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Maximizing Existing Space

Maximizing Existing Space

Make the most of the space you already have without increasing your footprint.

Investment in the space you already have can be highly effective. At the very least, it can buy the church time before needing to build a new space. Better yet, renovation projects are frequently more financially achievable than new buildouts on a campus and are definitely less risk than a relocation. Here are some ideas on what you can do to maximize what you already have.

Identify what you have and reimagine

"Sometimes the way space is used is no longer relevant," highlights Scott Hall of

"To transform your buildings, you have to first see what could be," asserts Tom Greenwood of the Beck Group. "When we tour [various church facilities with church leadership] it is amazing how many times this opens up new ideas and possibilities. It gives them the ability to break conventional thinking and imagine something different." e adds, "Another tool is simply to take the time to assess what the church already has and how it is being used. Documenting sizes, activities and weekly hours of uses of rooms can reveal where things aren't optimized."

Break the corridor/classroom model

"When we are working on a project where it is renovation of existing space, we are always opening the space up," says Reagan Hillier of Worlds of Wow in Argyle, Texas. "A lot of times that will include tearing out the ceiling for vertical height and tearing down walls to create gathering spots and hang out space."

At Hope Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, the church originally had a large check-in desk in its kid's entry area. However, current trends are to utilize face-to-face check in via smaller kiosks.

The church remodeled this entry space, removing the large desk and reconfiguring walls to open the space up and create a new pre-teen area. "When designing for preteens, you always gear to the older boy in that room. The color pallet is edgier, there are signature elements, and it is more graphic than a purely thematic storyline," Hillier reports.

"Education ministry (children, youth and adults) has historically been the largest consumer of space," Greenwood points out. "Today, with the use of resources designed for larger group learning and the ability to provide web-based virtual learning in any location, churches could stretch the capacity of their buildings by rethinking their educational approaches."

Change the face

Kelview Heights Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, wanted to add some wow factor in an existing building. The church added a new themed entry to the children's space. The colorful themed façade was backlit into the children's area. A new color pallet and theming along with signage and an indoor, soft-contained playground created a huge transformation without having to build a new children's area. The walls to the playground area were replaced with window walls to create attraction and interest as parents and children approach.

Rethink what you store

"Everything needs storage," Greenwood adds, "but not everything needs to be stored in the building. Keep onsite only what you need for typical, weekly operations. Look for off-site storage options for seasonal things and get rid of those donations' (materials, furnishings, old clothes, etc.) that are just taking up space and get them to ministries who can use or distribute them. Make a fearless evaluation of what you are storing. You may be surprised at how much space can be freed up with the letting go of things."

Use technology to accommodate the new without losing the old

One of the biggest influences Omniplan reports seeing is "a multi-generational dynamic," according to Hall. "Most spaces aren't compatible for both traditional and contemporary worship. Churches are learning to bring the two together, but are also catering to each of those styles either through time or specific facilities," he reports. "At the First Baptist Church of McKinney Texas, we took a traditional worship room with pews and an organ and worked with Acoustic Dimensions to update it with new audio, video and lighting so that they could have the traditional service, but also close window shades to convert the space to a black box high tech nvironment for the contemporary service. Same building under the same roof, but with different experiences and environments."

Test drive a new idea

"In a renovation, we will often build an education room and have the church try it out before they build 20 of them," Hall continues. "One of the lessons we've learned from our commercial work is that retail is a choice. What isn't working is discarded quickly. Church is also a choice. Churches want people to come to their [campuses] and have opportunities to connect, so many are providing just that. Dining, movies, performances, sports programs, great coffee ways to make it comfortable for people to come to the campus for more than just education. It becomes outreach."

Retailers often test drive ideas and if they aren't effective in connecting with people, they learn from the experience and try something else. Churches have the ability to test new things, and space is not an exception [when it comes to components to test]. Positioning a reconfiguration as an experiment rather than "the new institutionalized thing" can be more readily accepted. More importantly [though], with enough changes over time, you can build a culture that is willing to try things out.

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