Church Building

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|

Answering Your Questions About Getting a Church Building Project Started

It’s time once again to share answers to questions church leaders asked in one of our free i3 church design webinars. These questions were received during our recent i3 webinar on the principles of a successful church building project.

While a good reason to attend our i3 webinars is the opportunity to ask questions about your particular church building situation, if you missed one, you could always have questions addressed through this link on our website.

Here are our responses to those recent questions.

Question 1: What is the average cost and timeframe for a feasibility study?

A feasibility study is a one-time answer to a specific question. We perform the study, complete the drawing or the report, and that’s all. Typically, such a study centers around a question like, “Should we stay, or should we move?” or “Should we buy property A, or B, or C, or D?”

The timeframe for such a study is anywhere from one month to three months and the cost can vary widely, depending on the amount of work involved. If the feasibility study involves comparing two properties, for example, that’s obviously half the work than if we’re studying four different properties. Therefore, the cost for a feasibility study could range, usually, anywhere from $2,500 for a simple, straightforward study, to up to $10,000, for a more complex feasibility study with full-blown designs on multiple properties.

Question 2: What’s the difference between a church building feasibility study and a full-blown church design?

When you want a full church design that will meet the needs of your church vision, that’s more than a feasibility study. The process includes multiple meetings. We will bring in a design and explain it to you, allow time for comments and feedback, then we go back and revise the church design. We often go through that process three or four times before it’s perfect. So, the full-blown design process is typically more in the range of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the amount of work. The timeframe for a full-blown church design process is typically three to six months.

Question 3: What is the cost for an initial conversation about a potential church building project?

The answer to this question depends on where you’re located. If you’re situated in the Midwest, or someplace that’s easy for us to get to, it’s possible that we can have our initial conversation at no cost to you. If it’s a more difficult location or too far away from our home base and the expenses are a little higher, we may ask for you to reimburse us for travel expenses only.

The reason we try to minimize costs for that initial conversation is that we want to come talk with you, right up front, and do a walkthrough of your existing church building, or a property that you’re thinking about buying. That one-time visit includes a presentation to your church board or your building committee to help explain typical church building projects, how we work, and how the process might flow. It gives you a chance to get to know us and us a chance to learn about how a new church design or church building remodeling project can support your church vision for ministry.

As you can see, we’re happy to answer questions anytime about our church design and building process. To learn more about church design and church building, sign up here for one of our forthcoming free i3 webinars or contact us directly with your questions.

2021-03-19T15:23:49+00:00 March 18th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Prioritizing Integrity and Ministry in Your Church Building Project

As a church leader, you likely recognize that your church is more than a building. And if you’re planning a church building project, it’s important to also acknowledge that the project’s success goes beyond architecture, materials, or construction. It’s essential that the building process is executed with integrity, and that the new or remodeled church building supports your vision for ministry.

People over projects

When you take on a church construction project, you are essentially hiring dozens of employees—if not more—to work for your church, people that become part of your team for months, a year, or even longer. These individuals, who may be local neighbors, will be learning firsthand what your church is all about. How they are treated and how your leaders, staff and attendees interact with them impacts whether they perceive you as people of integrity. In the past, we’ve seen clients go above and beyond to support these workers by offering free lunch, celebrating project milestones, or simply thanking them and acknowledging their hard work. This provides fellowship and an opportunity to both witness to them and invite them into what God is doing in and through your church.  

Handling challenges with integrity

In almost any church building project, challenges arise. How you and your team handle obstacles in the midst of complex construction processes reflects the mission of your church and its values. Maintaining a Christian attitude, even in stressful situations, is always worth it and an ingredient for project success. While you may need to be firm with workers or other executors of your church building plan, never sacrifice your Christian integrity, especially when collaborating with someone you are trying to reach.  

More than a building

Finally, we like to remind our clients that buildings never replace ministry. Will a shiny new building attract new people to your church? Most likely, yes. But, long-term, a building itself will not retain people. In fact, the opening day of your new or newly remodeled building is not the finish line, it’s just the beginning! Churches that engage in successful church building projects, rather than pouring all their resources into the bells and whistles of a state-of-the-art facility, often smartly reserve resources for the ministries that will take place in the facility upon its completion.

Outreach opportunity

While the church construction process may feel like a distraction from your church’s core mission, we encourage you to see it as an opportunity to further its reach and impact. When church leaders lead with integrity and prioritize their ministries throughout every step of the project, the heart of the church becomes known to those who may not yet attend.

To hear more success stories and gain additional tips on church building projects, we invite you to participate in one or more of our i3 webinars. Our goal is to help you make the right decisions and further your church’s ministry, and we have selected topics that we believe will help you better serve your church and your community through church design and construction.

2021-03-09T22:00:16+00:00 March 9th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Why a Ballpark Cost by Square Foot for Your Church Design Isn’t Good Enough

Cost per square foot is a measure sometimes used in building construction. It can be helpful to give folks a “ballpark” idea or “guesstimate” of how much a building project might cost, but there are several reasons why you don’t want to strongly rely on ballpark budgets, when it comes to a church building project. The following are three elements that can greatly impact the cost per square foot, and that can also make a big difference in the quality and functionality of your finished church design.

Level of Service

You might hear a contractor tell you that they can design and construct your church building for $100 per square foot. This might sound like a good number, but what does it get you? This number is just for the building and does not include other project cost that make up a complete project budget. Will there be additional costs for multiple design meetings, or revisions to the initial church design drawings? Sometimes it takes a few revisions to incorporate every element of your church vision in a workable fashion, and costs can quickly add up if you’re having to pay for each revision to your church design schematics.

There’s also the question of construction supervision once the church building process is underway. Will you have a superintendent on the job site, eight hours a day, every day, or will that person be overseeing multiple projects at one time? If they’re not dedicated to your church building project, you might only see them every other day or maybe just for a few hours per day, which could lead to problems and delays if the crew can’t get problems addressed in a timely fashion.

Level of Church Building Experience

Another issue to keep in mind with ballpark cost figures is the level of experience you would get with a lower offer. There are many types of buildings, and different specialists to handle each type. Imagine that you were charged with building a new hospital. Would you hire a residential contractor to design and build that hospital? Hopefully not! Hospitals have unique requirements and specific design needs, which residential construction teams know nothing about.

When it comes to church design, it is critical to hire a firm that understands ministry. If they can’t understand your church vision for reaching out to your community, they will have no idea how your church building can help, or hinder, that process.

Level of Church Design Quality

Finally, it’s key to understand what quality of products you would receive with any square foot budget. Would your church building be move-in ready, or will there be additional costs for the audiovisual wiring and production room you’ll need for livestreaming worship? Have they included the cost of quality professional finishes (from flooring and furniture to café and kitchen furnishings) that a busy and high-traffic church building needs?  Does the HVAC equipment have an expected life span of 5 years, 10 years or 20 years?

Our goal here isn’t to frighten you, but to educate you. We’ve heard stories about church leaders that have struggled because they accepted lower cost estimates and didn’t get a church building that could really support their vision for ministry. This is why we share so many free i3 webinars each year—to keep you informed on how to end up with the church design you need. To learn more, sign up for our upcoming webinars today.

2021-03-02T21:27:11+00:00 March 2nd, 2021|Budgeting, Church Building, Church Design|