News/Blog

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|

The McKnight Group’s Church Design Podcast: VP of Architecture Philip Tipton’s Story

It’s officially been 50 years since The McKnight Group started in September 1970. We are commemorating our anniversary with a podcast that shares the group’s church building history and stories of the company. In this post, we introduce the second of two men who are key to the second generation of leaders at The McKnight Group: Philip Tipton, our Vice President of Architecture.

Getting a Very Early Start in Church Design

Philip Tipton is from a family that has often received God’s calling. He’s the son of a pastor and many of his family members have been pastors and foreign missionaries. That wasn’t Philip’s calling, however, and his family didn’t push him into ministry. In Philip’s words, “My parents really just wanted me to do what God wanted me to do, whatever that was.” For him, that was architecture. In our podcast, he shares how: “I was doing a lot of sketching and drawing as a kid. I actually had a Bible that had diagrams of Solomon’s temple and Herod’s temple and drew those temple designs over and over and over, dozens of times, as a little kid. Even all the way back then I was interested in church design.”

Fortunately for Philip, his high school had an internship program where students could spend time in the office of a profession that sparked their interest. At the time, his father was having some building design done at The McKnight Group, and that led Philip to spend three days with the McKnight Group architects—days that just reinforced his desire to get into church design.

Learning about Church Building from the Ground Up

Philip shares his process of finding the right college in our podcast, and you can hear him tell that story there. He decided to study at the University of Cincinnati, and their six-year program included alternating quarters of internships and coursework. He approached Homer McKnight and asked about working in the office, but Homer suggested that Philip needed to learn about the church building process from the ground up.

So, Philip spent his first two internship quarters in church building field construction. In Philip’s words, Homer thought it would be best to “have an appreciation for the difficulties they face in the field, and just understanding that side of it before I began to work on drawings. And that was very wise.” This was also when Philip met David McKnight who would become instrumental in Philip’s future with The McKnight Group.

That’s because one day, when David was visiting the job site, he asked Philip about his plans. Philip told him that there wasn’t room for him to complete his third internship in The McKnight Group architecture office, so he was going to have to find a spot somewhere else. David mentioned this to his dad who opened up a place for Philip. As a result, Philip completed all his internships at The McKnight Group and joined full-time once he finished his degree.

The Pathway to Leadership for Philip Tipton

In this podcast, Philip shares the history of his early employment at The McKnight Group, and how he progressed, how his being an active member of a church helps him understand what a church needs and how those needs can change over time. Learn more about Philip’s journey at The McKnight Group in our Pathways podcast and stay tuned for more 50th anniversary episodes.

2020-10-19T17:48:07+00:00 September 29th, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

The 2nd Generation: More on the 50-Year Church Building Story of the McKnight Group

September 1970, fifty years ago this month, is when Homer McKnight launched The McKnight Group. As we commemorate our 50th anniversary, we present more about the company’s history through a limited-edition church building podcast. In the episode of the podcast titled “Pathways,” we learn about the second generation of church building leaders at The McKnight Group, starting with current President David McKnight.

Getting an Early Church Building Start at the McKnight Group

In the episode, David tells the story of how he first began working on church building projects during summer break in high school—and how no one liked him because, in his words, “I was the owner’s son and a teenager who didn’t know anything.” Fortunately, he experienced a lot, doing everything from foundations to roofing, and pushing the broom (because construction sites always need to be carefully cleaned).

During college, David got into radio and television, and thought he would pursue that career—but, as he says, “something wasn’t sitting right” with the idea. As he mulled it over, he realized that what he really wanted to do was ask his father if he could major in business and come work for The McKnight Group full-time. Homer McKnight was enthusiastic about the idea, so David finished his degree and entered The McKnight Group office.

Learning Church Design and Building by Example

As David recounts in the podcast, the shift from field to office took a while. He had a lot to learn about the church building construction process from the office and management side. Fortunately, as David notes, “My dad, the way he teaches is by example, so I was just spending a lot of time with him, learning how to handle situations, different issues that come up, how to plan, how to do all that.”

Eventually, David realized that his father “could do only so much himself. [But] the way God wired me is I’m an organizational person. I can see organization and put things into categories and put things into processes.” He began to create systems and processes for all aspects of the church building projects and worked with church leaders to think about their own processes and how those would impact church design and construction.

Recognizing How God Uses Everything in Our Lives

David’s college days spent studying radio and television didn’t go to waste either. As he began consulting with churches on their multi-ministry buildings, he recognized how all his understanding of audio, video, and lighting systems would come in very handy in the church design process. In the podcast, he shares stories of how his personal volunteer work with his church, building Easter and Christmas program sets and serving as lighting director, taught him even more about what churches need for effective audiovisual church design.

Listen to the full podcast to learn about an influential book and how it led David to dive into leadership development, personal development, going to conferences, talking with other people to understand the ins and outs of leadership, and more.

We hope you’re enjoying these windows into the history of The McKnight Group. You’ll find the entire podcast series here. Next post, we’ll feature another of the next generation of The McKnight Group leaders: Philip Tipton.

2020-10-19T17:52:19+00:00 September 22nd, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Answering Some Church Building Interior Design Questions

From time to time, we share questions and answers from our free i3 webinars so church leaders can learn from others facing similar situations. Recently, our Interior Design expert Jennifer Snider answered participants’ questions about different aspects of church design interior finishes, including interior walls and design renderings. For those of you who might have missed this webinar, below are Jennifer’s responses to these questions.

We also invite your interior design and church building questions at any time. We are happy to talk about the scope of your church design project and the best way to approach your new church building or remodeling plans. Perhaps we can help you determine the resources you would need. To request a consultation, simply reach out to us by phone at 800-625-6448 or by email at request@mcknightgroup.com.

Question 1: Should Church Building Ceiling and Wall Textures Be the Same or Different?

The short answer is that there’s not necessarily any firm rule about it. Depending on the size of your church building, you may have ceilings of different materials, such as acoustical tile, alongside a smooth wall finish. Depending on how old your church building is—if, for example, you’re doing a renovation to update an older building—you might have popcorn drywall ceilings. We typically see a preference to smooth out those older ceilings.

Most church leaders’ preferences, at least in the Midwest, are for a smooth wall surface and a smooth ceiling surface, both of which are drywall. However, there are parts of the country where textured walls are more common. Texture is also an easier finish to complete and can be a nice way to hide an uneven surface during remodeling. In terms of your budget, if you’re going to have a smooth finish on your ceiling, you will likely need to spend a little bit more money to get an experienced dry-waller who can work at a level sufficient to prevent any seams or imperfections showing.

Question 2: Stone or Wood Accent Wall: Which Will Last Longer, in Terms of Style?

Wood has become really popular lately, especially the barn wood look or the pallet wood accent walls. From a longevity standpoint, in terms of church design, we believe that stone is going to have a longer life. Some of the wood looks are trendier, whereas stone is a natural product that always has that same test-of-time look to it. So, between the two, for longevity of style, it’s preferable to integrate stone accent walls into your interior design.

Question 3: Do We Need an Interior Design Rendering in Our Church Design Portfolio?

We do always recommend at least some interior design rendering. It is very helpful for people to be able to see what the proposed church building space would look like on the inside as well as the exterior. So, a rendering may be an important option to consider when you’re preparing to present your church building project to your congregation. It helps everyone buy in to your new church design and more easily connect with your church vision for the space.

As we mentioned, these good questions came from one of our free i3 webinars. Sign up for our upcoming webinars to learn more about church building and design and to ask questions of your own.

2020-09-15T20:51:00+00:00 September 15th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Interior Design|

The Influence of Missions: More on the 50-Year Church Design Story of the McKnight Group

The McKnight Group is commemorating its 50th year in business in 2020. We have introduced a podcast reflecting on our history as part of the commemoration. In episode four, The Mission Trips, we share how Homer McKnight, our Founder, first realized the importance of creating church design that helps the church building become a tool for ministry in the community. His mission trips drastically changed the way The McKnight Group designed and developed each church building and became a catalyst for a major trend in new church facilities. Here are some highlights from the podcast episode.

A Different Kind of Vacation

By 1974, Homer McKnight had been working hard to grow his company for 4 years straight. As Homer admits, “I hadn’t taken a family vacation, a break, done anything other than build the company and do what we started out to do for four years.” Then his wife heard that the central district of their church was planning a mission trip to Haiti and needed volunteers. When she suggested this to Homer, he first shrugged it off. “I don’t have time to do that. We haven’t had a vacation. I don’t even have a weekend off. How can I go to Haiti for two weeks?”

But it seems that Mrs. McKnight didn’t relent in wanting to join the trip. Eventually, he gave in and went to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. He’d never left the USA before, or saw communities where the vast majority of people were illiterate and had no jobs. For Homer, it was a life-changing experience. To hear more about what it was like, listen to the podcast. For this article, however, the important thing to know is that Homer was hooked.

Understanding How a Church Building Functions in Haiti

Part of what engaged Homer was the fact that the church building in these small Haitian towns served the “hub of the village.” It was usually the only permanent building, constructed by mission groups like Homer’s. It wasn’t just used for Sunday mornings, like each church building that Homer was building back home. Instead, the church building served also as a meeting place, a storm shelter, and a clinic when doctors came to the village.

For Homer, this was a revelation. He saw how a church building could function as a key tool for ministry within a community. He began to realize that his business experience as an architect, contractor, and successful company owner gave him the wisdom to help with church design and construction around the world. But he was worried that if he spent more time on missions, his church building business would suffer. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and he explains why in the podcast.

Innovating Church Design Back Home in the US

Homer McKnight had a second revelation from his mission trips to Haiti. He began to ask why church buildings in America were not used as a community hub too. When he would meet with teams at various churches, he would find them focused only on the worship space. In his words, “as I would meet with church boards and building committees, they were arguing for hours over the color in the stained-glass window or the color of the carpet or the padded pews.”

God then gave Homer the opportunity to transform how his own church building could be used. Grove City Church of the Nazarene was relocating. As a member of the board, Homer told them, “We need a building that’s going to allow us to meet the needs of Grove City, Ohio, and our youth. “God gave me a vision,” he explained, and he went home to create a church design that would become a transformative tool for ministry and lead to many more such church projects in the future.

Over a 50-year history, Homer McKnight and The McKnight Group have been involved with hundreds of mission trips to help build churches internationally. To learn more about how those experiences helped forge the vision of the company for churches here in America, listen to the full podcast here.

2020-10-19T18:03:15+00:00 September 1st, 2020|50th Anniversary, Church Building, Church Design|

Bright Options for Children’s Interior Design in Your Church Building

Usually we know it immediately when we enter the children’s space in a church building. The colors are vibrant, the themes are bright and energetic, and the furnishings are designed to be attractive to children. For children’s areas to be both fun and successful, it’s important to understand what’s possible, and within your budget, with interior design for children’s spaces in your church building. It’s also important to appreciate how a church design that includes attractive children’s spaces will draw families to your church building.

An Interior Design with Bold Colors Sends a Bright Message

If families with young children are searching for a church home, parents will want to know that you are investing in children’s ministry. One easy and relatively inexpensive way to do this is to decorate the walls of the children’s area in your church building with bold colors.

As you can see in this image from Evangelical United Methodist Church in Greenville, Ohio, you don’t want to be afraid to use color. While the colors in the worship space of your church building will be muted in order to focus attention on the message of Christ, children are drawn to bright colors. The use of color here draws children in and tells their families that you are investing in the next generation. Even the furnishings echo those bright colors and create a welcoming theme with little additional investment.

Another advantage of this simple, but clear, use of color in your interior design is that it’s just paint, so it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to repair or update. This means that if your budget is limited, you can still create and maintain an inviting children’s area in your church building.

Improving Your Children’s Area Church Design by Stages

If you’ve got a little more money to work with, you can set the basic point for your children’s area and improve it in stages over time. Here at Blue Grass United Methodist Church in Evanston, Indiana, we began with a simple paint job of blue sky and green grass. The clouds, tree, and children in the scene are graphics applied to these walls. In this way, you can get started on a theme with a limited budget, then add additional graphics over time. With a basic wood-look floor and cheery outdoor scene, children and their parents are drawn in toward the check-in station, then to the brightly colored classroom doors.

Making Your Church Building a Magnet for Children

If you can make a more major investment in the interior design of your children’s spaces, consider floor-to-ceiling wall graphics. As you can see in this photo from Crossview Church in Grabill, Indiana, there are bold and engaging graphics available with biblical themes. In this interior design, you can see toward the rear of the image that we also integrated flooring with a water-like appearance and a check-in desk fashioned like a ship. With a holistic view toward children’s church design, you can make a bold statement to all guests that children’s ministry is an integral part of your church vision.

Whether it’s a bold and fun space with color, a wall-graphic based theme, or a more dramatic theme for the entire children’s area with 3-dimensional elements, interior design for your children’s space should clearly fit in with your vision of ministry with children. To learn more about other aspects of interior design and your church building, sign up today for our free i3 webinars.

2020-08-25T19:37:50+00:00 August 25th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Interior Design|