Church Building

Church Building Security Guidelines for Keeping Children and Youth Safe

While we are not safety and security experts, or ministry and programming professionals, we know how important it is to keep people of all ages safe and secure while they’re in your church building. And when it comes to children and youth, there are some church safety considerations to make. Here are some important security guidelines for children and youth ministries in—and beyond—your church building.

Have and Use Proven Policies for Children and Youth Ministry

First and foremost, it’s critical to have current and proven children and youth security policies in place and to use them. Those policies should include elements like background checks for all staff and volunteers who work with children and youth, as well as zero tolerance for inappropriate touching and other issues, social media guidelines for communicating with youth or posting and identifying photos of children, and so forth. Fortunately, many insurance companies and denominational bodies have model policy templates that church leaders can use to craft wise policies for their own children and youth ministries.

Maintain Appropriate Adult Presence at All Times

Many of the important security protocols for children and youth ministry involve the presence of adults. Children and youth should never be left alone in your church building—or anywhere on your property. There should be a minimum of two approved adults always present at every event involving youth or children. Remember that visits by children to other areas of your church building, such as the restrooms, should also be carefully monitored.

Also, whenever a group leaves your church building for an approved or official church event, make sure an appropriate number (two or more) of chaperones are in attendance. It’s important to note that half of all church security and safety incidents involving youth and children take place off church property, and only a quarter take place within the church building itself. This is one reason why approved chaperones are so important to keep your youngest attendees safe.

Concentrate on Visibility and Awareness in Your Church Building

Another way to keep youth and children safe is by having the right mindset. Visibility is important, whether it’s volunteers who are sitting at the children’s ministry check-in desk, or roaming security team members who remind everyone to be on their best and safest behavior. For the same reason, unannounced drop-ins to youth and children’s events are another way to make certain that all is well and security procedures are being followed appropriately.

Also, train all staff and volunteers to recognize signs of abuse and tell them to keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look right. (Remember that it’s not your job to investigate any suspicions, but rather to report them to authorities so that they can be investigated by professionals.)

There’s much that goes on in your church building that needs your careful attention. Whether for safety and security or the latest trends in church design, to learn more about what we recommend in terms of your church building needs, sign up for our next free i3 webinar today.

2021-07-27T21:40:07+00:00 July 27th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Exceeding the Safety Basic Requirements for Your Church Building

The International Building Code (IBC) helps ensure a minimum level of safety for any building. However, the building code is meant to be a baseline. There are times when church leaders make a conscious choice to exceed those safety basics with their church design. There are also times where you may be required to exceed the basics because of the types of activities that take place in your church building.

Going Above and Beyond with Your Church Design

There are some straightforward ways that church leaders choose to exceed the safety basics required by code. Some can be very simple and not overly expensive. For example, we have worked on church designs that voluntarily included extra smoke detectors.

Some church leaders go much farther. We’ve had conversations with a few of them about installing automatic sprinkler systems because of safety concerns, something that can be a pretty expensive addition. But it’s also an added investment in the safety of everyone who enters your church building.

Incorporating Emergency Evacuation Shelters into Your Church Design

Another area where more churches are going beyond the basics is with storm shelters, although in some areas and situations these may be required. One type of shelter is the emergency evacuation shelter. This is a place where people can gather for safety after a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, winter storm, or other significant event has left them without shelter. To prepare for events like this, you would need to install backup generators, showers, sometimes commercial kitchens, and open spaces in your church building (without fixed furniture) that can be used as gathering spaces and for sleeping.

Does Your Church Building Need a True Storm Shelter?

Another type of storm shelter is one that can withstand the storm itself and provide a safe refuge for people as the storm comes through. These types of shelters are more durable and expensive. They are also required by the IBC (and thus in most states) for many types of buildings, including some new educational facilities. This is important for church leaders to understand.

In some states, the storm shelter requirement applies to all educational facilities, including schools within a new church facility. However, there are exceptions for daycare facilities and “occupancies that are accessory to religious worship.” This means that if you just hold Sunday school classes or small groups in your church building on Sundays, you don’t need to have a storm shelter in place. However, if you have any sort of school, anything from preschool through twelfth grade, you may need to include a dedicated storm shelter that can safely hold all occupants of the entire building. (Of course, every state makes its own decisions regarding storm shelters. For example, Ohio has been delaying the implementation of storm shelter requirements for three or four years.)

What does this mean? That space must have increased roof strength and wall structural design. It must have multiple exits, minimal windows, and be fire separated from the rest of the building. It must have emergency power for light and ventilation for up to two hours, through a generator or battery system. This storm shelter also has to have its own restrooms and first aid station, and many other very specific details. Schools typically combine storm shelters with other big spaces like the cafeteria or a gymnasium (since locker rooms contain restrooms and showers).

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to safety for your church building. We know such building code requirements are not top-of-mind for most church leaders. This is why we implemented our free i3 webinars—to help you understand what’s involved in creating a safe church design and constructing a safe church building. Sign up for our next i3 webinar today!

2021-07-20T20:29:58+00:00 July 20th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Safety and Security Basics for Your Church Design

The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the safety and security of church buildings in new ways. As churches around America have emerged from the pandemic, church leaders are thinking about health and safety, social distancing, and a patchwork of different regional regulations. But there’s a lot more to safety and security than keeping guests and attendees healthy. Here are some of the many ways that your church design can be impacted by safety and security concerns.

First, Some Definitions

Before we get too far, let’s define safety and security. Safety is an overarching term that refers to all the types of ways that a church building could be made safer for everyone who enters the property. There are the potential medical issues like disease spread, but also physical hazards (such as weather-related slipperiness), environmental disasters, fire safety, and building security. There are church design elements that specifically impact safety, such as the strength of roofs in snowy climates and the structural integrity to withstand high winds in the midwestern and southern parts of the country.

Church building security is a subset of safety. It relates specifically to dealing with human threats, such as crime and vehicular safety issues.

Counting on the Codes for Your Church Design

Safety is partially addressed by building codes. Every state and incorporated city or town has a set of building codes. Many states (such as Ohio, where our business is officially based) follow the International Building Code (IBC), and you can learn more about how it could impact your church building here. The IBC dictates minimum standards for all sorts of safety elements, ranging from the number of egresses (exit doors) and windows you must have to the type of fire suppression system you must incorporate into your church design.

Why Building Codes Matter

Recently, we’ve all gotten a taste of why building safety codes matter in the news. The terrifying and sad partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condos in Surfside, Florida is being investigated with many factors in mind. While Champlain Towers was not a church building, this disaster stresses the need for and importance of local building codes to keep everyone safe in buildings of all types.

It’s also important to understand that building codes provide a minimum of protection. Church leaders may choose to do more than is required to preserve the life of their church building and invest in the future of their church community. In our next post, we will explore some of the ways church leaders are choosing to go above and beyond with their church design choices.

We regularly update church leaders on our latest church design safety and security suggestions. We do this here on our blog, but also through our free i3 webinars, which focus not just on innovations and ideas, but also on the insights that arise from keeping an eye on the safety and security issues that arise in buildings across the country, such as in Surfside. So, stay informed by signing up for our free i3 webinars, where we are also happy to answer your questions about church design and building recommendations.

2021-07-13T19:16:29+00:00 July 13th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Thinking Outside the Box Store: Converting an Old Car Dealership into a New Church Building

Sometimes it’s good to think beyond the expected when exploring possibilities for a new church building. In a recent post, we highlighted some ways commercial structures can be converted into churches. Some locations are obvious candidates for such a conversion. Others are not. Here’s one example of church leaders who looked past the usual and worked with us to convert a car dealership into their new church building.

A New Church Building for Fearless Church in Centerville, Ohio

Centerville is a suburb of Dayton and Fearless Church was looking for a church building in that area. They found a closed car dealership, and we helped them see how it could have potential to be a great church design. In these before-and-after photos (before-top, after-bottom), you can see that there were plenty of windows in the front of the existing building letting in good light. There was also already plenty of parking! Adding a new entrance, signage, modifying the colors, and adding landscaping made for a truly eye-catching church building.

In this second set of photos, you can see the original line that led into the service area. It was easily transformed into a broad, bright, contemporary room for people to gather. In the after photo, see the seating alongside the windows, allowing  guests to mingle with attendees and get to know more about the church and its ministries.

Converting Sales Space into a Stunning Foyer

As you can see in this set of before-and- after photos, the main sales showroom was converted into a bright, warm foyer area, also with lots of light. Some sales room offices were transformed into the church offices too. To the right of the after photo you can see where new families can check in to learn more about this expansive, open church building.

Transforming Car Service into God Service

In this final set of photos, you can see that the car service bays have been completely transformed into a modern, spacious sanctuary for worship, complete with lighting and video components. There’s a nod to the building’s industrial history in the visible duct work for the upgraded HVAC system. The central platform has plenty of room for worship and music leaders. This church design includes maximum flexibility with the use of movable chairs and industrial grade carpeting.

These photos demonstrate that church leaders don’t have to limit themselves to either searching for an affordable older church building or constructing a new church building from scratch. There are unexpected opportunities available in the many types of commercial structures that are standing vacant. If you’re searching for a new church building, thinking beyond the everyday options can bring unexpected possibilities.

Thinking beyond the expected is also why we offer our free i3 webinars on a regular basis. These webinars help you think beyond the everyday possibilities in addressing your church design needs and church building visions. Look at our upcoming church design webinars here and sign up today.

2021-07-06T19:31:30+00:00 July 6th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Responding to Your Questions: COVID, Costs, and Tearing Down Your Church Building

Whether you’re just beginning to consider transforming a church building or thinking about new church construction, you’re bound to have questions arise. Those questions might come from your church design team, from curious attendees, or from your fellow church leaders. That’s why we always include a question-and-answer session at the end of each of our free i3 webinars. We know that once you’ve been inspired by the webinar’s ideas, insights, and innovations, you’re going to want to know more. Here are some responses to questions raised by church leaders at a recent webinar.

Tearing Down a Church Building vs. Remodeling

We hear this question often, and we know it can be a difficult question for church leaders to ask. An old, beloved church building can outlive its usefulness. It can deteriorate so much that the cost of upkeep exceeds the cost of new construction—even as construction costs keep rising (more on that in a moment). The structure of an older church building might even weaken and fail in ways that make it dangerous to be inside.

Sometimes, we have been able to work with church leaders to salvage part of an older church building, which is still in better repair, and only tear down part of the structure. At other times, an older church building is just too big, and finding creative ways to shrink the overall church design cannot be cost-effective when using a partial tear-down. Everything depends on how much you can afford to keep putting into maintenance and what your options might be for beginning afresh with a new church design.

Making Church Design Changes Despite Rising Construction Costs

When church buildings are still structurally sound, questions often arise about what it would cost to make certain types of changes to an existing church design. If you’re just seeking to refresh your look with carpet and paint, that’s not going to cost a bundle; perhaps $10 to $20* a square foot, or maybe up to $30*, depending on how fancy you want to get. If you want to tear out some walls, build some new walls, and rearrange your internal church design, you could be spending somewhere between $35 to $55* a square foot. If you get into situations where you’re ripping out structural walls or need to put a new roof on your church building, or install a new HVAC system or sprinkler system, you would be looking at something closer to $80 to $90* a square foot or more.

While that might seem like a lot, new construction is averaging $150 to $160* per square foot and quickly rising these days. This means that you can make some significant changes to your existing church building and still be saving money.

Wondering What Opportunities COVID-19 Could Bring

Some church leaders are asking us what they might do to improve their church building due to COVID-19. A lot of leaders realized that with social distancing requirements, a meeting space that could seat 100 suddenly could only seat 25 or 30 people. We don’t necessarily recommend making long-term changes based on these numbers, because no one expects these limits to be back soon. However, we are talking with church leaders who are thinking about constructing a few larger rooms so that, if social distancing becomes necessary again, they will still have one room that would fit 100 people.

Some leaders made changes while churches were shut down or when attendance was lower during COVID-19, but in terms of church design and construction, with the pandemic winding down, that opportunity is passed. It doesn’t mean, however, that now’s not a good time to ask questions about how the pandemic impacted your community. What ministry changes might you want to make to meet the needs of people in your area?

We hope that these responses are as helpful for you as they were for the church leaders who attended our webinars. We invite you to join them and sign up for our next webinars, so you can ask your own questions.

*Prices are based on Midwest construction markets.  Prices do vary regionally.

2021-06-29T18:09:12+00:00 June 29th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Transforming a Big Box Structure into Your Next Church Building

Sometimes a church building can seem eternal, but there comes a time when what once seemed like the perfect church design just isn’t meeting your needs today. Therefore, we are covering various reasons that church leaders might need to transform their existing church building, or find a potential new space, to meet their church vision for ministry. One of those reasons, and one that is extremely popular today, is converting an existing commercial space into a church building.

Thinking Beyond the Traditional Church Building

Fifty years ago, most church design was similar and church buildings looked a lot alike. But the churches being built in the twenty-first century don’t usually have tall steeples or stained glass. Instead, church leaders are focusing on functionality, and are paying attention to the many ways that a church building can be an effective tool for ministry. So, when you’re running out of space or your beloved church building is too impractical to remodel or becoming too expensive to repair again, it might be time to think outside the traditional church box—and look at other commercial buildings.

Why Commercial Structures Can Be Good Investments Today

We’ve discussed before some of the reasons why an empty big box store or other commercial structure could become a useful “blank slate” for your next church building. They’re built in high-traffic areas, they’re easier to remodel in a relatively small timeframe, and they come with lots of parking. But there are other reasons that make these structures an even better option in today’s market.

Right now, the cost of construction in general is soaring because of the demand created as the country and world emerge from the effects of the pandemic, making it difficult for contractors to get supplies and labor to complete their building projects. This can lead to unforeseen delays and increases in cost, which could mean you end up with less new church construction than you had planned.

Another reason is availability. The pandemic has led many big box stores and other retail structures to close their doors and go out of business. This means there are many more kinds of structures in interesting locations that could work very well for your new church building.

Examples of Transformational Church Design Options

Here are a few examples of church design transformation projects that we’ve helped church leaders make with big box structures. We’ve transformed an old 5000-square-foot carpeting warehouse into a worship center with foyer for a smaller church that needed to seat 200 people. We were able to include a kitchen and multi-purpose room as well. In another example, we took an old car dealership and transformed it into an amazing gathering space, putting all those existing windows and natural light to exceptionally good use.

Another option is an outdated school building. Especially as the pandemic has many school administrators rethinking the best way to educate the next generation, more traditional school buildings are becoming available that still have lots of life left in them. Gymnasiums make great worship centers, and classrooms are naturally easy to come by. Especially if you’re looking to focus care and attention on families with young children, consider purchasing an old school building to convert with a creative church design. 

Naturally, as you think about transforming any existing space, you will need to factor in the costs of that transformation, beyond the purchase price of the building itself. Part of the reason that we keep sharing our free i3 webinars is that there are many elements to completing any successful church design and remodeling project—everything from smart budgeting to the right finishes. Sign up today for our next free webinar to find out what else we’re suggesting these days.

2021-06-22T21:15:26+00:00 June 22nd, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

When Ministry Needs Drive Your Church Building Transformation

There are many reasons why you might need to update, remodel, or transform aspects of your church building. In this series of posts, we are walking church leaders through some of these reasons. Let’s consider this one: ministry needs have changed.

After all, time changes just about everything, and if your church design is hindering your ministry, it’s important to consider the ways that transformations to existing church building structures can equip them to meet your needs today.

Converting an Existing Church Design for New Needs

The most straightforward example of why a church building needs transformation is when there are new ministry needs. This could be because the demographics of the neighborhood have changed. What used to be an aging and traditionalist population might shift to younger adults who are just starting. Ministry needs also could change because young children grow older and the youth center in the church building is geared toward youngsters of twenty years ago or more.

One place we often see a need for transformation is at the front of the worship center itself. We’ve worked with church leaders to do things like replace permanent poured-concrete choir risers with removable risers to increase platform space and flexibility for different worship needs. We’ve replaced old incandescent lighting with modern, remotely controlled LED lighting that uses less energy and allows for more flexibility with productions. We’ve installed video screens in front of church organs in order keep them functional without having to appear so overwhelming or front-and-center.

Understanding the Importance of Technology in Meeting Ministry Needs

Another reason for transformation is to update technology that supports so much of modern ministry. Sometimes to keep up, churches installed makeshift tech counters on the edge of a balcony or tucked into an out-of-the-way corner, leaving wires snaking through the church in an effort to get their various cameras and other technology up and running. This has been especially prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that there’s a chance to breathe and prayerfully examine what the future of worship might look like, it’s a good time to consider safely installing good quality technology that fits into the overall church building design.

Keeping the Next Generation of Youth in Your Church Building

One important consideration for many church leaders contemplating transformations to their church building is a need to keep the next generation engaged with the church. However, if young people come and see a token youth center that’s filled with leftover furnishings from the 1970s, they’re likely to look elsewhere for a cool place to hang out. Once you talk with youth to find out what they are looking for, we can help you craft small transformations that make a big difference in keeping the youth in your community coming back to your church building.

As you can see, there are many reasons why it’s a good idea to periodically revisit the question of how your church building is meeting your ministry needs. We’re here to help, which is why we offer our free i3 webinars that also give you the chance to ask questions about your particular church design issues.

2021-06-15T16:30:10+00:00 June 15th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

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|