This is a topic rarely covered in theological sites but since a few of us were involved in the construction of a church, we thought it would be informative to share a few of our observations and challenges related to the project.
We started by examining closely churches of various sizes and ages. Since a church is a home for people of all ages, it needed to have features to accommodate everyone, from daycare for the little ones to senior-accessible areas and functions for the older ones.
We not only needed to have a good idea of the initial congregation size, but also needed to plan for growth since our goal was to bring in as many new congregants as possible. That was one of our core mission mandates. Our intent, of course, was not to try to siphon parishioners from other churches but instead to find people “on the fence” and get them to give us a try. There are a lot of such people.
Another component of our research was to determine the rough financial standing of our church community to help us decide what types of programs, trips, etc. we might choose to offer. The more we thought about this, the larger our list of classes and activities became. Some of these, like Bible studies, were obvious but we felt strongly we should offer such things as classes on Apologetics that could get fairly advanced, and trips to places like The Ark in Northern Kentucky and the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
Anyway I am getting ahead of myself here. We needed to figure out the right blend of office and training space that would optimize space while offering the most practical use of that space. We designed multi-use training facilities with one large room for bigger classes that had a large 4-way partition in the middle that could be unfolded into any or all of 4 different directions, allowing for any combination of 1 large class up to 4 smaller classes in a single room. This particular partition was custom made. This really worked great and was a lot more practical and easier on the budget than 4 separate rooms.
Once we had the main building, offices, training room, daycare, vestibule, and parking designed and laid out by an architect, we underwent the arduous process of financing. It took us fully 8 months to get past the drawing phase. There are a lot of places you can go for loan information. We would up using Korteco to guide us in the right direction. They helped us with tax repurposing on some of the larger purchases including steel and HVAC, and also helped with working through all the tax exemption laws to reduce the overall cost of the project. Our desire was to spend every dollar as expeditiously as possible.
On the interior we had to figure out the seating and how that would be arranged, the flooring, tile, carpet, and many other issues. For the seating, we opted for a bit more comfort than is found in many churches. We decided to go with traditional straight pews rather than arched ones, in large part due to the fact that we could get more seating in the church that way. But we did want comfortable seating, so we went with Sauder Worship seating in Stryker Ohio, a company that makes more modern church seating but with a rustic look to the wood. These folks can do any kind of seat imaginable. We had a great time with them and congregants comment on their work all the time.
For the flooring, we wanted to stick with the rustic look of the wood in the chairs, but wanted something both durable and easy to install. We wanted to stay away from the traditional carpet and try to maintain a little bit of the feel of an old cathedral wood floor but with newer, more modern and durable materials. We wound up going with a beautiful Pergo installed by a company that does flooring in Richmond Va. They came out and gave us a lot of options, almost too many really, and helped us narrow it down by listening to what we were really looking for. I had no idea there were so many different types and styles of floors.
We thought about tile for the whole thing but opted to restrict the tile to the Sacristy and the rest rooms. We were fearful it would start getting cracks in it that would be hard to repair, but love porcelain tile and wanted it where it made sense. The Sacristy was the perfect area for this. We opted for this tile company for this work.
We decided for the altar to go with polished concrete, which is very much out of the ordinary. We wanted to create something strong, striking, and beautiful at the same time. We got a lot of ideas from a concrete company that specializes in polished concrete, and ultimately got the work done by them.
For our particular church, we wanted to have the rather attractive grounds be accommodating to outside classes as well as peaceful walks. The area is wooded and we have 14 acres in addition to the buildings that we wanted to make as pleasing as possible. Of course the parking lot eats up a good bit of this. We had a gazebo built with benches around the outside which served as both a peaceful resting spot as well as a place where small classes could be held. The wooded areas are bisected by grassy areas so we had a landscaping company owned by one of the parishioners do all the shrubs, mulching, and lawn planting and also hired an irrigation company in Richmond to install a relatively inexpensive irrigation system to insure the lawn stayed green and healthy even in the hot, dry summers in Richmond. We put a lot more detail in the Church Grounds page. Feel free to check it out.
All in all this project was a huge undertaking, but we were glad we put in the time up front to try to think of all the requirements, roadblocks, and hurdles. There were still a ton of issues but the end product was the very best we could do to provide for the community and we get a lot of compliments from the parishioners on how thoughtfully it is laid out. We are honored they think this way.
One other thing that has sadly become a huge issue is Covid. It is something we all wish we had never heard of but unfortunately it is real. In addition to distancing and masks in the church we did some additional research to be sure we were doing everything possible to attack this menace and rid our church of it. One thing we discovered is the different types of UV lighting that can kill the Covid or at least help manage it. We did some research and found a good informative website on germicidal UVC lighting. We wound up getting two hand held UVC lights that we use before any service or meeting to kill any Covid that might have shown up on a pew or table or other surface. We wanted to get mounted lights but they were too expensive and an overkill for what we were trying to accomplish. We are trying to be as proactive as possible in addressing this problem. These lights are dangerous but the people we got them from were very helpful in showing us exactly how to hold them and what to do and not do.
Since we encourage our parishioners to stay active and participate in sports, we felt a locker area and showers were appropriate. These are relatively small areas since the budget nor the available room were adequate for more robust facilities. We have 10 lockers in each of the two bath areas but just two showers in each. We chose glass shower doors rather than the cheaper but flimsier curtains for the showers. In retrospect, given the costs to keep these areas clean a more prudent choice would have been curtains.
Finally to do our cleaning we hired a carpet cleaning company that it turns out cleans everything. This company was recommended by one of the Deacons and has been a true blessing. They are easy to work with and honest to a fault.