Imagine Something Different
"Sometimes the way space is used is no longer relevant," says Scott Hall of Omniplan in Dallas. "Look at the changes in small group learning and worship styles. The introduction of overlapping worship times. What about how children's space is now tailored to age groups rather than having generic classrooms? Sometimes churches are left with old infrastructure from the way things were done before, and that can be changed to create something new."
"To transform your buildings, you have to first see what could be," adds 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."
Greenwood 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 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 kids' 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, Hillier says. "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."
"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
Kellview Heights Baptist Church in Midland, TX, 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, 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 says, "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 donate those things (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."
Better Use Technology
One of the biggest influences Omniplan reports seeing is "a multi-generational dynamic." "Most spaces aren't compatible for both traditional and contemporary worship," says Hall. "Churches are learning to bring the two together, but are also catering to each of those styles either through time or specific facilities." At the First Baptist Church of McKinney TX, Hall says his team partnered with Acoustic Dimensions to brings a traditional worship room with pews and organ up to modern standards, with new audio, video and lighting. They could have at the traditional service," Hall Says, "but also close window shades to convert the space to a black box, high-tech environment for the contemporary service. Same bulding under the same roof, but with different experiences and environments."
"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."
Scott Hall, Omniplan
Test Drive a New Idea
Hall says he "road tests" his designs, getting real-world feedback from churches that use them. "One of the lessons we've learned from our commercial work is that retail is a choice. What isn't working is discarded quickly," Hall says. 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 coffeeways 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.