By Rodney C. James
While many spaces in existing churches are no longer used for their original purpose, it opens doors for reimagining how to recapture that square footage for new ministry opportunities.
Such was the case at Central Baptist Church in Owasso, Okla. Church leaders engaged Master’s Plan Church Design and Construction to help transform a tired fellowship hall with many challenges into a vibrant space to reach students of families who are joining their growing congregation. As Senior Pastor Clayton Chism explains, the initial design — done many years ago — was no longer facilitating current ministry functions.
Master’s Plan was introduced to the church by a staff member who had worked with the firm’s president and founder, Rodney James, on a previous church project.
What was needed was a clear path and a long-term plan with an aim to fully refresh, repurpose and expand church facilities to provide a better tool for current ministry needs.
The team at Master’s Plan began dreaming with the leadership of Central about how to renovate and repurpose their 20-year-old facility. It was the first building project — of any scope — for many of the staff members.
Additionally, it was unlikely that funding would allow all the plan’s steps to be completed at once; so, a phased approach was established. Currently, while plans are being drawn for a fully renovated worship center, gathering space, and enlarged children’s wing, other smaller steps are creating the momentum needed for these larger projects that are coming. Importantly, these current small projects provide dramatic improvements and short-term leadership victories by coming in under budget.
While Wednesday night dinners are no longer part of the church’s programming, the need for adequate student ministry space was pressing in — it seemed like a great chance to capture this needed square footage.
Today, the newly repurposed space provides a place for students to gather and connect on Sunday mornings as well as prior to their Wednesday night experiences. The other two-thirds of the room has been fully outfitted with state-of-the-art audio, lighting, and a large video LED wall system that meets this generation right where they are. This space now empowers leaders to fully capture the attention of students so they can pour into them the message of the Gospel and the life-changing truths of God’s Word.
The transformation of this space was a win for the students, who now have a place of their own within the walls of the church. It was a win the leadership of the church as the vision came to life and was completed under budget. Finally, it was a win for the entire congregation, seeing this once-empty room now full of life, energy, and the next generation of leaders.
One small step, one giant leap
This small project not only paved the way for new ministry life at Central Baptist Church, but also for the bigger things on the horizon. A successful smaller project can help a congregation see the impact, the opportunities, and the dividends of investing in their older, tired, or unused facility spaces. It also can be a steppingstone for leadership to gain equity by leading successfully through a project while staying within budget.
In many ways, Central Baptist Church is a testament for many churches putting off creating relevant spaces for children’s ministry, student ministry, small group ministry, gathering, and even worship because the “elephant” seems too big to eat. Our encouragement is to get a long-term plan that leads you toward an end goal of a fully renovated or expanded tool that better serves your ministry. Start somewhere, one bite at a time, eating that elephant.
For Central, it started with providing better security and giving the children’s wing a facelift. Next was repurposing a sparsely used fellowship hall. Outdoors, a new ball field was created on church property to serve the ministries of the church as well as the community.
To help fund the next stage — a major renovation of gathering space and the worship center, and expansion of children’s ministry — Pastor Chism says Master’s Plan even introduced the church to a capital campaign partner to help raise the necessary funds.
Future phases will ultimately align the entire campus with current ministry needs, as well as equip the church to reach new families. These will include additional small group space, a rework of the administration wing, and — as growth continues — a new student ministry building.
With these few small, successful projects under their belt and seeing the impact they have had on reaching new families, the Central Baptist Church family and leadership are excited to continue walking forward in the vision God has given. Step by step, they are seeing the transformation of their facilities into a place that facilitates ministry in a new, refreshing and powerful way.
It’s something Pastor Chism has experienced firsthand.
“Walk with a trusted partner who first learns and understands your ministries, then evaluates your facilities based on your ministry needs,” he advises. “This can provide your church with a phased approach that leads you to a revitalized tool to empower reach more people for the Kingdom!”
Rodney C. James, a former pastor, is president and founder of Master’s Plan Church Design & Construction in Tulsa, Okla.