By Dawn Allcot

In 2006, Lead Pastor Jason St. John and other leaders at Evangel Temple Assembly of God church in Kansas City, Mo., evaluated their growth patterns, predicting three years into the future, and it became clear they needed to expand—particularly in the space available for children’s ministry and in adult classrooms.

Business Administrator Tim Murlatt explains the extensive process that helped the church determine its future needs: “We broke down every area: early childhood, nursery, youth, adults, bathrooms, lobby, foyer space, kitchen, parking lot, storage. We evaluated our rate of growth and said, in X number of years, at this percentage of growth, where will these different areas be?”

The church deemed areas with room for growth as “green light.” Areas that were close to capacity got a yellow light. But areas that needed more space immediately got a red light. “As we went down the list,” Murlatt says, “it was amazing that so many areas were in red lights. We had already known it, but now we had tangible proof.”

Murlatt is quick to note that the church is grateful for the problem. “God has been doing some awesome things in our church, and we’ve been growing exponentially. People are really grabbing onto the vision we have for loving God, loving others and serving the world.”

Church leadership understood that if they didn’t take immediate steps to accommodate the growth, it might be capped as they ran out of space. The church went back to its original building plans, which called for an education and children’s worship wing coming off the side of the main building.

A capital campaign with purpose

With the help of Capstone Resources Inc. of Nixa, Mo., a church building consulting firm where Murlatt also happens to work, Evangel Temple established a three-year capital campaign called “The Journey,” with the goal of building a new wing. The new wing includes a fellowship hall/multi-purpose room with dividers so the space can be used as adult education classrooms, a kitchen, bistro, choir rehearsal room, K-5 education space, additional adult classroom space, a children’s worship facility (also a multi-purpose room), and a game room/ lounge for children’s ministry.

The project cost $4.2 million in total. Murlatt was pleased to share that the building project was completed within budget—and the church even came in under budget in some areas.

All this, in spite of challenges that included matching new construction to a building erected in 1980, and poor soil conditions and sloping land that required unique site design solutions on the part of the architect, Kansas City, Mo.-based Mantel Teter Architects. Harmon Construction, also based in Kansas City, completed the building project, while Mission Electronics, also of Kansas City, installed audio-visual and lighting systems throughout the space.

Sloping terrain, mounting challenges

Mantel Teter’s Brian Rathsam, project architect, describes one of the key challenges in the early stages of the project. “The addition was located on a sloping hillside with multi-level grade access, which worked well for the function of the building, but required unique site design solutions to accommodate less than desirable soil conditions in an economical manner.”

Rathsam continues, “The sloping site required a combination of retaining walls and exposed stem walls [or concrete retaining walls that come off the corner of the foundation] around the perimeter of the building to achieve the lower level walk-out condition while keeping modifications to existing grades at a minimum.”

Rather than replacing the undesirable soil and replacing it with engineered fill, the architect used drilled piers and grade beams instead of typical footing/foundation construction.

The other key challenge, according to Rathsam, was “to successfully connect a pre-engineered building system with a conventionally constructed existing facility.” It was important to the church that the building look cohesive. To accomplish this on the building’s exterior, a portion of the existing brick veneer was stained to mimic the brick on the new building. Synthetic stucco details were added to the original building to blend cohesively with the new façade.

Within the building, the older portions were painted to reflect the style and color scheme of the new wing. Carpeting from the construction project was laid in the hallways and on the stairs in the existing building to give it an updated look. “We didn’t want it to look like an old and a new building,” Murlatt says. “The contractor and architect did a phenomenal job.”

Rathsam adds, “The current facilities … needed a refreshing appearance to match the young staff and refreshed ministry direction and vision of the church.” 

A growing children’s ministry = a growing church

The new wing includes a fellowship hall and a bistro, but a large part of the expansion focused on children’s ministry.

“Children are a driving force behind the growth of adults in worship,” Rathsam says. “The ability of the children’s area to excite and encourage growth in the ministry is key to a healthy church.”

He notes that important trends in children’s worship spaces include security, ease of circulation, and areas for kids to connect with each other and have fun. The children’s ministry wing at Evangel Temple exemplifies each of these trends.

The check-in area for the children’s ministry is located in the foyer of the lower level inside the East main entrance. The space has controlled ingress and egress to avoid visitors and students co-mixing during the check-in and check-out process. Only children and staff may enter the education wing.

Behind the manned check-in desk are large windows looking into the game room. Flanking the windows are large television screens, showing a live security camera feed from every classroom.

Murlatt explains: “The entire area tells visitors: This place is fun. They care about me. And they also care about my children’s safety.” He adds that the security cameras and monitors should deter anyone who may enter the church with the wrong intentions or wrongful motives.

The wing was designed with “safe open spaces” in mind. Even the bathrooms lack main doors, and the light cannot be turned off in the bathroom areas. “We’re preventing people from taking a kid into a dark room behind closed doors.” 

In addition to the security feed, the wing includes distributed sound through each of the classrooms, the game room, and the hallways, by means of Armstrong ceiling speakers and a PA system.

A children’s worship center goes multi-purpose

The 150-seat children’s worship center sits at the north end of the main corridor and was designed as a multi-purpose space. Murlatt says original plans called for concrete, stadium-style seating, but the church realized that would lock the room into one purpose. Instead, the space now uses chairs for seating and can double as a multi-purpose room.

The idea to use the room as a multi-purpose space—particularly a gymnasium— created some new considerations for the audio-visual systems. A retractable center screen was installed, for example, with painted walls to be used as projection surfaces flanking the main screen. “If someone hits the wall with a ball and scuffs it, we just paint it white again,” Murlatt says. In addition, three EIKI projectors have cages around them for protection from errant balls or flying objects.

The ceiling is open, with Tekdome acoustical materials creating a sound barrier between the children’s worship center and the fellowship hall directly above it.

Durability was important across the board, not just with the technology systems in the children’s ministry area. As one example, the church selected carpet tiles, rather than wall-to-wall carpeting, for ease of replacement. And Murlatt reports that church staff has already replaced a few stained or damaged tiles.

A/V ups the space’s adaptability

The fellowship hall sits on the second floor, above the children’s ministry. It includes movable partitions so the space can be used as adult classrooms, or the room can be opened up to host banquets, receptions and special events.

Audio-visual systems in the fellowship hall include a ceiling speaker and projector for each classroom area. A main faceplate [protective covering] in the front of the room provides inputs for a computer or DVD player.

The fellowship hall currently sports two Bose L-1 compact portable line array speaker systems. Murlatt reports that he likes the systems for the consistent sound they deliver anywhere in the room. “When we have the wall dividers taken down, it doesn’t matter where you stand in the room, it’s the same sound level and quality,” he says. “That was very important to us.”

The Bose system is a temporary solution until the church upgrades the speaker system in the main sanctuary. The Turbo Sound system currently in use in the 1,200- seat main sanctuary will then be permanently installed in the fellowship hall.

Community-engaging amenities

Murlatt cites Evangel Temple’s bistro as another showcase piece within the new building. He says that members of other churches are visiting the cozy coffee house to see how Evangel Temple put it together.

“We created two different ‘wow factors’ in the new building. The kids will be wowed with the game room, and the adults will be wowed when they see the bistro.”

Murlatt is quick to attribute the success of the entire project to the church’s clear vision and how the church was able— through the help of Capstone Resources— to communicate that vision to the architect and contractors.

“Oftentimes,” he closes, “there’s a disconnect because the church doesn’t know how to communicate what they want. At Evangel Temple, we stayed in the driver’s seat in the way we designed the space and in our communications with the architect and the contractor. That was the key to our success, and the most important thing we learned through the whole project.”

Published in WORSHIP FACILITIES, Mar/Apr 2010