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Transforming a Courtyard into Community Space

In need of a central space for fellowship, Vanman Architects and Builders suggested filling in the unused courtyard to create community space, which is accessed from any of its three entryways.

The recent church renovation by Vanman Architects and Builders at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Inver Grove Heights, MN speaks to the church’s vision of a “Christ-centered, relationship building, intergenerational community” by creating a true space for fellowship as well as the design of a new children’s wing complete with check in, security, and classrooms for youth ministry.

Prior to the remodel, the floorplan for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church consisted of many small, sectioned-off spaces connected by hallways. There were no clear sightlines to youth space upon entry and fellowship space was essentially nonexistent. The community space that they did have was standing room only, causing may congregants to leave directly after church services. The building itself was inhibiting the realization of the church’s central vision – something had to be done.Good Shepard Lutheran SanctuaryGood Sheperd Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, MN.

After interviewing numerous firms, Good Shepherd brought in Vanman Architects and Builders after Vanman proposed a unique solution to their problem. The idea was to build an addition for fellowship space, however, there was not a designated place on the existing floorplan where an addition would make sense. Anywhere that one could add on would only extend the already sprawling campus. The church needed a central location for fellowship.

Vanman presented several options for the addition, but the game changer came when Vanman’s architect suggested filling in the unused courtyard to create community space immediately upon entry. There are three main entrances to the church – with this design, no matter which door you enter through, you walk through the fellowship area.

Although the courtyard was rarely used, it was a beautiful green space, loved by many. Vanman mediated this loss with the addition of a large patio and an aesthetic curtain wall of windows next to the sanctuary, letting in ample amounts of natural light and providing a connection between the indoors and the outdoors.

The new fellowship space contains a welcome desk, soft seating, high top tables, dining tables, a fireplace, a serving area for coffee and doughnuts and a large skylight feature, adding to the abundance of natural light.


Good Sheperd Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, MN.

This multi-functional space allows for the cultivation of community, both in the church and beyond as it is the perfect event space for neighborhood group functions. Not only does this addition provide clear sightlines to both the sanctuary and youth space, but it has transformed the building from what was a series of separate spaces joined together by hallways to a connected facility with one large, central hub.

Vanman paired brushed metal accents, custom tile, and updated furniture with traditional stained glass and natural wood features to create a blend of conventional and contemporary uniformity throughout the church. The bright blues and yellows that mark the children’s space contrast with the updated sophistication of the fellowship space, creating a soft distinction between the spaces rather than a stark divergence.

In the children’s space, Vanman used translucent garage doors (a modern take on the accordion door) between classrooms to give the church the ability to adjust the classroom size based on current need. A secure entrance and check-in were added, creating a safe space that still remains welcoming. Other elements of the children’s wing include a nursery, private children’s restrooms, and multi-purpose rooms to be used for small children on Sunday mornings and teenagers on Wednesday evenings. Vanman also remodeled the church offices, creating a new reception concept and multi-purpose conference rooms.


Good Sheperd Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, MN.

The technical elements of the design created a more usable, flexible space, with multi-purpose capabilities throughout the church.

Church-goers now have a large fellowship space to gather in and connect with one another that is appropriate for all ages, as well as a designated and secure space for children’s ministry.

This complete building overhaul was exactly what Good Shepherd needed to create the community and relationships that their vision is based in. “Whether one’s feet are big or small, fresh or worn, running or crawling, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is: Together on the Journey, Sharing God’s Love.”

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