Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick and it gives light to all that are in the house. (Matthew 5:15)
The expansion and renovation of Brightmoor Christian Church in Novi, Michigan, is a true reflection of the church’s goal to break down barriers to Christ, become truly transparent, and extend unconditional acceptance from the moment a visitor enters the site.
The first item the expansion addressed was the church’s struggle with building recognition and site wayfinding.
“People driving by thought we were just a school, or worse, an office building,” says Gary Jona, chairperson of Brightmoor’s building committee.
Taking the Sermon on the Mount to heart, the unmistakable “candlestick” on the site is the new 60-foot cross made of steel. Visible from half-a-mile away, the cross attracts from afar, while the building’s two-story arc of glass curtain wall draws visitors into the building. By night, the illuminated cross shines in the darkness and by day, its sheer height draws the attention of drivers along M-5 and 13 Mile Road, two major roadways in the Detroit suburb. The new façade has had a big impact in how visitors are discovering to the church.
“The number one reason is still a friend invited me, but the number two reason is ‘We saw your building off M-5,’” said senior pastor Jamie Kjos. “We are thrilled. We wanted the new expansion to be very transparent, warm and welcoming. We wanted people to look through the glass and see the life going on within the building and I believe we’ve achieved this goal.” Standing on the Word of God To help inform the conceptual configuration of the expansion, the building and design teams followed a simple mantra: “multiple ‘doorways’ into the church, but all lead to Christ.”
This idea comes to life through a Bible, embedded in the poured concrete of the sanctuary’s main platform, allowing the pastor to literally “stand on the Word of God.” The impressive steel structure radiates outward from this single point. Eight additional Bibles are embedded in the concrete throughout the church including each entrance to the sanctuary, the children and youth spaces, and a 100-year-old Bible that sits in the floor of the prayer room. Looking down on the church, a direct line can be drawn directly from the exterior cross to a plaque which marks the location of the first Bible embedded on the main stage.
Building Community More than constructing a larger building, Brightmoor Christian Church wanted to build a community.
Fellowship spaces were extremely limited in the old facility; a corridor outside the existing worship space served as a claustrophobic gathering space.
“Our former lobby was tight and small, and people moved in it almost like salmon swimming upstream,” says Pastor Kjos. The new glass-faced hub, or lobby, is the first engagement people have when they enter the building. The hub is akin to a modern narthex – it’s familiar but intentional. By lengthening the experience of entering and exiting the worship center, the extra space provides opportunities to build community. Clear wayfinding puts newcomers at ease and allows all visitors to see the different ministries offered. Social spaces, both formal and informal, entice people to stop and engage in fellowship.
The hub’s architecture forms the first of several nested arcs in the eye-shaped structure. Other arcs include the glass curtain wall, the sanctuary’s stadium seating, and the main platform. In an effort to create a sense of intimacy in the 2,137-seat sanctuary, seating curves around the platform, visually connecting opposite sides of the worship space. A New Worship Experience Brightmoor’s new sanctuary grew from 800 to over 2,100 seats to better accommodate church services and to support their popular Christmas and Easter productions, known to attract as many as 10,000 people. In the previous facility, these large-scale productions required the use of school classrooms as support spaces. The new worship center includes a green room, choir rehearsal room, additional back-of-house support spaces, state-of-the-art lighting, and sound and multi-media systems.
“Technology has changed drastically from 2000 to 2017,” says pastor Kjos. “The lighting is now far more complex and visually attractive. We have video LED screens for multimedia services, and the acoustics are phenomenal.” As a result, the service is immersive and enveloping, and powerfully supports the day’s message. Investing in the future Accessible from the hub is a new nursery area designed to set parents at ease and allow them to focus on their worship experience.
The investment in dedicated children’s and youth areas sends a message to members about the importance of these groups to the health and future of the church. Using a palette of bold, primary colors, Worlds of Wow!, a Denton, Texas-based interior design firm, created a series of inventive and kid-friendly worship and play spaces, some serving preschool children, and others children up to the 5th grade.
“We saw what our attendance was for the nine weeks leading up to the new expansion, and then for the following nine weeks after it opened,” comments Pastor Kjos. “The attendance of our children in the elementary and younger age bracket is up 201 kids per week. Kids are saying to their parents, ‘We got to go to church!’”
The original thought was to convert the old worship center into the school auditorium, but by converting it into the youth center, the space can now serve both purposes seamlessly. As only an auditorium, it would have remained unused much of the time. The youth center features gathering areas, a café, arcade games, Apple TV, and a place for worship services. Placing the youth center in the existing worship space proved to be not only cost effective but also an excellent use of space.