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So far McKnight Group has created 219 blog entries.

One Good New Year’s Resolution is to Get Your Church Design Funding in Order

If there’s any chance a new church building project is under consideration in the new year, it’s a good idea to begin to prepare for funding and financing now. If you do, you’re more likely to successfully secure a traditional mortgage (or any other financing) to construct your new church design. Understanding a few important elements of what lenders are looking for can maximize your potential for securing the necessary funds.

Choose a Lender that Understands Churches aren’t Residential or Commercial

It’s very important to work with a financing institution that understands churches. While a church building is certainly not a residence, it’s also not a typical business either. This means your church building project won’t fall neatly into either category. As we’ve explained elsewhere, even the zoning for your church building location typically requires jurisdictional approval, because churches are usually considered “conditional use” properties. If the lender you’re working with doesn’t understand things like this, they are less likely to understand the requirements and constraints you’re working with in your church design and development process.

Why Lenders Need to Understand Church Design

There are other reasons a lender needs to be familiar with church building projects. A traditional lender who hasn’t worked with church leaders might not understand a church’s vision for ministry in the community. They likely won’t understand the differences between the various types of churches, including the very different needs of traditional and modern church design.

But lenders who have worked with churches are will better comprehend the various constraints affecting church design and construction projects, how your ministry needs are going to impact your church design, and how leadership of a church works, that most frequently church leaders are held accountable by a church governing body.

What’s the Most You Can Expect to Borrow for Your Church Building Project?

So, once the right lender is identified, it’s time to come in with the best foot forward. Let’s start with the bottom line. The highest total loan amount you should expect to receive for your church building project is three times your church’s annual revenues. It is also a good rule of thumb on the maximum you should borrow for a project. If a bank is willing to lend you more be very careful. 

In most cases, it’s unlikely three times your church’s annual revenues will be the amount you actually get. The mathematical formulas lenders work with are impacted by your responses to a number of questions about your church, its leaders, your church design, etc. These questions are designed to help them determine how much of a risk it would be to lend to your church. If you don’t have great responses to their questions, they’re going to decrease the amount of money they’re willing to loan for your church building project.

In our next post, we’ll cover in more detail the types of questions lenders ask, and how you can best respond to them. Meanwhile, to keep up with the latest information about church design and building projects, sign up today for our next free i3 webinars.

2022-01-18T16:40:35+00:00 January 18th, 2022|Church Building, Church Design|

Answering Your Questions: Why It’s Wise to Keep Moving Forward with Your Church Building Project

Finding on-line information covering the details of the church design and building process can be daunting. We started blogging and sharing our free i3 webinars because we wanted to give church leaders the latest and most complete information that we know on every step of the modern church building process.

But there’s another reason why attending our webinars is always a good idea: we have a question-and-answer session at the end of each one. We also like to share the answers to those questions for others wondering the same. During our recent webinar, Mapping the Steps to the Church Building of Your Dreams, a church leader asked a great question. Here’s our answer.

How Is Construction Cost Growth Impacting Church Building Projects?

Inflation has been a frequent news topic lately. Prices on everything are going up. Unfortunately, construction cost growth is impacting church building projects as well as residential homes. Pandemic uncertainty continues to affect many aspects of the economy. Supply shortages of raw materials, manufactured goods and manpower still make it difficult for contractors to confidently develop realistic timelines and firm budgetary quotes.

Inflation Continues, but the Rate Is Slowing

There’s no question that construction costs have risen over the past 18 months, and the rate of increase has been significant. For example, the price of raw steel has increased by as much as 340% over that period, while concrete has risen about 5%. Wood has taken contractors on a roller coaster ride, up and down, up and down, but the overall trajectory has unfortunately been an upward climb.

The only good news is that the rate of these cost increases is slowing. This doesn’t mean that prices are going down, but that they are going up more slowly. As suppliers of building materials get a better sense of what lies ahead the number and frequency of cost adjustments are slowing down. Still, the ability for supply to be able to meet demand will be an ongoing issue for years to come.

What Does This Mean for Your Church Design Project?

Overall, this means that you should not delay any church building project, even if you’re only in the “What if?” stage or just beginning to review church design options that will better support your church vision for ministry in your community. The longer you wait to begin construction on your church building or remodeling project, the higher your costs are likely to climb. Especially if you’re working with a fixed budget, you need to keep the church design process moving forward because every month you delay, construction costs will most likely continue to increase.

This is also why it’s important to keep up with our free i3 webinars. In a constantly changing building environment, you can’t count on any aspect of the church building process to remain unchanged. Instead, keep abreast of the latest ideas, insights, and innovations around church design and construction by registering now for our upcoming webinars—and hang onto your hats, because we expect it will be a roller coaster ride for a while.

2022-01-11T20:17:37+00:00 January 11th, 2022|Church Building, Church Design|

Understanding the Construction Close-Out Process for Your Church Building

Construction on your church building is finally finished. But there are a few more steps to complete before the project is done. Here’s what else you need to do once the contractor has closed out their work.

Completing the Quality Assurance Process

Once the contractor finishes their work, you’ll need to have a final walk-through. Do this with the contractor, looking at every room and all aspects of the church building to make sure everything really is complete. This process is called quality assurance or sometimes just creating a “punch list.” That list includes everything that you believe needs to be finished or corrected before you sign the completion documents and make the final payment.

Moving In and Getting Trained on Your Church Building Systems

Once the punch list is addressed to your satisfaction, it’s time to begin moving into your new or remodeled church building. You will need to set up furniture and get the various systems set up to your specifications. You also need to get the right people trained on all the systems that help your church design function optimally. Obvious systems include your HVAC system and all the various electrical processes, such as audio, video, and lighting for your worship center and any other meeting or activity centers. You may also need to be trained on the Wi-Fi and security systems.

As part of that training, it’s a good idea to put all processes into one “operations manual” for your new church building. This provides an ongoing record of what was installed in the building and how it functions. This manual should also contain record drawings, which are copies of the construction documents marked in red, with all the details where changes were made during the construction process.

The manual should also contain the warranties which you will accumulate during this finalization process. Generally, warranties tend to be good for one year, but warranties for individual portions of the church building, such as the HVAC or lighting units, may have longer periods. All this material is helpful for future reference by the next generation of church leaders and the maintenance team.

Recapping the Church Design to Completed Building Process

It’s been a long while, likely 18 to 24 months, but now your church and its members can rejoice in a job well done. Here again are five major steps undertaken during the process:

  1. Church design phase and budget estimates
  2. Stewardship, funding, and fundraising
  3. Development of construction documents
  4. Permitting process and pricing finalization
  5. Church building construction and wrap-up

We shared this outline during one of the free i3 webinars we conduct to help church leaders keep up with the latest information on church design and building projects. To learn more and register for our upcoming webinars, click this link.

2022-01-05T18:21:07+00:00 January 4th, 2022|Church Building, Church Design|

It’s Time for Church Building: What to Keep in Mind During Construction

After the planning and the time it’s taken, you’ve gotten the church design finalized, construction documents completed, and permits obtained. At long last, it’s the moment to make the commitments and actually begin construction! For members of your church building team, that doesn’t mean your work stops. Here are some items and areas that we suggest church leaders keep in mind during the new church facility construction process, or when a church remodeling project is underway.

Finalizing the Church Building Budget and Construction Contract

Once you have a full set of plans, you can get final contractor and/or subcontractor quotes for church building construction. Most of the time, you should be working off a budget, and up until this point, you haven’t been able to get a final price on the total cost. The construction documents will provide the detail to get accurate pricing, and they will help you understand the construction quotes you receive and check them for accuracy. You will use them to determine and finalize the construction contract.

Don’t forget that once the contract is signed, you must allow time for the contractor to mobilize. They also are working on a budget and will need time to finalize their costs, obtain materials, and contract with laborers and subcontractors for your church building project.

What Happens Once the Digging Starts

Again, your work doesn’t stop once the digging starts. A variety of questions will arise that need your attention during construction. These could include anything from which doors are keyed alike to approving materials selections for building finishes and responding to questions about color schedules for different parts of your church design.

It’s why we recommend that selected members of your church building team plan to have periodic meetings with contractor representatives. This way, your contractor knows that there’s a process in place to address items that arise during the church building process. It also gives you a chance to receive updates on a regular basis. This should avoid any unpleasant surprises later in the church building process.

Understanding that Church Construction is Just One Part of the Church Design Process

As you can probably tell by now, the actual construction of your church design is just a part, albeit a crucial part, of a much bigger overall process. While it might be nice to imagine developing your church vision, getting some plans, and starting construction all in short order, church building or remodeling has many steps. Our many blog posts demonstrate it. Once construction has started, there will still be planning to be done and decisions to make, especially around the interior furnishings for your new church building or remodeled sections of an existing facility.

It’s another reason we share our free i3 webinars with church leaders like you. The church design process is complex, and professional guidance is important to help bring a church vision to successful completion. Now that our 2022 lineup of free webinars is available, it’s a good time to review our upcoming webinars and register to learn more about the church building and design.

2021-12-28T20:42:41+00:00 December 28th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

What You Need to Know about the Church Building Permitting Process

If you’ve ever put together a child’s toy or assembled a piece of furniture, you know that it’s important to do each step in order. Order counts in the church building process, too. You shouldn’t start construction without the money to pay for it, and you can’t begin building if your church design isn’t finalized. Plus, you need your construction documents finalized in order to get the necessary permits. But, with all of this done, here’s what you need to know about the permit step in constructing your church building.

Getting the Zoning Permit for Your Church Building

Once construction documents are complete, you can apply for your zoning permit. It is very rare that there is no zoning process. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly how that process will look because every jurisdiction is different. Generally, you submit your documents for what is often called an administrative review. You fill out a form and provide copies of your plans. Then, the appropriate administrator in your city or town approves it.

Sometimes, however, you will also have to go through a formal review process, especially if you’re going to need a conditional use permit (which we explain here). In that case, you need to attend a public meeting to talk about your project and have the board approve it. Also note that, many times, your church building zoning permit will be separate from a building permit. Usually, you must have the zoning permit in hand before you can submit a request for a building permit.

The Building Permit Process Comes Next

Once your zoning process is complete, you can apply for the building permit for your church construction project. Again, every jurisdiction has its own process, but generally you submit your application, and the authority has 30 days to respond.

Don’t be surprised if you don’t get your building permit right away. In fact, it’s very rare that approval happens immediately. Instead, the authority issues a letter of “clarification” or “correction,” which just means they have questions about your church design or other aspects of the construction documents. Your church design professional will submit responses to the authority’s letter, and then you wait—often another 30 days —for them to issue the building permit.

Exceptions to Every Rule

It’s no surprise that there are exceptions to every rule, in terms of how long the permitting process will take. One good rule of thumb is: the larger the jurisdiction (city instead of town, large metropolis instead of regional city), the longer the process will take—and sometimes, the more complex the process will be. So, it’s important to remain patient during this process. Fortunately, while you’re waiting, you can finish your fundraising process and complete any paperwork with your lending institution. This is also a good time to use those construction documents to get bids from contractors and subcontractors so that when your permits are all approved, you’re ready to get started on the actual building of your church building.

We can provide insight about this process because we’ve worked with a lot of church leaders in many jurisdictions over the 50+ years that we’ve been building churches. To learn more about all the steps you need to follow for a successful church design and construction process, sign up for the next in our series of free i3 webinars.

2021-12-21T19:20:09+00:00 December 21st, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Learn the Latest in Church Building Wisdom with Our Free 2022 i3 Webinars

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yes, Christmas is almost here, but we also mean that it’s time for us to announce The McKnight Group’s 2022 lineup of free church building i3 webinars. With each of these webinars, we offer you the latest ideas, insights, and innovations (i3) on church design and every aspect of the church building process.

If you’re a long-term follower, you might recognize some of these topics. But every webinar is presented live, with the most recent information, because circumstances can change significantly over the course of just a few months (as we have certainly learned during the past two years!).

So here is our lineup of free, interactive 2022 i3 webinars:

JAN 20 – The COVID-Era Church: Designs for an Effective Church

The pandemic has been one of the biggest drivers of change in recent months. Do you know the best ways for your church to adapt? In this inaugural 2022 webinar, our President, David McKnight, will explain how your church building can adjust to such changes, how to use technology wisely, and show how to communicate the ways your church building is a safe place for worship and so much more.

FEB 17 – Funding Your Project in Today’s Economy

There are so many uncertainties in today’s economy that it could seem impossible to make your church design a reality. The good news is that churches are still building, with the help of creative approaches to budgeting and funding your church building project. In this webinar, David McKnight shares tools for projecting a realistic budget and out-of-the box approaches to funding your church building dream.

MAR 17 – Reimagine Your Space: How to Transform the Building You Have into the Building You Need

Many church designs were drafted for very different church visions. Sometimes, your church building can even become an obstacle to the ministry you need to reach your community. David McKnight shares a portfolio of completed church building projects which illustrate how you can significantly transform your existing church building to meet modern mission goals.

MAY 19 – Safety & Security Design for Today’s Church Building

In recent months, we’ve learned how extremely important safety and security are for people everywhere, and church buildings are no exception. In this updated webinar, our Vice President of Architecture, Philip Tipton, takes a close look at the various levels of safety and security that can be integrated into your church design. He also shares information on building code requirements and a helpful set of questions to ask about your church’s security plan.

JUN 16 – Current Trends in Church Design

Church design is in a frequent state of flux because church visions for ministry are constantly changing. For this reason, Philip Tipton will share the latest trends he’s seeing in church design and architecture, explaining the factors (economic, technological, and otherwise) that influence these trends and illustrating them with examples from the McKnight Group’s recent projects.

JUL 21 – Developing a Clear Vision for Your Church

We’ve already mentioned church vision in a number of these descriptions because it is the most important tool for constructing a church building. Without a God-inspired vision, you might develop an ineffective church design. The good news is that David McKnight returns this month to teach webinar participants about developing the vision you need to effectively guide your church building process.

AUG 18 – Creating Effective Children’s Spaces

What makes a church building attractive to children? We’ve been asking that question for decades, and we have a pretty good sense of the answers. In this webinar, David McKnight is joined by our Interior Designer to discuss what’s involved in designing warm and welcoming children’s spaces that appeal to both kids and their parents.

SEP 15 – The Map to The Church Building You’re Dreaming of: A Step-by-Step Guide

Maps are useful because they clearly show the best options for arriving at your desired destination with a minimum of time and money spent. In this i3 webinar, David McKnight draws on his decades of church building experience to impart a detailed map for your church building project. He will discuss all the necessary steps and will also warn of potholes and detours to avoid along the way.

OCT 20 – Steps to a Successful Church Interior Design Project

The McKnight Group’s Interior Designer will round out this year’s free i3 webinars with a look at the important interior finishes that help create the right first impression for your church design. This webinar includes wisdom for starting the interior design process early and a list of steps to take along the way—including a first step that will probably surprise you!

We hope you’re as excited as we are about the coming year’s free i3 webinars. They are the best place to learn the latest information on the church design and building process, so sign up for our first 2022 webinars today!

2021-12-14T20:33:30+00:00 December 14th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Decoding the Necessary Construction Documents for Your Church Building

It’s important to understand the many steps to the successful completion of any church building project. Creating construction documents is one of those steps.

Once the basic church design (Schematic Design) has been approved by church leaders and you have the commitment from the congregation and your lending institution (if there is one), then the construction documents can be prepared. These documents translate your basic church design into plans, sections and details that builders can use during construction. Read on to learn more about these additional church design drawings and how they’re used.

Addressing Details of the Church Building Exterior and Property

One type of construction document addresses the exterior of your church building and the property on which it stands. Shown here is an example of what are called “exterior elevations.” These side-view architectural plans show the details of the exterior of the building and include exact measurements, as well as the types of external materials that will protect your church building from the elements of nature.

Civil engineering drawings focus on the outdoor spaces and systems that will impact your church building, such as parking lots and land grading (which determines how the land will slope away from your church building and thus avoid ending up with rainwater in your basement!). Storm sewers also help to move rainwater or snowmelt away from the building, while the exact placement of water, gas, sewer, and electrical lines is crucial for attaching these systems to the church building and ensuring safe digging in the future, after the systems are in place and landscaping is installed.

Illustrating the Structural Bones of Your Church Design

Other drawings address different structural and engineering elements in your church design. The structural engineering document shows how the types and placement of different construction materials (steel, wood, masonry, etc.) will keep the building standing. The plumbing design shows how water and waste will flow throughout the church building (and flow only in the proper directions!). The HVAC system document shows ductwork and zoning for the various systems in your church design.

Working with the Electrical Engineering Schematics to Meet Your Needs

The final type of construction document we cover here is the electrical engineering schematics. This document shows all types of electrical wiring throughout your church design. This covers the basics like light switches turning on lights in the same room and supplying sufficient power to all appliances in your church building, from fridges and freezers in the kitchen to the various HVAC systems in different areas of your church building.

Other engineering drawings cover things like wiring for theater lighting, audio and video system lines and controls for your worship space, and even security. This is when you need to make sure all such needs are covered, from sound booth wiring to security cameras and the wi-fi network, and (possibly) landline phone systems.

The bottom line is that each infrastructure element in your church design needs its own set of construction documents. This is one of many reasons why the church building construction process takes time, even if you are remodeling an existing building (and especially if you don’t have a copy of those original construction documents!). Fortunately, this is part of the package provided by construction professionals.

To learn more about everything that church building professionals consider during the church design and building process, stay tuned for the rollout of our 2022 free i3 webinar series, where we will continue to give you up-to-date information on the church building process. We’ll be providing the details in our next blog post.

2021-12-07T21:21:53+00:00 December 7th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Getting Familiar with Church Design Schematics and Why You Need Them

Most of us have seen architectural drawings at some point. Perhaps you’ve worked with a builder on plans for your new home or seen proposed building schematics at a town hall meeting. The same process happens with any church design project. To better envision what’s possible with your new church building or the remodeling of an existing structure, you should develop at least three types of church design schematics.

Master Site Plan

This first type of schematic is a Master Site Plan. This shows a drone’s eye view of the end result of your church building project. This includes land use and restrictions based upon building and zoning codes, as well as relationships of spaces between each building. Parking lots, ball fields, and even a pond are all laid out on this master plan. You can see that different phases of building are clearly marked by different colors.

In this example, there are several labeled lines on this plan. Property lines are self-evident. Building setbacks are the distances from the property line where local zoning codes allow you to build. This church design is located on a new site, with plenty of property, so building setbacks are not much of a concern. However, if you’re in the city and you have very little property, setbacks can become a very large concern.

Church Design Floor Plan

Another type of schematic is the floor plan. Here, you get a sense of how the church building is laid out and where the different areas are located. You can see where all of the different ministries are going to be. The front of the church building (at the bottom) includes areas to welcome guests, such as the café and the foyer, as well as church offices that people might access during the week.

Nurseries are just outside of the centrally located multi-ministry worship center, which makes it easy for parents to step out and check on a very young child. Children’s classrooms and the youth multi-ministry center are located deeper in the building, making that area safer because no one else needs to go through that area to access other areas of the church building.

Church Building Perspective

Every good church design needs a detailed picture to help attendees understand what the new church building is going to look like. It helps to answer questions like, “Is it going to blend in with what we have, or is it going to be a bold new look?” It also helps everyone get a sense of how your church vision for ministry in the community is going to be lived out in this new church building.

The first three images are for new church building projects, but you will also need these types of church design schematics for a remodeling project. In this master plan for a remodeled church, the lighter peach color represents an existing school facility being converted into a church. The darker orange color represents the remodeled areas which will be converted into the foyer and worship center.

These church design schematics are shared with your congregation and denominational leaders. If you need financing, you’ll share them with lending institutions. You might also share them with community leaders if you need their support on your church building project. Once the schematics are complete, you’ll move on to the budgeting process, which we’ve discussed elsewhere.

In fact, we’ve discussed most aspects of the church building process with blog posts, including in our free i3 webinars. We are working on our 2022 webinar lineup, so stay tuned for more information.

2021-11-23T18:50:58+00:00 November 23rd, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

How Utility Planning Impacts Your Church Design

There are numerous steps that must be taken when working out your church design, whether you’re constructing a new church building from scratch or doing major church remodeling. We’ve previously written about both zoning and building codes. However, another element, one that can easily be overlooked, is utilities. They can have a significant impact on how your church vision gets translated into a workable church design.

Beginning with an Electricity Primer

First, let’s begin with electricity. It’s easy to think electric is electric, but the distribution of electricity is more complicated than that. There are two common types of electrical delivery here in the US: single-phase and three-phase power. Single-phase is the type of power that’s usually found in homes. Three-phase power is often needed for commercial and industrial facilities. It can accommodate heavier loads and great amounts of power.

If planning isn’t done to account for three-phase, instead of installing larger, more efficient HVAC systems to serve your entire church building, you might need to install a number of smaller HVAC systems for various parts of the building.

Addressing Gas, Water, and Sewer Availability for Your Church Building

Not all areas of the country have access to natural gas. This impacts which types of mechanical systems and kitchen furnishings you can install. It also impacts the amount of electricity you will need to cover all the systems in your church design.

Water can also be an issue. If you’re constructing a church building in the city, you likely can tap into the municipal water line. If you’re building out in the suburbs or rural areas, you might need to dig a well. Along the same lines, there might be a sewer line you can tap into, or you might need to install a septic system. In some cases, you may need more specialized systems such as a grinder pump and force main to carry sewage uphill to connect with an existing sewage line.

Counting the Cost of Your Church Design

All these options have costs, and counting the cost is an important element of good stewardship with your church design. If you’re fortunate, utility lines might already be laid all the way to the edge of where your church building will be. Otherwise, there will be expense associated with bringing utilities from the property line to your church building. There will also be costs to tap into each of those utilities.

If you need to dig wells and septic systems, there are also higher up-front costs associated with these options. In addition, if you’re constructing a large church building, those building codes might require that you install a fire suppression system. Wells generally can’t provide the necessary water pressure to feed these systems, so you will incur additional costs for generators, fire pumps, and holding tanks.

These are some of the specific elements that impact each aspect of your church design. It’s why you always want professionals to guide you in the transformation of your church vision into a workable church design. It’s also why we provide our free i3 webinars for church leaders like you. We will be rolling out our 2022 lineup of webinars soon.


2021-11-16T20:52:58+00:00 November 16th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design|

Making Sure a Good First Impression with Your Church Interior Design Lasts

Our blog series on making a good first impression with your church interior design has covered many elements in a church building, ranging from worship space to restrooms. When the design is done, there is still something that will help those great first impressions continue and that is maintaining your significant interior design investment.

Implement Your Church Interior Design Plan Thoughtfully

Once you’ve made the various important decisions about what you will do with walls, flooring, furnishings, and finishes, it’s time to bring the design to fruition. If you’re constructing a new church building, then your construction company will take care of ordering materials and scheduling the installations in the right order. If you’re working on a church remodeling project instead, one where church leaders might be responsible for some of the implementation, then it’s wise to think about the best order in which you want things to happen.

For example, you will most likely want to attend to all wall and ceiling work before you install any new flooring, to prevent any damage to your new flooring during wall painting or installation of stonework or metal accents. You also don’t want to have new furniture delivered until after the church interior design work is done unless you have plenty of safe and climate-controlled storage space for all those boxes.

Remember to Include Maintenance in Your Post-Installation Checklist

Once everything is installed in your church building, the work isn’t really over. A good first impression isn’t a constant, in the sense that floors will get scuffed, carpets spilled on, walls dinged, and furniture scratched over the course of time. For your church building to keep making a good first impression, you need to invest in proper maintenance of all these elements of your church interior design.

Good stewardship requires an investment in your church building, in the form of regular maintenance. Floors need polishing, walls need cleaning and sometimes touch-up paint, while furniture needs mending and sometimes refinishing, especially in youth and children’s areas.

Preserve That First Impression with a Church Building Maintenance Plan

Those are all reasons why we recommend that you have a church building maintenance plan. Especially if you don’t have a dedicated custodial staff, you will need to document proper maintenance for each element of your church interior design and create a plan for routine care to maintain that carefully thought-out good first impression. That way, everyone who participates in keeping your church building in good shape is aiming toward the same goals and maintaining that same church vision for ministry in your community.

All of these tips for making a good first impression were first shared with church leaders during one of our free i3 webinars. We hold these webinars regularly to keep you up to date on the latest and best practices for church design and construction of a new church building. We are currently putting the finishing touches on next year’s webinars, so stay tuned for a new list. Meanwhile, feel free to search our treasure trove of existing articles for ideas and innovations.

2021-11-09T21:07:43+00:00 November 9th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Interior Design|