractor if there was another architect in his network who might want some work. As Homer recalls it, “He said, ‘Well, I know a guy that works where I work, who’s just like you. He’s a religious guy. He doesn’t cuss. I’ll introduce you.” That’s how Bill Hosterman joined The McKnight Group. (Listen to the podcast to hear why Homer liked Bill, and Bill’s memory of how prayer guided him to say yes.)

Developing the Church Design-Build Concept Together

One of the benefits that Bill brought to the McKnight Group was his experience in the construction field. At that time, architects (and the national professional organization, AIA) weren’t supportive of design-build, the idea of combining design and building projects under one company. In contrast, Bill found that his construction experience made a big difference. Many architects “[didn’t] know the difference between the paper architecture that you do and the construction that ends up in the field. And I think having construction knowledge and then joining in with a design-build firm was very valuable.”

Understanding Churches’ Unique Needs: The Church Building Master Plan

So, Homer and Bill began approaching their church design and building work as a package deal. Bill often found himself working half-days on drawings and half-days in the field with church building projects. Soon, they discovered that much of what they’d learned in architecture school about church design didn’t mesh well with the needs of church leaders and the actual function of a church building. In Homer’s words, “Architects and consultants had put little to no emphasis on the future when they designed their building. They had a piece of ground, they’d plop a small first building right in the center of it, without regard of how you’re going to add on where things would go in the future.”

This led Homer and Bill to begin thinking about the need for having a church building master plan. Churches tend to have one building project after another (learn why by listening to the podcast), so a master plan for the entire church design is critical to long-term success. Because they figured this out, the McKnight Group earned  a reputation for being problem solvers. This brought them more church design business and the company grew.

To learn more about what Bill calls “a very interesting and wonderful adventure that we were starting out on,” listen to the entire church building podcast episode.

2020-08-04T21:33:27+00:00 August 4th, 2020|50th Anniversary|