Don’t Be Afraid to Dream Big with Your Church Building Vision

Much goes into finding the right vision for your church’s ministry, as our series of blog posts on this topic has demonstrated. While there’s a lot to consider, we want to encourage you to make sure to think big.

We’ve been helping church leaders envision new or remodeled church building projects for fifty years now. Over those decades, we’ve come to see that it’s especially important for church leaders to start the vision process with broad thinking that leads to a master plan.

Develop a Grand Vision

The best way to dream big is to consider the following. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? How would you like to proceed if money wasn’t an obstacle, or even a concern? How do you really want to give glory to God through your church building and the ministries it supports? By dreaming big at the beginning, your vision for ministry will not be limited by human concerns, but instead driven by God’s plan.

Consider What’s Possible Now

While God gives us the vision, he does not always give us all the money to make it happen right away. Once you’ve outlined your grand vision, it is time to consider what is affordable at this stage on the journey. This doesn’t mean that you let go of the dream, but that you get it all down in a master plan, and then break that plan down into affordable pieces. At this point, money, budgets, resources, time, and land will all come into play. You’ll need to choose the right priorities in terms of what comes first.

For example, while the need for a Christian school may be an important part of your church’s vision, it is also important to have adequate worship space. Are both of these facility needs achievable in a first phase multi use project?  Or is this something that has to be built with separate uses from the very beginning? This is where a master plan helps with communicating the entire vision, so that families with young children will be happy in your church building and see hope in the future development of the facilities for ministry.

Focus on the Right Steps Toward Your Dream Church Building

The master plan lays out the phases, and steps within those phases. However, if you choose a step that will cost more than you can afford, it could become a stumbling block to the broader vision. You might find that your church ends up focused more on funding concerns than on ministry. If that happens, the entire process can end up losing steam and excitement.

Instead, be careful to choose steps that are sized to be affordable and big enough to make a difference. By investing in your vision for ministry in steps and phases, you can accomplish your dream over the course of time. As we outlined in a recent post, one church took 30 years to fulfill its master plan, but they got there, step by step.

So, don’t be afraid to dream big. That’s how we started building churches half a century ago, and that’s how you can build your vision for ministry in your community. To learn more about the many ways we can support your master plan and church building process, check out our free i3 webinars.

2020-06-23T19:19:46+00:00 June 23rd, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

A Master Plan Brings Your Church Building Vision to Life

Once church leadership has decided on its vision for ministry, the work can begin on creating a church building that works. Master planning is where vision typically leads when it comes to facilities, whether it’s remodeling what exists or building new ones.

Not only is a master plan an excellent way to document where the church’s vision takes the physical plant over time, it is also a way to easily give everyone an idea of what’s possible, and what you hope to accomplish. Well-made master plans can take years to develop. To fully understand how they can impact a church community over time, this post will highlight a case study of a church we began working with about 35 years ago.

A Master Plan Case Study

Way back in 1985, we worked with church leaders to develop this master plan for their church building complex. They were working with 27 acres of property and had a worshipping community of about 400 people.

Notice in the first image how they were dreaming big with their vision for ministry. You can see the church building complex at the bottom of the image, with an expanded worship center to seat 1200, a multi-ministry center, and two education wings. In addition, they had a vision for a Christian school on the property, and an assisted living facility. Both of those projects were slated for the future, but it was important to show the entire master plan at the beginning, so church attendees would have a sense of the broader vision for ministry in the community.

How a Church Building Master Plan Can Change Over Time

Fast forward 27 years. As its vision evolved, the church created a second master plan. Here, you can see that many things have changed. They’ve purchased more land, the footprint of the school has expanded, and they’ve added a number of athletic fields on the newer property. In fact, the church grew so much faster than they expected that they developed a future vision that included a worship center seating 3200 people.

At this point, the assisted living facility was still part of the plan, but it hadn’t yet been built. Instead, the church’s focus was on expansion of their successful Christian school. Later, a developer approached the church about the “practice fields” at the far lower right corner, under the label “Phase VI Preschool.” The developer purchased this land to build its own assisted living facility. So, the church’s vision for ministry to the elderly was still fulfilled, just not in the way it was originally imagined.

Building Excitement about Your Vision

One of the key reasons to develop a church building master plan that illustrates your vision for ministry is to generate excitement in your church. When attendees see what’s possible, they get fired up and on board with what God can do through them. A Christian school that didn’t exist in 1985 now educates 650 children in 12 grades. A vision for ministering to the elderly is now thriving because the church leaders were willing to think creatively about partnering with other organizations in the community.

That original master plan is now 35 years old, but it’s still inspiring because it’s part of this church’s visionary history. To learn more about ways to make your vision a reality, sign up today for our upcoming church building i3 webinars.

2020-06-16T19:19:31+00:00 June 16th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Why Vision Matters in Unifying Everyone Around a Church Building that Works

We spend much time and space in this blog discussing vision and its importance. But what does vision actually do for a church? The answer can be found in other questions, like “How do the people in your church know where the church is going?” or “How do you know if your attendees are on board with the direction?” A strong vision can answer all these questions, while serving as the tool for a church building that works.

Being Part of Something Bigger

As we’ve discussed before, every church needs a vision for ministry in their community. That vision helps everyone get on board with your plans for sharing God’s word with others in your area. When church leaders can capture that vision, and define it, and say, “This is what we’re about,” it helps people know where the church is going while helping attendees to get on board with that vision. Most of all, it helps people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. People sometimes think, “I could never do this,” but when the church is doing it, they can join in and believe, together, that anything is possible.

Being Unified Behind the Vision

Joining together is a critically important component of any church vision process. You need something that unifies people, helps them come together, and gives them a reason to be part of a team. When you can gather people together around a vision, they get to know each other and build relationships. When they know each other, it’s easier to provide support to each other, and to achieve the vision that you’re seeking to fulfill together.

A church without a lot of unity, especially in leadership, will find it hard to get anywhere or accomplish anything. At times, clearly articulating your vision can reveal those who are not in unity with the vision. Sometimes church attendees just go with the flow. Then, when there’s a new vision, a new direction, some of those people can begin to get uncomfortable and ask questions. As a church leader, it’s important to listen, to get a heads-up on who is on board and who’s not. Then you can speak with those people who are struggling with your vision and help them see why it matters, and how to get on board.

Aligning Your Vision with Your Church Building

So, what does all this have to do with your church building? Some church leaders might say they have a vision to reach unchurched people but will then build a church building that meets their own needs, not the needs of the unchurched. Such a church building becomes a place where guests do not feel comfortable, or even welcome.

The right vision allows church leaders to put their church building money where their mouths are. It’s essential to ask why you would take on a ministry when it’s not part of your vision. If it’s not where God is leading you, let it go.

We’ve been doing this church building work for fifty years now. We have developed a solid understanding of the need for a focused and powerful vision for ministry to guide your church building process. To learn more, sign up for our forthcoming free i3 webinars, where we share more wisdom gained from building churches for fifty years.

2020-06-09T18:56:14+00:00 June 9th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach in Finding Your Church Vision

We have been posting a series of articles to help church leaders develop a clear vision for ministry in their community, leading to ways that vision can be reflected in a church building. Our prior post discussed finding ministries that are needed in your community. However, sometimes what’s needed isn’t obvious. At other times, these needs can appear so big that it’s hard to know where to start. In this post, we’ll address how you can refine your church vision in such cases.

Expanding Your Thinking about Your Church Vision

Sometimes it can be hard to see where God is leading you. In part, that’s because sometimes it can be hard to think outside the box—or, in this case, the church building. It’s not always easy to think about things in new ways. This is when it’s best to take things one step at a time.

At other times, you might think you have a clear idea about a church vision for ministry, but you don’t have anyone available to take it on. Your staff has their hands full already, and there’s no one with the time and passion to take it on. The good news is that, when the time is right, God will provide.

Oftentimes, that provision looks like a volunteer coming to you with a passion for something. It might be a passion for kids, or a passion for music, and those passions will fit in well with your church vision. As leaders, it’s then your responsibility to welcome those people, encourage them, build them up, and release them to start building on that vision.

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach

Over time, as that volunteer’s ministry grows, you will likely find that you need more space, resources, and volunteers, in order to help them. Fortunately, growth does take time. That means, as church leaders, you can take a step-by-step approach to meeting those ministry needs. Ask questions like, “How can we grow, and what can we do, for this season or this year?”

It’s important for church leaders not to get a mile ahead of the people they’re leading. If you get too far ahead with your church vision, others can’t see what you see. They can’t visualize the path you’re on. And when they can’t see, they won’t follow. So, it’s okay to take your time. As a leader, you need to have your full church vision in mind, but your role is to show others the next step they have to take at each moment.

Keeping Your Steps Aligned with Your Church Building

Of course, part of keeping that entire vision in mind applies to your church building. Keep asking how your current church building is supporting your church vision and noticing where it does not. Then, you’ll find yourself asking questions about where you are spending your money, and how your next church building can better reflect your vision. Are you going to spend money in achieving ministry space to reach a vision that’s all about you? Because you don’t want a facility that just fits the needs of the people you already have. You want a church building that’s going to bring more people to Christ.

We take a step-by-step approach with many of our free i3 webinars, because we know it’s easier for church leaders to follow our vision for their church building on a step-by-step basis. Learn more about our vision for churches like yours by signing up today for our upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-05-26T18:26:42+00:00 May 26th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Translating Your Church Vision into Specific Ministries

In some of our recent posts, we’ve been taking a close look at how to develop a church vision for ministry and why it matters. Here we’ll shift our emphasis from how you develop a church vision to understanding how the specific ministries in your church building flow from this vision.

Ministries = Strategies

In our view at The McKnight Group, we see ministries as similar to strategies in the business world. Ministries are the specific actions taken to reach people based on your church vision, like the activities you offer in your church building and the choices you make about where to focus your time, energy, and resources to bring people closer to God.

Why Every Church Building Can’t Hold the Same Ministries

As you know, there are a lot of churches in just about every community in America today. If every church in each town had exactly the same ministries, a lot of diverse needs would not be met. For example, families with young children have different ministry needs than couples whose children have left the nest and are striking out on their own.

So, once you’ve decided on a church vision, you need to take a look at what other churches in your community are already doing. If you decide to minister to families with young children, is the need in the community being met by an existing good weekday childcare programs at other churches nearby? If so, you don’t want to start one that would put your church in competition with others in the area. Instead, you might choose to focus instead on a MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) program.

Examples of Specific Ministries that Can Fulfill Your Church Vision

Once you know which people you want to reach, begin to brainstorm the types of ministries that will meet their needs. Working parents might welcome an after-school program, but empty-nesters will have no interest in it. Single parents will have different needs from couples, and younger adults will have different interests than older ones.

Your church building is another important element to discerning the specific ministries that you should choose in fulfilling your church vision. Do you have meeting space to help address the social needs of your community? Perhaps your church vision involves addressing issues like homelessness or drug addiction. If God’s leading you to think more broadly about how your church building can become an effective community resource, new ministries like these can help bring new people into your church building, and potentially into your worship as well.

Every church’s situation is unique, but church building projects usually encounter similar challenges. This is why we began sharing our free i3 webinars about how to develop a church vision, and to construct or renovate a church building to help fulfill that vision. To learn more, sign up for our upcoming i3 webinars today.


2020-05-19T20:14:05+00:00 May 19th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Three Questions for Defining a Clear Vision for Your Church Building

Sometimes, even for church leaders, it can be difficult to find the right words. One such time is when you need to clearly and concisely define a church vision for ministry in your community. If you ever find yourself struggling to better define and articulate your church’s vision, here are some questions that–once answered–will help you do just that.

Who Are You Trying to Reach with Your Church Vision?

The best place to start with defining a clear church vision is with the question of who you are trying to reach. The answer will be different for each church. Some will say they want to reach everybody. That is the great commission however in our society that can prove exceedingly difficult because different people have different ways to connect with God and different experiences in a church.

Here are some possible answers to this question. You could be trying to reach Generation Y or Millennials. You could be focusing on young singles, or families with young children. You might want to reach unchurched people. You could be focused on seekers, or on those who don’t even realize they need God in their lives. Once you define what types of people you want to draw into your church building, you’re ready for the next question.

How Do You Reach Them with Your Church Design?

Next, it’s time to explore how to reach them. Take, for example, families with young children – to reach them, you need to know their needs. You could speak with parents with young children who are already in your church and find out (1) what drew them to your church building and (2) what they need from your church.

One possible need for these parents might include a weekday preschool program. If there isn’t another preschool program nearby, starting one at your church might draw in other families with young children. If that’s too much of a stretch for your budget, you might be flexible by starting with a Mother’s Day Out ministry that provides a safe place for children to play, and the chance for their mothers to attend bible study. Also consider fathers, and perhaps whether Father-Son activities could bring more families into your church.

What Church Building and Program Changes Do You Need to Make This Happen?

Once you have a clear church vision for who you’re trying to reach, and you know what they need and are looking for, then you can begin to assess how your church building and programs can work together to meet those needs. For example, if you’ve got an older church building that has some excess school rooms left over from half a century ago, might you plan some remodeling and set up a preschool in that building?

Of course, in newer church buildings, there may not be space for such a plan. In that case, you might look for other ways that your church building and property can support your church vision. Perhaps you can install a basketball court or baseball diamond to attract fathers and sons for weekend games. Maybe it’s time to expand a small part of your church building to add an indoor play area for preschool children, near an existing room that their mothers can use for bible study.

As you can see, answering questions like these can be very helpful in focusing your attention to define a better church vision. We’ve discovered the answers to a lot of questions over fifty years of building churches. To hear what else we’ve learned, sign up today for one of our upcoming free i3 webinars.

2020-05-12T18:36:05+00:00 May 12th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Connecting Your Church Building with Your Vision for Ministry

Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, your church vision for ministry in your community influences the choices you make about what you do for worship on Sunday and how you use your church building to support what you envision. This is why every church needs a good, concrete, and up-to-date vision.

This is the definition we use for church vision: a clear, shared, and compelling picture of the preferred future into which God is calling your congregation. While God seems to always be calling us forward, what vision is, or isn’t, is not the same for everyone.

Your Church Vision is Not by Committee

Every church has the same mission, to lead people into a saving relationship with Christ. However, each church will do that differently, and each church building will support that mission in different ways. A church vision needs to address the culture and demographics of the community and those who attend the church. (This is one place where a mismatched or outdated church building can definitely hinder the fulfillment of your church vision.)

It also has to mesh with the spiritual gifts of the church leadership. This is why you should not borrow another church’s vision for ministry. The vision needs to meet the needs of the folks where your church building is located. Ultimately, a church vision comes through prayer, not handing out a survey to the congregation. It is God-given, not wrestled out during committee meetings as a compromise between multiple human agendas.

Focus on Methods, Not Message, and Include Your Church Building

Pastor and author, Rick Warren says that we should never confuse the methods with the message. The message must never change, but the methods must change with each new generation. No vision is eternal. This is why church leaders must tie theirs to a clear understanding of what needs to change in their programs, outreach, and church building. Only then will the church speak with a unified vision.

The shut down and stay in place orders of COVID 19 clearly illustrate just how important the need for change can be. Most churches were forced to change within a week or two. Now many churches have ways of reaching people that they didn’t think they could just a month or two ago. 

Understanding the Church Vision Life Cycle

So, if the methods must change for the message to be effective, it is important to understand the life cycle of every church vision. What happens when you achieve your church vision? We might think the church doesn’t die, but some churches do.

When a church reaches their vision, people stop striving to go above and beyond. They can think they’ve reached the mountaintop and they become complacent. That’s when a focus on comfort and the status quo starts to creep in. Once a vision is reached, over time, the energy for that vision fades away.

The good news is that God then gives a new vision, a new direction, to someone in the church leadership. It’s important to recognize that this will happen and to be ready for it, and be open to His direction, even including major changes to a church building.

With that new vision comes a new energy, which helps everyone move forward. It is that energy that we wish to support with our free i3 webinars, where we share the information you need to develop the best church vision for your community and to remodel or construct the best church building to support that vision.

2020-04-28T19:37:24+00:00 April 28th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

How to Avoid Stagnation with an Outward-Looking Vision for Your Church Building

A vibrant and compelling church vision for ministry is critical to reaching people in your community. It’s something we frequently mention. Over time, however, church leaders and attendees can lose touch with their church’s vision and become satisfied with—even attached to—the status quo. This can lead to stagnation in your church building and among your church leaders.

Recently, one of our free i3 webinars focused on how to create a strong church vision, including what happens when churches just maintain the status quo.

What’s Wrong with Being Comfortable in Your Church Building?

We all like things that make us comfortable, be they soft jeans, worn-in shoes, or a worship service that’s familiar and makes us feel at home. While there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with being comfortable, it can lead to complacency and stagnation. This is what happens when people are happy to show up, week after week, at your church building, expecting the same thing, over and over. Without a clear and compelling church vision, we become comfortable with the status quo and the church can stop growing in Christ.

What’s Wrong with the Status Quo?

The problem with the status quo is that it’s about “me.” In the words of Tom Rainer, Founder and CEO of Church Answers, “’It’s all about me’ is the anthem of the dying church.” It’s the song we sing when we don’t want anything to change. It can happen when we like our church building the way it is, for example, even if that church building appears outdated and doesn’t look inviting to potential guests who are seeking for community and meaning, and a way to connect with people on a Sunday morning. Unless church leaders and attendees can turn the focus outward, onto Christ and a community that’s hungry for Christ, Christianity won’t thrive.

What’s the Answer to an Effective Church Vision?

George Barna, founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm that specializes in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, as well as  the intersection of faith and culture, says that, “the things that got you where you are today will not be the things you need to get where you need to be tomorrow. In order for the American church to survive, it must reach into the community with outwardly focused ministries.” Rather than worrying about how to maintain what you currently have—in terms of church building and programs—you need to be reaching for something beyond what you currently have. That’s where a compelling church vision comes in.

There are many different types of church building examples around North America, ranging back over 200 years. But ministry has changed quite a bit over those 200 years and reaching people has changed a lot from when each old church building was built. This means there are a lot of facilities that speak to yesterday instead of representing the vision of a church for tomorrow that’s compelling and exciting. In order to bring guests into your church community, you need a rousing church vision, and a building that shares that vision, to draw them in.

In future articles, we will discuss the elements of a compelling church vision that can help your church to avoid stagnation. We know what works because we’ve been constructing church buildings for fifty years. Sign up today for our free i3 webinars, where we share more of the wisdom we have learned from that half-century of church design experience.

2020-04-21T20:26:45+00:00 April 21st, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Responding to Some of Your Church Building and Design Questions

Most of the time, in both this blog and our free i3 webinars, we give you information we hope will help support your church building and remodeling projects. This time around, however, we’re going to switch things up and take instead of give—take your questions, that is.

Sources of Your Church Building Questions

In our i3 webinar series, we share a lot of useful information about the latest trends, as well as our ideas and suggestions for best practices in church design and construction. After the webinars are over, we frequently get questions.

Some of those questions are very specific—related to particular situations in which church leaders are ministering—but sometimes they’re general enough that the answers can be beneficial for everyone. In the spirit of getting the information out, read on for answers to two of your questions on recent topics we’ve covered both in our i3 webinars and here in our blog posts.

Can a Church Vision Be Too Broad?

The first question we’ll address relates to the scope of one’s church vision. It arose in response to our church vision series, where we discuss the importance of crafting the best vision for your ministry so that a church design can be created to specifically meet the needs of that vision.

The question reads as follows: “Is it important to define your vision as specifically as possible? Can it be too narrow, or too broad?”

We believe the best church visions are broad, not narrow. Also, there is a subtle, but very important, difference between being clear and concise about your vision versus being overly narrow and specific.

You don’t want to leave people out of your vision because you focused it too narrowly. The best way to find that sweet spot between broad and narrow is to try out your church vision message on the leaders in your church and see if it attracts interest, attention, and energy. If your vision resonates with your leaders and they get excited about it, you’ve got a right-sized church vision.

What Is the Trend in Church Design for Seating?

The second query we’ll address, generated by our discussion of church building trends, is about worship center seating. This is a complex issue in many churches, because a church’s history and tradition can challenge modern church design priorities.

Here’s the question: “We have pews and are thinking of changing to theater seating. What is the trend, and what are the advantages? I’ve also heard that, practically speaking, you can fit in more people with theater seating, since they’re willing to sit closer.”

Certainly this church leader is right about people being willing to sit closer with individual seats than with pews. With pews, people like to have space between each other, and often place a Bible or purse on the pew to ensure that space. With individual chairs—whether stackable or theater seating—people are willing to sit in one seat and be comfortable with someone sitting in the chair next to them.

There are important differences between theater seats and stackable seating. With either, you will gain about 15 to 20 percent in seating capacity compared to pews. However, theater seats are much more expensive: $250-$275 for theater seats versus $50-$100 for stackable seating (with wooden chairs being more expensive than metal ones).

If you have a flat floor in your church building, we recommend stackable seating for its flexibility. If your church design has a sloped floor, you will be locked into theater seating as a replacement for pews.

Answering Your Call

Our free i3 webinars are filled with practical, useful information like this. To learn the latest about church design trends and best practices in church building, visit our home page and register for any webinars that catch your interest. And keep those questions coming—we’re happy to help.

2018-05-22T15:05:58+00:00 May 22nd, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Dream Your Church Vision: Phasing in Your Church Design

We’ve covered much lately about the importance of a church vision for ministry. The examples we’ve shown illustrate how church leaders can use their vision to transform ministry opportunities in the community through a well-thought-out church design.

Clearly, a church vision is a powerful thing—it can inform designs, building trends, even the future of a community, as you will see below. In case you’re having a hard time articulating your church’s vision, below you’ll also find some basic, but fundamental, questions for kick-starting your own visioning process.  

What if Money Wasn’t an Obstacle?

Here are two questions we feel are very important to ask, especially at the beginning of any church visioning process:

  • If you knew you could not fail, what would you do for the glory of God?
  • If you knew that money was not an obstacle, what would you do to build God’s kingdom?

We at The McKnight Group emphasize the importance of having an expansive vision for the future of your church, because we know that if it’s not broad enough, you might end up short-changing what’s possible. The example below illustrates how a comprehensive vision can enhance a ministry’s potential.

Church Design and Vision: The Master Plan for Grove City Church

We’ve been working with Grove City Church of the Nazarene in Grove City, Ohio, for a long time. Back in 1985, they averaged about 400 in attendance, purchased a 27-acre “blank canvas,” and had this master plan. As you can see, they started by thoughtfully designing the important multi-use church buildings at the bottom of the plan. They also had a grand church vision for much more, including a Christian school and an assisted living facility.

This second master plan was developed years later. At this point, they’ve purchased additional property and expanded their church vision to include a high school, lots of athletic fields, and an enlarged mission for their assisted living facility. Also, because they’ve focused on the needs of the community, their church has grown so much that this master plan includes a 3,200-seat worship center.

Expand Your Own Vision

While the images above aren’t your typical before-and-after photos, they clearly illustrate what can be done when church leaders have a clear vision for the future of their ministry in the community.

That’s also why we encourage you to sign up for our free i3 webinars, where our photos and discussions of church design and other topics give you a clear vision for what’s possible. Just go to our home page, where you can sign up for the webinars that interest you. And if you haven’t had a recent conversation in your church about your vision for the future, consider doing so—it could be transformative.

2018-05-15T17:00:26+00:00 May 15th, 2018|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|