Building for Tomorrow





The 7 Most Innovative Church Buildings in America

Ministry Today is not an architecture magazine, nor does it pretend to offer expert advice on church construction or design. It is, however, a publication for pastors and church leaders. And what do most pastors become concerned about when their church begins to grow beyond capacity? Buildings. Facilities. Land. Expansion. All in the name of reaching people more effectively.

For that reason, we've dedicated this issue to highlighting some of the most innovative church buildings in America. Obviously, innovation comes in a multitude of forms—especially when dealing with architecture, design and construction. To narrow our search, we honed in on finding those structures that uniquely combined elements of artistry, functionality and worship. We asked a long list of architects, builders, contractors and multifunctional companies to serve as our experts, inviting them to submit recent projects they felt matched the "innovative" tag.

Undoubtedly, there are church buildings that should've been included on this list but weren't for some reason or another. We also realize budgets, congregation size, location and project range all weigh heavily on how creative an architect or builder can be. To that degree, we intentionally included churches that, while smaller in scope, still reflected an underlying theme of building for tomorrow. After all, isn't that the purpose of every new church building?

Name: Northland, A Church Distributed
Location: Longwood, Fla.
Architect: Donald Mahoney/Building God's Way
Construction/General Contractor: The Collage Companies
Square Footage: 140,000 (worship and education building)
Seating Capacity: 3,300

A WFX Solomon Award-winner for "Best Digital Church," Northland sets a new standard for churches moving into the 2.0 era. Though first-time visitors may be awestruck by the sanctuary's 20-ton bridge symbolizing the ultimate connection from God to people—Christ's cross—the wood and metal structure wasn't the reason for the award. Instead, it's the facility's remarkably advanced multimedia, which includes an extensive laptop-accessible lighting network and 436 dimmers in the sanctuary alone. Along with more than 20 audio zones to balance sound quality, state-of-the-art digital equipment allows virtually all of the church's 80-plus rooms to connect to A/V systems in multiple international locations. Northland hopes to soon fill the sanctuary walls with dozens of live video feeds from people across the globe joining in to worship.

Name: Living Water Community Church
Location: Bolingbrook, Ill.
Architect: Wildesign Group Architects
Construction/General Contractor: Aspen Group
Square Footage: 54,000 (main building and youth center)
Seating Capacity: 800

Located in a rapidly expanding Chicago suburb, Living Water Community Church complements the surrounding upscale retail buildings with an exterior that intentionally appears more like a community center than a traditional church. Because Living Water regularly opens its arms to host community events, its main building was designed with multi-functionality in mind. Flexible walls, stackable seating and finishes that allow for multiple ministries to occur within a single space are found throughout. Did we mention there's a two-story indoor play area and an auditorium specifically designed for kids?

Name: New Beginnings Christian Center
Location: Portland, Ore.
Architect: Daniel Cook/Building God's Way
Construction/General Contractor: Furst Construction
Square Footage: 68,300
Seating Capacity: 1,300

After years of planning and designing, New Beginnings Christian Center pastor Brad Makowski dreamed of a church facility that could inherently reach out to the surrounding community through its sheer location and amenities. "We saw the possibility of a great partnership between the business and political community and faith-based groups," he says. Located in a predominantly industrial neighborhood, the contemporary-looking church is already becoming the meetings grounds for such a juncture. Besides hosting Chamber of Commerce events and community conferences, New Beginnings also houses an independently operated preschool during the week and regularly leases its commercial kitchen to a catering company. The cost-effective design also offers plenty of flexibility for future remodels or expansion. "I believe that God is really going to help us have a very significant impact in this city," Makowski says.

Name: Victory Christian Center
Location: Tulsa, Okla.
Architect: Clarence Shaw
Construction/General Contractor: Daniels & Daniels Construction
Square Footage: 165,000
Seating Capacity: 5,000

Amid its many crusades and outreaches that reach virtually every facet of life and corner of the world, one thing remains central at Victory Christian Center: innovation. Few words better describe a church building that includes a mall-size carousel in the children's facility, a Borders-style bookstore—complete with a kids' zone and adjoining cafe—and an 18- by 60-foot screen behind the stage. The creativity behind Victory's expansion design is on display even in the campus' parking lots, which are connected to two giant bridges (one leading to a Wal-Mart) to assist with traffic flow. Yet maybe the most impressive and innovative feature is this: The $32 million project, which took less than three years, was completed on a 100-percent cash basis.

Name: Parkway Christian Church
Location: Surprise, Ariz.
Architect: CCBG Architects/Visioneering Studios
Construction/General Contractor: Rowland Companies
Square Footage: 12,200
Seating Capacity: 500

"Most people who see our building sitting out near the border of our 43-acre dirt site look at us, tilt their heads, and ask what we are doing," says Parkway Christian Church pastor Trent Renner. That's just the reaction he intended. Designed to contrast with its desert surroundings, Parkway's main building uses dynamic colors, architectural compositions and a "fire, water and rock" theme to prompt discussion from first-time visitors and longtime members alike. The facility, which is the first of 15 separate worship structures planned, also includes symbolically exposed 2-by-4s to add to the incomplete feel. As Renner explains, "When are any of us going to be a finished product?"

Name: The Vineyard Church-Urbana
Location: Urbana, Ill.
Architect/Construction/General Contractor: Aspen Group
Square Footage: 80,000 (after expansion)
Seating Capacity: 1,100

At the Vineyard near the University of Illinois, it's all about connection: to God and to others. For the designers of the church's new facility, the same was true as they connected a large addition with two existing structures. The result is a single building that continues the fellowship theme through a contemporary-style indoor/outdoor cafe (where a five-star chef prepares lunch daily) and into numerous "hang out" venues. In typical Vineyard style, the church also features high-tech A/V capabilities throughout, including a 32,000-watt sound system and tri-level catwalks.

Name: Parkway Christian Church
Location: Surprise, Ariz.
Architect: CCBG Architects/Visioneering Studios
Construction/General Contractor: Rowland Companies
Square Footage: 12,200
Seating Capacity: 500

"Most people who see our building sitting out near the border of our 43-acre dirt site look at us, tilt their heads, and ask what we are doing," says Parkway Christian Church pastor Trent Renner. That's just the reaction he intended. Designed to contrast with its desert surroundings, Parkway's main building uses dynamic colors, architectural compositions and a "fire, water and rock" theme to prompt discussion from first-time visitors and longtime members alike. The facility, which is the first of 15 separate worship structures planned, also includes symbolically exposed 2-by-4s to add to the incomplete feel. As Renner explains, "When are any of us going to be a finished product?"

Name: Cornerstone Christian Fellowship
Location: Chandler, Ariz.
Architect: BCDM/Barduson Architects
Construction/General Contractor: Rowland Companies
Square Footage: 40,000
Seating Capacity: 1,300

Cornerstone's leaders are upfront about reaching young families disgruntled with church, and their new building's design shows it. For the kids: 20-foot trees with mechanical monkeys, lifelike elephants and a play area resembling a Nickelodeon studio. For the adults, it's state-of-the-art tech toys that present the gospel via cutting-edge media. To fit the church's ongoing rapid growth, sanctuary seating can also expand to fit 2,200.

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