Additions with Limitations
Churches across this great country are constantly faced with the difficult reality of limited space. As the face of ministry changes, the need for more and more space increases. The biggest problem always challenging the church is one simple fact: the needs always outweigh the budget! Understanding which ministry requires what space and how they all prioritize within the church’s strategic plan, can be confusing and even frustrating to figure out. However, don’t fear, there are a few simple steps that a church can follow to relieve some of the frustration.
First, a properly detailed facility audit can be extremely useful. Carefully note each space within the existing church facilities. Be sure to document the space sizes, ministry use(s), days and times the space is used, and any relevant adjacent spaces. Secondly, prepare a list of current ministries and attendance for at least the last three years, preferably five. Also prepare a list of new and future ministries, being visionary for the next 10-20 years. This exercise is very important to the development of the church’s comprehensive strategic plan. Projections for possible attendance can be made related to historical data already collected. Finally, the additional space required for ministries can be determined.
The important key is that the existing facilities must be scrutinized for efficient use of space. Too many churches do not use their space efficiently. With some simple restructuring of existing ministry programs and logistics, churches can provide extended life to current spaces. This process may help churches avoid building renovated or new facilities too soon, or even worse, building facilities they don’t even need.
The Real Deal
Sheffield Family Life Center sits tightly in the inner-city of Kansas City, Missouri. This well rooted church is a multicultural, multiracial metropolitan church that has remained a ministry mainstay to the inner-city, despite the challenges of their restrictive property. When it came time to expand their facilities, the church was committed to staying downtown and continuing to minister to both local residents and the rest of their congregation. Members and visitors travel up to a 120 mile radius from the church to attend and experience life-changing ministry. Staying downtown, however, presented some design and construction challenges.
Being in the inner-city, the church had a limited amount of property and the property was also plagued with environmental and city governing restrictions. For example, the required amount of building area that was determined to be needed filled the site from property line to property line. In fact, more building was needed than available site, thus multi-story was the solution. Certain interior spaces had to sacrifice their true space needs for another space that otherwise would not have gotten any space at all! Another encumbrance was an existing city street that divided the property in half. Although the street was not actually used as such, the church did not own the property. Intense processes to vacate this street from the city were used and ultimately return the property ownership to the church. Unfortunately, the massive amount of public utilities that traveled underground beneath the street could not feasibly be relocated. However, the church bridged this difficulty and connected their two buildings with an elevated skywalk, an enhancing design feature both inside and out. Finally, environmental concerns had to be addressed, since a portion of the site used to be a construction debris land fill. The site had to be vented due to possible chemical emissions from buried debris and major subgrade preparation was required, prior to foundation placement.
The church was led through an intensive facility evaluation and audit, analyzing both current and future ministry needs, space needs, and space utilization. The very process as described earlier in this article provided the church a verbal description of their facility before ever drawing a line. Based on this process, it was determined which prioritized ministries needed additional space and which ones could continue to use existing
Unique to an urban setting, this new Worship Center building addition to Sheffield Family Life Center, Kansas City’s largest Assembly of God church included two new main entrances and a 180 foot long unloading drive colonnade. A large Fellowship Foyer welcomes everyone and leads attendees to the new state-of-the-art, 3,500 seat Sanctuary. Equipped with all-digital audio-visual equipment and high-end theatrical capabilities, this new Worship Center addition reinforces the church’s Christ-centered mission. A complete television studio, audio recording studio, video production studio and audio production suite were included with this project.
The two-story Education/Administration building addition to Sheffield Family Life Center included a new weekday main entrance and two-story lobby adjacent to a 10,000 square foot Office/Administration complex. Also included were new nursery, children and adult education facilities. This allowed existing space previously used by these ministry groups to be reallocated to other growing ministries. These spaces were remodeled to accommodate the ministry style of its new inhabitants. The facilities are connected with a 60 foot long enclosed skywalk. A 500 seat Chapel and Fellowship Dining Hall with kitchen was also a part of this project.
As new spaces are identified, it is important for the space amenities of all ministries to be incorporated. Audio-visual aspects have become increasingly important to the design and success of ministry spaces. Acoustic Dimensions, based in Dallas, Texas served as consultants on the acoustical, audio-visual, and theatrical components of this project. The direction given to Acoustic Dimensions was to provide a design for a medium-power, full-range sound system. The design includes three discrete clusters in a left, center, right configuration, at a height of approximately 32 feet above the stage level. Rear-screen video projection is used in the Sanctuary for image-magnification video, sermon and worship support. There are two 18 feet x 13 feet, 6 inch screens—one on each side of the platform. The screens were carefully integrated into the overall design of the Sanctuary to ensure clean sight lines. Multiple locations across the platform support the use of curtains, providing flexibility for the variety of venues.
Renovation and Addition Considerations
It is vitally important that churches considering an addition or renovations to its facility very clearly define its needs and budget. As discussed above, churches need to do an exhaustive facility audit and needs assessment. Objective thought should be given in the evaluation of how effectively existing space is being used. Prioritize the ministry needs of the future, outlining a road map of when certain spaces will be needed to meet ministry growth. Finally, churches should spend quality time researching their financial capabilities and have a good, solid foundation for a design and construction budget. Together, these two elements, design and construction, make the total project cost.
In addition to programming and budgets, the master plan is critically important. All churches build in phases, thus the church should be visionary in its ministries. They should take into account all of the ministries that the church facilities will be used for, not just today, but in the future. All facility additions should be located appropriately and phased at the right time. The overall goal here is that the entire campus seems as if it were all built at the same time. Buildings are properly zoned and located in a sensible flow for effective circulation and the aesthetic appearance blends from one building addition to another.
For example, at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri their 65 acre master plan included a 3,000 seat worship center and large fellowship foyer, which they call the Connection Center. This space is very large and acts as an exhibit hall to all the over 100 ministries in the church. The Connection Center is the “hub” of the church campus with all other facilities radiated from this point of “connection”. The mission statement of the church is “Connecting people with God and Others” which is directly reinforced through the design of their facilities. Proper zoning of space for different ministries within the church is critically important. At Community Covenant Church in Lenexa, Kansas, the entire nursery, preschool, and children’s wing is directly located off the fellowship foyer and adjacent to the main auditorium space. This arrangement is very appealing and comforting to young parents with small children, especially first-time visitors. The youth ministry, known as “The Tank”, related to Christ’s command that he will make us fishers of men, has space that is located remotely from other spaces within the facility. This provided the youth a sense of connection with the church as a whole, but also a sense of independence and expression. Like the children’s wing, this space is themed and decorated in a creative manner that identifies their individual ministry and emphasis.
Bringing it All Together
The proper professional leadership is needed to bring it all together. In order to begin this entire process correctly, it is extremely important for the church to choose an architect and contractor with extensive church design and building experience. In 2003, according to McGraw-Hill Construction Network, churches across the country cumulatively spent $21 billion in church development, and church construction rose by 14 percent from the previous year. Churches spend a considerable amount of money on facilities, new ones, as well as additions and renovations. It only makes sense and ultimately saves churches lots of “cents”, to utilize companies that specialize in church design and construction. An important perspective that is too often over looked or not taken seriously.
Published in CHURCH EXECUTIVE, April 2005