Storytelling Begins with Passion, People, and Place

When our clients come to us, invariably they arrive with a need for which they require a solution.  Simple enough.  However, if we attempt to deliver a solution without a proper understanding of the problem, we will fail every single time.

At Visioneering Studios, we begin our Envision.Design.Build process by putting down our pens and turning up our ears.   We dare not present any sort of solution until we understand the story of the people for whom we are working and the place they want to create.

Everything begins with the story.

At the core of our team is our identity as storytellers, spatial storytellers.  We are a multi-disciplinary group of professionals bringing years of experience to the table from film, urban planning, architecture, interior design, development, real estate, and writing.  We have learned that to best understand the story we must first assume the roles of cultural anthropologists.  We will search for the three elements that will drive this story; passion, people, and place.

>> PASSION: A NARRATIVE OF REDEMPTION

Most people would agree with the definition of passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.”  That’s nice…but that doesn’t quite do it for me.  It’s a little too fluffy, too polished, and nothing like real life.

My view of passion is more akin to the one that describes the anguish and suffering that Jesus Christ endured the night before and during his crucifixion.  For me, passion is the amount of pain that one is willing to endure in order to fulfill the mission.  It’s not always a pleasant experience, but it is one driven by a sense of moral and spiritual imperativeness.

Passion is a narrative of redemption.  Redemption is about change or transformation.  Stories grip our heartstrings when they describe a peaceful existence torn apart by insurmountable adversity, and then climax with a heroic victory.

Spatial storytelling must follow the same story arc.

We ask our church partners, what “dead and dry bones” do you want to see new life breathed into?  What marriages do you see as mended?  What parental prayers do you believe will be answered?  What stories will be rewritten?

That’s the passion we are talking about.  This is the story we want to help tell; a narrative of redemption.

>> PEOPLE: THE CAST OF CHARACTERS

Stories simply do not exist without characters.  Each church we work with has a unique calling to a specific people.  These people are possibly made up of different socio-economic statuses, ethnicities, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and other sub-cultures.  Each of them derives identity and meaning from different things and different places.  Are these understood?

Before you design a solution or deliver a sermon you believe will change lives, listen to them first.  This is called empathy.  One of my favorite quotes about empathy comes from the René Laennec, the French physician/inventor of the stethoscope.  He told his students, “Listen to your patients, they are telling you how to heal them.”

When you understand the context and character of your audience, you will be able to deliver a suitable word, which is fitly spoken “…like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Empathy makes you a better designer, a better preacher, and a better problem solver.

>> PLACE: A SOIL-SPECIFIC SOLUTION

Not only has God given you a unique passion for a specific people, but He has also called you to a specific place.  This may be defined as a metropolitan area, a city proper, or a specific neighborhood.

In the secular world, there is a growing appreciation for place.  Retailers like Starbucks have adopted the business model of making third places (the place between where you work and play).  Developers are creating mixed-use developments to manufacture cities within cities, and place making is a trending topic aim in the architecture and urbanism circles.

But, where is the Church in this conversation?

Some churches have failed to understand and adopt a proper theology of place, which states that it is God’s desire, plan, and promise to redeem a connection to people and place.  They hold on to an old model of sacred spaces, which separates the sacred from the secular by creating ‘holy huddles’.  They isolate themselves from the community to which they are called to redeem and to bring Shalom.

They fail to connect to connect the theological dots.  When Jesus Christ exhaled His last breath on the cross, not only was His job finished, but also the tabernacle veil was ripped in two.  This veil, which had previously relegated access to God’s presence to one person one time a year, was eternally torn to allow access by all mankind.  This democratization of access was foreshadowed when a Samaritan woman, a cultural and spiritual half-breed, met Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, at a water well and experienced redemption.

Churches today are not only called to be places for redemption, but they called to be places of redemption.  Places where every Average Joe and Plain Jane could encounter redemption in synch with the natural rhythms of their life.  These are the connections between the God’s passion for a people and a place.

So, what does that look like?  Well, that’s where the story making begins.

Read more from Steve.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Chaparro

Steven Chaparro

Steven is a multi-disciplinary storyteller with a background in architecture, real estate development, financial advisory, and church leadership. He is best known as a passionate communicator, a sought-after advisor, and a strategic thinker. He challenges the status quo with his bold leadership and disruptive thinking, yet approaches situations with the heart of a teacher.

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

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Dream to Dedication Day: Developing a Destination that Lifts the Spirits

I’ve learned repeatedly that the Kingdom is built on relationships, rather than bricks and mortar. One key relationship that God has been nurturing is my friendship with John Cissel, SIOR since he gave up his personal ownership of a major real estate brokerage firm in the Northeast US to focus on Kingdom building.

If you don’t know John yet, you will be blown away at his thought leadership. He is not only a licensed real estate broker, but also holds a General Contractor license, because doing real estate in an urban context requires a detailed understanding of how buildings go up, go down, and what it takes to renew them. This is the guy who helped Tim Keller figure out how to do multi-level urban church in a Manhattan parking structure. According to Tim (Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NY),

John is uniquely positioned to help churches and faith-based organizations in undertaking larger-scaled real estate projects – a service that is so desperately needed.  I don’t know of others who possess the background, expertise, and success in so many facets of both commercial and kingdom-centered real estate, and who are doing this work through a Christian organization that is solely focused on the faith-based non-profit community.

I’m pleased to announce that John has joined our team as President of Visioneering Real Estate.  As we’ve discovered in over a thousand faith-based developments around the world, it is not enough to have competent design and building teams. As our mission field is increasingly diverse and urban, the traditional suburban church building model of buying cheap farmland and developing out a campus has gone the way of the “Mall of Generica”…the economics and demographics just don’t make sense any more, and no-one is building them. Adding strategic real estate advisory services to our team of urban planners, architects, interior designers, branding gurus, and technical consultants is truly a needed and exciting addition to support pastors who want to pastor, rather than play “Monopoly” with the church offering.

We’ve learned the hard way that when trying to develop Christ-centered community, churches often get a cold shoulder because they are perceived as a LULU (Locally Undesirable Land Use). They are often seen by the city as a black hole in the city, taking away the ability of a site to generate sales or property taxes. They are seen by neighbors as a parking and noise problem. Gone are the days when the highest and best site was reserved for sacred space. John has discovered that our shared client base can be strategic anchor tenants for active, mixed use urban space that connects people horizontally, as well as vertically, just as sacred spaces in traditional settings, such as European cathedrals on the city’s piazzas, always have. However, it does take sophisticated financial modeling, due diligence, and clear vision-casting.

If you’d like to explore how your mission might align with our vision of helping you “develop a destination that lifts the spirit” let’s talk!

>> Read more from Mel.

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Mel McGowan

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

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Churches Need to Offer What Their Community Needs

I hope you are ready to jump into some controversy with me today because I’m going to talk about things that many Christians (and many “church architects”) take personally and seriously…what a church “should” look like. But, I may surprise you with the analysis if you think you know where I’m heading because at Visioneering Studios, we are challenging the way people think about the purpose and design of church facilities from the ground up.

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. Let’s start with the definition of “church”. Webster’s defines “church” as, “1) a group of Christians; any group professing Christian doctrine or belief; 2) a place for public (especially Christian) worship.” Is this definition in alignment with the Biblical definition of “church”? The Greek word for church is “ekklesia”, which means “that which is called out,” and that is the only word for Church in the whole Bible (and it is only used in the New Testament). Obviously this is talking about the people who have been “called out” and become followers of Jesus. Jesus even said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Wherever followers of Christ gather together there is the church. So, how did we get so confused and hung up on the form and structure of a building that we refer to as the “church” and that to most people, especially non-Christians, is seen as THE church? Jesus’ first “church” services took place on hillsides or beside lakes while he spoke from a boat. The disciples first “church” service (the day of Pentecost) took place in the temple court. First century churches met in houses and wherever there was room for people to gather.

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Clockwise from top left – St. Peters, God’s Creation, Traditional Church, Metal Box

Somewhere along the way “churches” started to become buildings, and they became “sacred” spaces that required design of a certain type. I can stand amazed in front of St. Peter’s in Rome or any number of other cathedrals throughout the world and feel staggeringly overwhelmed at the intricacy and details involved in those structures, but I can also stand awestruck in a forest or on a beach and wonder about the miracle of God’s creation. I can sit in a “traditional” church complete with stained glass, steeple, and pews and be lifted up before God’s throne in worship, but I can also sit in a pre-engineered metal warehouse with a small group of believers who have scraped together all they had to build their first building and be touched to my soul by a stirring message delivered from a down-to-earth preacher.

What we all have to realize is that “traditional” or “contemporary” are just man-made concepts that are totally unrelated to salvation. It may seem patently obvious to state it this way, but Jesus didn’t sit in a pew or a theater seat. He didn’t sing from a hymnal while a pipe organ played or sing with words on a screen while a band rocked out. He didn’t wear a suit and tie or a t-shirt and shorts. He didn’t preach in a church with stained glass windows and a steeple, or in a church with a coffee shop and a video venue.

The message of the Bible is timeless, but the presentation of the message is cultural. Jesus reached people where they were in that day and time in a method and in a location that they could be comfortable and relate to (see John 4:4-26 about the Samaritan woman at the well). I strongly believe that if Jesus was walking around in America today He would be using technology, music, buildings, and everything else at His disposal as tools to reach people where they are.

V923-2

Northside Christian Church – Spring, TX. Design by Visioneering Studios. Photo by G. Lyon Photography.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with traditional buildings, or pipe organs, or hymnals, but I would ask you to look in your heart and ask yourself if your church is being as effective as they could be in reaching your community and the unchurched in today’s culture using methods and facility prototypes created hundreds of years ago. Would you like your doctor to use leeches and other medical “technology” of a few hundred years ago to treat you today? I wouldn’t, which is why I think it is important to examine the methods we use to “treat” those in need of the ultimate healing. What type of places and buildings do people choose to go to spend their free time? What type of music do people choose to listen to on their iPods? Churches need to be offering their community what their community needs. The church facility can be a 7-day-a-week Christ-centered community instead of a 2-hour-a-week Christian insider’s club.

Don’t ever compromise the message. Don’t ever change the story of salvation. But, maybe it’s time to look at the method and environment where that message is shared. Is it more important to keep things they way they’ve always been because the people who are already “saved” and are already inside the walls of the church like it that way? Or is it better to find out what will reach those outside of the walls and make them comfortable stepping foot inside the doors of your church even if it makes the “insiders” uncomfortable? Are you willing to sacrifice your comfort to reach out to others? Isn’t that why the church exists? All I’m asking is for you to think about it.

Be intentional.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jody Forehand

I am the national Vice President of Operations for Visioneering Studios, an architectural, urban planning, construction, design, and development firm based out of Irvine, California with other offices in Phoenix, Denver, Austin, Chicago, and Charlotte (which is where I’m located). Every day is an incredible journey and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on some amazing projects with some of the most dynamic and fastest growing churches in the country as well as spend time with incredible people both as coworkers, clients, and friends.

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Mac — 09/24/14 9:11 pm

Doesn't the church exist to comfort the souls and consciences of believers? New or old design the focus should be Christ. A good test for this is to invite a group of non-believers [unchurched] as a focus group....show them the designs of churches and have them give their thoughts opinions to questions like this: + What type of business/organization do you think belongs in this place? + What is the first thing you think of when seeing this place? + This facility is designed to be a Christian church....What other uses would you imagine taking place here? Their answers should be enough to tell you how best to design a building that will be purposeful in delivering the central message of Christ-Crucified.

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

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Using the Physical Attributes of Your Campus to Intentionally Communicate Your Story

“I ask all of our first time guests why they decided to come to our church and 90% of them said they were driving by and were intrigued by our site and our new building, and that is all thanks to the creativity of Visioneering Studios.”

David Garison, Lead Pastor,  Northside Christian Church, Spring, Texas

Northside Christian

If you were driving down a road in your town and saw the above building, would you be intrigued?  Would you want to check it out? As you look at that picture, who do you think this building meant to attract?  Who was the primary target to get sucked in by the design and amenities?

If you said MEN…then you would be correct. But not just any man, a mid “thirty something” man.  And why would a church focus on that age group and gender?  It is actually pretty simple for the leadership at Northside Christian.

They believe that if they can attract men in their mid thirties, they will likely bring their wife and 3 +/- children as well. In most cases, it is easier to engage the entire family if the husband/father is leading the charge and is compelled to attend. For most men, there is too much talk about love (especially loving another man….YUK), surrender, “feeling” and a whole host of other words and songs that are just not appealing.

So what did this church decided to do?  They were intentional about communicating a story and message to the target they wanted to attract.  They made the conscious decision to put “bait on the hook” as they fulfilled their calling to be fishers of men.  The attractional elements of the physical campus was intended to be appealing to those they were trying to reach just like the worm, minnow or lure are on a fishing hook.  If you going fishing for bass, you would not leave the bait at home.  Yes, it is possible to catch a fish on a bare hook…but it less likely and it is much harder and far less rewarding.  So why do we think it is wrong to put “bait” on the hook when we are fishing for souls? Given some recent responses to my other posts on “story”, I am sure some of  you are saying “But the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need…he will draw them in…why should we try to manipulate.” While I am in complete agreement that the Holy Spirit will move in a persons heart to take action, God  also gave us eyes…ears…noses…and other sensory attributes that he uses to influence us.

For this church, they decided to use several types of bait…here are a few examples:

1. The overall design is that of a lodge or “man cave”.  It is very masculine and appealing to a man. It makes me want to go hang out, how about you?

Norhtside 1

2. The materials are “manly”.  From the stone to the exposed wood grains to the exposed metal to the car license plates used to clad a section of the facility (above pic), the materials scream MAN!  Women are generally drawn in by color…but men are attracted to materials.

3. They took the “bait on the hook” concept and developed a fishing hole in front of the building that is open to the public…that they actually stock with fish.  Again, the idea is that a mid-30 year old man with 3 kids would bring the kids to the fishing hole (i.e. a WELL…see this post for more on that concept) even if they have never gone to the “church”…or what we might refer to as the Temple experience.

Northside 2

4. Amenities…besides the fishing hole, this church has been deliberate in the location of their exterior public spaces.  Even if you are not interested in fishing, but looking for a place to site outside by a gentle waterfall to read or you have those 3 young kids and need to get them out from under mom’s feet and blow out some pent up energy, this campus shouts…COME HERE.  The playground is open to the public and the outside sitting areas and tables are inviting to anybody just looking for a place to hang and do life with others. In addition, they were judiciously placed on the front side of the campus so they are visible to people passing by…more bait!

Visioneering has just finished Phase II for this church and the new kids space continues this theme and attractional relationship with their community. You can see why “Your Kids Won’t Want to Leave”, on the blog by Jody Forehand….which is another form of “bait”.

Are you ready to go fishing for your community?   Is your church more interested in “cleaning” fish or catching them?  If it is the later, make sure you have the right bait.

Read more from Tim here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Cool

Tim Cool

Tim Cool is the Founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cool Solutions Group, a company leading organizations to be intentional with the planning, development and life cycle management of the facilities God has entrusted them. Tim has assisted nearly 400 churches over the past 28 years, throughout the United States, with their facility’s needs. Tim has been married to his best friend, Lisa, for 29 years and resides in Charlotte, NC with their 17-year-old triplets. They are active members at Elevation Church.

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Ron Furgerson — 06/12/13 12:07 pm

This definitely qualifies as a "Cool" article. Thanks. <

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

An Architect’s Secret Weapons: Environmental Design

Do you know what environmental design is? If you’re not in the “industry” you may have never heard that term, but if you’re a living, breathing American and aren’t living under a rock, then you experience it everyday when you go out in public. Environmental design is a broad discipline but at its core (when discussing built environments) it is a key element in transforming a building into an experience. Every store, restaurant, cool night club, theme park, and museum you’ve probably ever visited uses environmental design at some level to immerse you in their brand.

ED-1

Environmental design typically incorporates graphics, theming (whether 2D or 3D elements) and signage to carry forward the brand or tell the “story” of the space. Retailers get it, and they know how important it is to create an environment that transforms the simple act of shopping into an immersive experience, even though many of the “shoppers” don’t realize this subconscious manipulation is happening to them. They just think, “What a cool store!”

At Visioneering Studios we are working with churches and other clients across the country helping them figure out what their unique calling is and how to communicate their mission to the community through their built environments. We want the design of the site and the buildings to speak to this, and good design does achieve that goal. It’s easier to do this when you design extremely expensive buildings, because you can literally sculpt the building to the desired effect (just see these buildings by Santiago Calatrava or Frank Gehry as examples).

However most clients, and especially churches, don’t have an unlimited budget, so a creative architect must find other ways to achieve that result. Learning lessons from retail, you can take a big, dumb box (like a pre-engineered structure or a simple architectural form) and spend your money on creating specific architectural elements to emphasize the entrance, which then makes the big box just fade into the background as the canvas for your design. Now you’ve got an architecturally interesting entrance and have saved your money by not having to make the entire building an expensive piece of art. To take it to the next level the architect pulls out the third secret weapon…environmental design. (If you missed the first two, you can find them here: weapon one – Color; and weapon two – The Space Between Buildings.)

Now we are able to use screening elements, changeable print and digital graphics, signage, and props to provide some excitement to the building. It doesn’t matter whether it’s interior or exterior, and elements can be designed for installation on almost any surface including portable kiosks, walls, doors, glass, or fabric. This gives you tremendous flexibility and allows you to “tell your story” or communicate your mission or brand to everyone who passes by or stops in, even when nobody else is around.

We achieve this by partnering with environmental design firms like PlainJoe Studios. As either the architect or design-builder on a project, we work closely with the environmental design group during the design phase to integrate their environmental design elements into our architectural and interior design plans to help create a cohesive, multi-sensory experience. The next time you go visit your favorite store or restaurant look around. You might not have noticed the lifestyle graphics on the walls, the branded signage, or the theming elements and dimensional props before, but I bet you will now. Now visualize that same store or restaurant without those elements. It wouldn’t be the same experience would it?

Below are a few more examples of some projects we have done with PlainJoe Studios for various churches across the country. Could your church use a make-over? It doesn’t have to be expensive. Groups like PlainJoe Studios can tailor their custom graphics package to meet whatever budget your church or organization establishes, and a good environmental graphics package can typically be provided starting at just a few dollars per square foot. Obviously you could spend a lot more than that too, but you don’t necessarily have to in order to get some big impact in key areas of your facility. Good design and creative environments are inviting and make people feel comfortable. So, who wouldn’t want to make a good first impression on visitors before they even have a chance to meet your people or hear your message?

So which one of these environments do you like best?

ED-2A

 

ED-3A

 

ED-4A

Read more from Jody here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jody Forehand

I am the national Vice President of Operations for Visioneering Studios, an architectural, urban planning, construction, design, and development firm based out of Irvine, California with other offices in Phoenix, Denver, Austin, Chicago, and Charlotte (which is where I’m located). Every day is an incredible journey and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on some amazing projects with some of the most dynamic and fastest growing churches in the country as well as spend time with incredible people both as coworkers, clients, and friends.

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Design Intervention

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mel McGowan

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Church Design and Construction Just a Commodity?

“We have a local builder that builds warehouses, how different can that be to a church?”

“We want a ministry space specialist to help us plan and design our new facility, but any contractor can build it.”

” We are going to bid it out and just take the lowest price.  All contractors and architects do the same thing.”

These are all comments that I have heard over the years.  I understand how people formulate these perceptions….but I am convinced they are flawed.  As a rule, the construction industry is seen as a commodity…and that is a shame as the best projects (quality construction, relationship, scope, value/cost) are almost always done in a collaborative environment with experts in their fields.

Let me ask you some questions:

1. If you are having an issue with your heart, are you going to rely on your Family Physician to be responsible for all of your care? They’re all doctors…Right?

2. If you drive a high performance European car, are you going to get it serviced by the corner gas station that usually only works on Fords? It’s just a car…Right?

3. When you need a professional audio/video/lighting package, do you call your local music store to get your HD cameras and to “fly” your subs? Aren’t we just getting some microphones and speakers?

You get my point…the answer, most of the time, to the above is NO…we call an expert in their field.  OK…but isn’t any doctor an expert in all things medical?  Why would you want a cardiologist vs. a general internist to care for your heart?  Why do churches call WAVE and other similar firms when they need the best AVL systems to meet their ministry objectives.  Why would you hire Plain Joe Studios to develop your branding, way-finding and environmental graphics? Same answer.  And we could go on and on and on.

So, why do we think the local commercial architectural design firm or the local general contractor that builds houses, retail and warehouses is the best choice for our church development project?  Where does the above logic go “off the reservation” of hiring an expert? Do we really think that all designers, architects and builders/developers are created equal?

Let me take it even one step further.  You might have a local cardiologist who is “pretty good” at what they do. They may do several procedures a year and have a good reputation.  But when you have an important situation…or are not sure your local resources can meet your goals and desires, you would most likely go to John Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic or you would go straight to the number one rated hospital for Cardiology & Heart Surgery which is the Cleveland Clinic (according to U.S. News).

Seems like a an interesting dichotomy.  But I assure you….not all designers, builders, developers, AVL designers, car mechanics or doctors are created equal…nor do they all have the same expertise, specialization and experience.  So get the RIGHT EXPERT to meet your needs…don’t settle and don’t look at them as a commodity, unless you only want a commodity product/service.

More about Tim Cool here or visit his website here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Cool

Tim Cool

Tim Cool is the Founder and Chief Solutions Officer of Cool Solutions Group, a company leading organizations to be intentional with the planning, development and life cycle management of the facilities God has entrusted them. Tim has assisted nearly 400 churches over the past 28 years, throughout the United States, with their facility’s needs. Tim has been married to his best friend, Lisa, for 29 years and resides in Charlotte, NC with their 17-year-old triplets. They are active members at Elevation Church.

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comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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Current Trends in Church Space Design and Use

from an interview with Tony Morgan and Mel McGowan

You’re going to love this connection. Mel McGowan spent nearly a decade with the Walt Disney Company, he founded Visioneering Studios, a nationwide architectural and community development ministry which was awarded the 2008 Solomon Award for “Best Church Architect”. He has been named one of the top 25 cultural influencers by OC Metro magazine for his role as an “Architectural Evangelist”.

TONY: What’s a current trend that you’re seeing churches across the country begin to embrace?

MEL: I’d say that the biggest shift that I see is a move away from the paradigm of a “campus” (what I call the “Acropolis” model) to that of true community gathering place (the “Agora” model). Increasingly, both established megachurch pastors and next generation leaders are increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of a one-day-a-week, single use, internally oriented megachurch campus in which the parking lot sits empty the rest of the week. Like the ancient Acropolis, the faithful (who have made a prior commitment to “ascend” to the sacred space) are separated from the rest of the community.

The roots of the internally oriented “campus” paradigm come from monasteries and cloisters. To the outsider, this “Christian country club or compound” can seem intimidating at best and completely dissonant with the “Unchristian” perception of Jesus (as described in Gabe Lyon’s book). To the insider/Christian, it becomes to easy for this to facilitate an insular “Holy huddle” lifestyle.

With that said, some mistake the only alternative as an “anti-building” or underground house church approach. I tend to agree with my friend Chris Seay when he told me that real estate development and building can be one of the most incarnational acts that we can join God in. The trend that I see is rediscovering the role of ecclesia (Christ-centered community) as an “anchor tenant” in the heart of our cities and communities. I hesitate to use the “Third Place” term because it has been co-opted into the old campus model to mean repainting the lobby in Starbucks colors and serving coffee on Sunday morning. The real power in the term has roots in the ancient Greek agora (the predecessor to the Roman forum, Medieval piazza, and the American town square), where sacred space was always “in the mix” of where people (believers or not) “did life.”

This is what is keeping our five Visioneering Studios drinking out of God’s fire hydrant across the country is a “both/and” approach for churches that aren’t satisfied with putting up a “No Vacancy” sign at the front door of churches that are experiencing strong growth and evangelism. We believe that what this looks, tastes, and feels like should be different for each community.

  • For Austin Stone, it was a “For the City Center” (a non-profit business incubator for secular and faith-based organizations dedicated to providing renewal and redemption in Austin).
  • For Mark Batterson in Washington DC, we’re redeveloping a former glassworks and historic rowhouses on Barracks Row (the “Main Street” of Capitol Hill) into a vertical mixed-use block integrating subterranean parking, ground-level retail (a satellite of their award-winning Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse), a children’s attraction, and two performing arts/concert venues (doubling as ministry space).
  • Also in DC, near Dulles we’re converting a former Anheuser Busch distribution center (the “Bud building”) into a 70,000+ square foot “N Zone” indoor sportsplex that will also be the first permanent venue for New Life Christian Church.
  • At Saddleback’s 100+ acre campus in Southern California, we’re working on a master plan as part of Rick Warren’s “Decade of Destiny” to line parking lots and structures with a pedestrian oriented mixed use “Main Street” which will link the existing campus core to the 100% retail intersection at the church’s perimeter. This will allow the thousands of parking spaces to support the first “downtown” that the newly incorporated city of office parks, strip malls, and residential tracts has ever had.

TONY: How do you see this trend impacting the future of churches?

MEL: I tend to agree with Alan Hirsch that the “both/and” approach is generally the way to go. There was a time when the attractional “megachurch” model seemed like a generally accepted SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). I see a strong parallel with the idea of the church as a participant in authentic “Third Places” and the “Future Travelers” initiative described by Alan and Dave Ferguson in “On the Verge” in which fast-growing attractional megachurches are finding balance by integrating missional-incarnational approaches into their DNA.

In some ways, this is really less an emerging trend than the rediscovery of a “timeless truth” in that throughout the history of our species, sacred space was central to the physical space of community, from the tribal circle to temple courts to the great squares of Europe. It was really only after World War II and the rise of wrong-headed Modernist planning and zoning that cities not only forgot how to facilitate sacred/secular Third Places at their heart, but actually made them illegal by requiring separate land use zones for residential, retail, etc and making churches “beg for the forgiveness to exist” in other land use zones through the onerous Conditional Use Permit process.

I see this trend as relevant for the future of churches at all sizes. For the megachurches with large properties, a simple approach is to consider their parking “moats” as “greyfield redevelopment” potential sites in which synergistic community buildings (sports, commercial, educational, etc) can create “bridges” back to the community). For smaller churches no longer interested in fitting into the “Seeker Sensitive mega-campus mold”, we are finding that establishing themselves as a legitimate community development corporation, a non-profit arts group, or a quality gathering place (eg. Coffeehouse) opens doors to “Main Street”, in-line retail, and obsolete commercial sites opens doors to the city in the same way that the old model announced “we’ve arrived, so give us land use entitlements so that we can not pay property or sales tax, and be a ‘black hole’ in the social life of the city six days a week” closed doors.

If you are intrigued by Mel’s thinking, you may want to pick up one of his books. He is the author of Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space (2008) and Saving Suburbia: From the Garden to the City (2009). You can also follow his Travelogue at MelMcGowan.com.

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Mel McGowan

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mr. Todd McMichen — 11/10/12 8:53 am

Tremendous article! The future is present and pastors will be required to possess a powerful vision. The day of building a building and we will grow is gone. Vision first, be brave, don't quit, and build to propel the vision.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> good article. Where I would take exception in the seeming negativity to plant a church more organically/biblically through missional communities due to the slowness of growth. I think that's the problem with church planting in the US today is that speed of numerical growth has taken priority over true and authentic spiritual growth
 
— evansavage1
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.