Church Building

Revision the Role of Your Church Building during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many aspects of life in America, and church is one of them. While it can be tempting to focus on all the problems, God can transform anything. In this case, COVID-19 also gives churches an opportunity to break the church building status quo and evolve in order to better minister to their communities.

Understanding the Pitfalls of the Status Quo

It’s common for people to get comfortable with the way things are at church. Over time, it becomes more difficult to make changes because folks are happy with the status quo. While we can become comfortable with how we use our church building and the ministries we do in and throughout it, being comfortable is not where Christianity thrives. What’s best for a church can sometimes be very different from what attendees want.

Therefore, the COVID-19 crisis presents a golden opportunity to reevaluate and update our church vision for ministry in the community. In fact, COVID-19 has already forced most churches to do just that in order to provide a safe environment. What George Barna once said is even more relevant today: “The things that got you where you are today will not be the things you need to get you where you need to be tomorrow.”

Why You Should Revision Your Church Design

Making vision and ministry changes internally is only part of the change process. How a church building looks from the outside, or as attendees enter, can speak volumes about the vision and direction of the church. An old building with a new direction inside looks the same from the outside. Imagine that a new family comes to town and passes by an old church building. When they look at the church design, can they imagine that it has vibrant ministries for families, or does it seem to be a standard traditional church? Curb appeal, in this case, means more than healthy landscaping, a freshly sealed parking lot, and a church building that’s clearly well cared for. It’s also about getting a sense that this church building is the home of a warm and friendly community that ministers to all ages.

Bridgetown Church of Christ: Changing Up the Church Building Status Quo

Here’s an example (prior to COVID-19) that illustrates how church leaders modernizing their church vision communicated the change through a remodeled church design. Bridgetown Church of Christ was constructed in the 1970s. Driving by the church building, you wouldn’t understand that there had been a complete change. They had hired a younger staff, refocused their programs to appeal to younger people, and changed their ministry direction to reach the neighborhood. Once guests got inside the church building, these changes were evident. However, from the outside, it looked like the same old traditional church.

As you can see in these before and after photos, we transformed the exterior church design appearance to reflect their updated church vision. Now, it’s possible to see that something new and different is going on in the church. We also took the opportunity to build new restrooms, increase energy efficiency, and create warm, friendly places for people to gather. Now, the message on the outside matches the ministries going on inside.

While COVID-19 has kept many people away from church buildings, that won’t last forever. People will be back. Does your church design send the right message? If not, give us a call and let’s talk about possible changes you can make. Also stay tuned, because we’ll soon be providing details about our free i3 webinar lineup for 2021!

2020-11-24T17:51:02+00:00 November 24th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

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|

What Will the Future Bring for Church Building in the Next Fifty Years?

This year, and especially over the past few months, we’ve been commemorating the 50th anniversary of The McKnight Group. It’s time to look to the future by considering what may occur in church design and construction in the years to come.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Church Design

It’s been interesting to look at The McKnight Group’s history during a time when church leaders are confronting so many challenges to the way we worship and work in order to keep community vibrant. Fortunately, a lot of our recent church design ideas lend themselves easily to the transition to a COVID-era church. Flexible spaces and movable seating make it very easy to socially distance. Even with chairs further apart, you can still handle decent-sized numbers of people in a pretty large space.

Another distinct advantage to modern church design has been the significant increase in technological capabilities. Most of the churches we’ve worked with in recent years have already been streaming worship and other events taking place in the church building. Even for those who weren’t, it’s been easy to transition online. We are also realizing how some aspects of new church building finishes, like investing in touchless and automatic restroom fixtures, are going to become even more important in the future of church design.

Embracing Multi-Site Church Building Campuses

Another impact of COVID-19 has been an increase in the value of multi-site campus complexes. Rather than managing the logistics of one large worship gathering with thousands of people, church leaders are realizing how much more practical it can be to meet instead in four or five or six different locations, using worship centers that seat 300–500 people. Smaller venues are also more flexible—for example, allowing weddings to feel intimate and connected rather than lost in a 3000-seat worship center. This focus on multiple smaller church building spaces might go against expectations, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in fifty years of constructing church buildings, it’s that you just can’t know what the future will hold.

What Will Future Church Building Projects Be Like?

Yes, there’s no way to predict what the future will hold. We never anticipated the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on church building finances, or imagined that we would be living through a pandemic in our lifetime. With that in mind, we do have three suggestions for church leaders who are wanting to focus on the next fifty years.

First, place attention on communities. Ask yourself this question: if your church building ceased to exist—if it disappeared tomorrow—would your community notice? Second, plan ahead for church building maintenance. We see so many church leaders who struggle to pay the bills because they weren’t planning for larger church building expenses, like roof or HVAC-system replacements or parking lot resurfacing. Third, save money for the future, whenever possible. Your vision for ministry in your community will change over time, and you’ll need funds to remodel or replace aspects of your church building complex to meet those future needs.

In our next article, as we look to the future, we’ll make some suggestions for how churches can prepare for change, even if you can’t predict what that change will be.

2020-11-10T20:43:46+00:00 November 10th, 2020|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|

The McKnight Group Announces Construction Start | Centerville, OH

Press Release – Living Water Church

The McKnight Group has begun construction of a new building to serve as the multi-purpose center at Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, OH. The multi-ministry center will include a large, open space to accommodate a variety of community events and sports, an attached kitchen and pantry, foyer, main restrooms, and storage areas.

In phase one of the master plan, the new facility will stand across from the current sanctuary with a covered walkway. Additionally, the parking lot and driveway will be paved and concrete sidewalks will be set. The next phase will connect the two building with an addition to house classrooms and offices.

Owner: Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, OH 
Design/Build Firm: The McKnight Group, Grove City, OH
General Contractor: McKnight Development Corp., Grove City, OH
Architect/Designer: McKnight & Hosterman Architects, Inc., Grove City, OH

2020-10-14T20:34:20+00:00 October 12th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Press Release, Remodeling|

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 Announces Construction Completion | Powell, OH

Press Release – Grace Powell Church

Grace Church in Powell, Ohio partnered with The McKnight Group to remodel their existing foyer, café, gathering areas and entry bathrooms. These modernized spaces have LED lighting, updated flooring, and a fresh coat of paint. The work in the main restrooms included new sinks, counters, partitions, and baby changing stations, as well as mirrors and modern light fixtures.

The open foyer now has a prominent stone accent wall, a contemporary welcome booth and glass partitions to distinguish the gathering areas and the modified café.  

Owner: Grace Powell Church, Powell, OH
Design/Build Firm: The McKnight Group, Grove City, OH
General Contractor: McKnight Development Corp., Grove City, OH
Architect/Designer: McKnight & Hosterman Architects, Inc., Grove City, OH


2020-10-02T15:44:43+00:00 October 2nd, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Press Release, Remodeling|