Master Planned: How a Church can be Strategic in its Vision to Accomplish Great Things
“I’m surprised at how plain and unfinished the front of Granger Community Church looks.”
These were the words I quietly told the person I was arriving with. I realized after the words left my mouth it didn’t sound kind considering that Granger had invited us to see their church [in Granger, Ind.]. But it turned out that there is a very good explanation for my observations.
But first, the reason I was there.
I was part of the National Association of Church Design Builders (NACDB), based in Arlington, Texas, who had traveled to Indiana to experience Granger Community Church. It’s an unusual place to find a megachurch. It’s a fairly small community on the outskirts of South Bend.
I was excited to hear why this church is experiencing growth.
We regularly travel hundred of miles every year to seek out large ministries that have had an impact on the Kingdom.
“We chose Granger, not because of their size (since they’re one of the smaller megachurches that we’ve visited), but because of the way they’ve influenced so many other churches,” says Tobey Van Wormer, executive director of the NACDB. “They’ve broken ground with their thematic children suites and they’ve been very strategic in their outreach.”
Dale Reiser of PBS Church Visioning Group, with an office in Dyer, Ind., enjoyed the last educational trip so much that he brought a pastor-client along with him and others from his office. “This is a rare opportunity when we can hear from these pastors the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of their buildings and expansions. In one day, we hear their heart and get an extensive backstage pass into the workings of the church.”
Representing JH Batten in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bob Adams attends these educational seminars to contextualize innovative ideas to his local clients. “Plus, it’s great see the variety of ministry under the unity of faith.” And he adds, “Granger is a standout not only for the way they’ve been strategic with their campus, but they are also committed to a satellite campus and an innovative downtown community center.”
Other members enjoy networking with national church design builders and learning from innovative pastors.
Tim Stevens, Granger’s executive pastor, led our group that included Design Builders and associated companies who serve the church. It was readily obvious that he knows his stuff; Granger’s information is fascinating (see sidebar).
Senior Pastor Mark Beeson started Granger in a movie theatre in 1986 after he and his wife moved to the area to “start a different kind of church.” Beeson wanted to assemble a body of believers that weren’t so caught up in the formalities and traditions, and he wanted to create a church that would be familiar and comfortable for those far from God.
It’s easy to see when you get inside the contemporary building that Granger is well thought out and is married to a vision. “From the moment we purchased property for this campus in 1992, we realized that we had to Master Plan the process,” Stevens explains. “Master Planning” is very familiar to the NACDB. It’s the ability for a church to vision-cast into the future, to dream what the campus will look like after many years. It’s a wonderful creative process for pastors because they don’t have to think about budget; at least until they start breaking it down into phases. It also saves money since buildings are positioned on the property to allow for further expansion.
Granger has exhibited mastery of this process as they envisioned their large dream, then broke the plans over six phases. Their current atrium area was originally used as an auditorium, then four years later they added half their current worship center. Two years later, they built out their children’s space before their last completed a phase in 2005 that doubled their auditorium and children’s space. In between each of the building phases were land acquisition phases. “We emphasized purchasing land since we realized that it’s a limited resource, but necessary to our future growth,” Stevens says.
There’s no way you can end up with a facility like Granger without the forethought that master planning brings. In hindsight, the church seems to be strategic in everything they do. Perhaps it’s because of Stevens, who has overseen each of the phases since 1994. He (along with the help of Tony Morgan) has written three books for the church?all on the idea of being strategic.
The Granger process played out over many years and it continues even today.
It’s been 16 years since they purchased their first 30 acres. That was eight years after Beeson cast the initial vision. There are lots of details that are woven into that period of time. Buildings. Land purchase. Parking. Ministries. More buildings.
Someone asked, “How accurate have you been with the dream, since so much time has passed with the Phases rolling out?” Stevens explained that the church has revisited the Master Plan two or three times to make minor adjustments, but “ultimately the overall plan is unfolding as we’d hoped.”
That’s the joy of following a Master Plan.
God has worked through Granger as its plan has rolled out. With its plan in place at the central campus it was easy to multiply into a satellite ministry and an amazing downtown community center.
From the pastor’s initial vision to the current campus and ministries, the plan is more than something that was merely dreamed in the minds of men. God has led them to this point and He’s planning other expansions for them too.
Granger is currently in the design process of a “front” commons expansion. In a few years after another stewardship campaign, the “plain front” will be finished with a viable alternative place to experience a service, designed for someone who isn’t comfortable entering the auditorium or for a regular attendee to bring a friend to a “safe” place for coffee.
Now I realize why the current building looks abrupt. It’s just not finished yet, according to the master plan. Or should I say “The Master’s” plan?
At a Glance
Who: Granger Community Church (gccwired.com)
Where: Granger, Ind. (a suburb of South Bend)
Population: 35,000 (Metro Area: 300,000)
Full-Time Staff: 46
Land: 55 acres (including 1,234 parking spaces)
Total Square Footage: 105,467 (101,963 Finished)
Number of Services: two Saturday; two Sunday; one satellite
Annual Budget: $6.2 million