by Keith Loria, Church.Design

Image: Scott Erb/Dufault Photography

Image: Scott Erb/Dufault Photography

“I’ve no doubt that if this church were suddenly gone that the community in every location they serve would miss them dearly." David Evans, AIA, President Mantel Teter, Kansas City, MO

Lifesong Church opened its doors in 2006, first meeting in the Blackstone Valley Cinema de Lux, located in Millbury, Mass. As it grew, church leaders were looking to establish a more permanent location and presence in their community and reached out to architectural firm Mantel Teter in Kansas City, Mo., to help them transition to a permanent space.

Image: Scott Erb

Image: Scott Erb

“Our design team led the church through a series of steps and processes to assess its health and readiness and affirm its DNA, while defining the needs and prioritization of those needs within the established budget,” says David Evans, AIA, president of Mantel Teter. “The result was a 500-seat auditorium for worship with a space balance for children’s ministry space, student ministry space, office space and a new fellowship foyer/lobby to support community and connection.”

Once the metrics were defined, the church was equipped with knowing the amount of acres or existing building space they would need and after considering several properties to build from the ground up, the church located an existing warehouse facility (which contained a giant freezer) for conversion into its new church home.

Evans says the good news was that since the building used to be a warehouse, the space was wide open.

“We had to creatively design flow and all the spaces to create a balanced facility within the walls of the existing ‘box,’” he says. “The existing office area was able to be repurposed for the church offices and the loading dock areas were converted into the main entry and outdoor plaza space.”

AVL design--making sight and sound come alive in the space

Marcus Hammond, church resource director for Stark Raving Solutions LLC in Lenexa, Kan., was part of the AVL design team for Lifesong Church, and after discussing the church’s needs, budgets and worship style, helped devise a “good, better best” scenario for different systems, and the church leaders made their choice.

Image: Scott Erb

Image: Scott Erb

For the audio console, they chose an Allen & Heath GLD audio system for mixing, KLA left and right allay speakers from QSC, and subwoofers by QSC.

“All the amplification in the space is QSC, as well,” Hammond says. “The brain or processing of the system is BSS London, the computer that drives the whole audio system to make the room sound really good.”

The video component is somewhat simple, with a 13.5-foot by 24-foot Da-Lite screen.

“They were meeting in a movie theater before they found this space and wanted that big screen kind of a feel,” Hammond says. “That’s powered by a 9,000-lumen Panasonic projector.”

The room utilizes Renewed Vision ProPresenter for its graphics, going through a Smart VU 300 analog way switcher.

As for lighting, Lifesong decided on the ETC architectural controller, Unison. The rest of the system includes ETC sensor dimmers and Source Four pars.

The rise of adaptive reuse spaces

Mantel Teter has seen a growing number of worship spaces turn to adaptive reuse projects and the company calls this solution a “big-box upfit.” Evans notes this is continuing in popularity and becoming even more popular for several reasons.

Image: Scott Erb

Image: Scott Erb

“The built environment is, well, over-built, providing opportunity for building and ground purchases at a fraction of the valued cost,” he says. “Plus, the infrastructure is already in place and typically adequate, such as parking lots, site utilities, and so forth. The interior space is typically wide open and the biggest challenge is often dealing with columns, especially in the worship space.”

While HVAC may not be adequate, due to the change in occupancy type and use, it can generally easily be upgraded or added capacity.

“We typically find the biggest challenges to be fire protection, fire sprinklers, fire alarms, and HVAC,” Evans says. “Generally a big box has plenty of power and, if new enough, will already have a fire sprinkler system, which may only need minor modifications for the new spaces.”

The other challenge can be zoning. This is an important item for the church to check out before getting too deep into considering a building.

“They should check with the city planning departments if a church use will be allowed,” Evans says. “This can vary widely across the country and from city to city. Some developments have use-restrictions written into guidelines and covenants. Due diligence is very important at the early stage. We have a very specific checklist we walk our churches through when we’re helping them consider property options, especially a big box.”

Looking ahead

For Lifesong Church, multisite has always been a strategy and it’s something that will continue in the years ahead.

“Even before they had their first permanent home, Pastor David Payne always talked about the vision for this area of Massachusetts,” Evans says. “This location has provided them the home base necessary to continue growing, while preparing and launching additional campus locations around the Worcester area.”

Lifesong Church currently has two other active campus locations running, plus an online campus and another physical location in the works. Mantel Teter has continued to help the church with expansion considerations and even discussions about design conformity across all campuses.

“As a permanent launching pad for ministry, this church has continued to serve their socks off in the community, seeking ways to meet felt needs,” Evans says. “I’ve no doubt that if this church were suddenly gone that the community in every location they serve would miss them dearly. They have intentionally taken the gospel to the people, in their own backyards, rather than asking the people to come to them.”