Why a Church Vision is So Important

The McKnight Group speaks often about vision. We talk about it in our i3 webinars. We talk about it here on our blog. We even talk about it when church leaders reach out to us about their church buildings. We do it so frequently because we know how important a clear vision is when seeking to build your ministry on the right foundations. And we recognize that the right vision is a key foundation for any successful church building project.

What Does a Church Vision Do?

Imagine that an overcrowded sanctuary has become an issue for your church’s attendees. When sharing a church vision for ministry and your new church design plans, you’re giving those attendees hope for the future, that the overcrowding won’t last forever. When you share your vision, people also become engaged with your plan for the future, and thus more involved with your church. You can more easily bring people together around this vision for ministry.

The Impact of Not Having a Church Vision

Another reason every church should have a vision is because of what happens if you don’t. Without a shared church vision, everyone tends to think their ministry is the most important. Ministry leaders can begin to question why another ministry is getting preferential treatment or a better meeting place.

With a clear church vision and explanation of the people you want to reach for Christ, each ministry leader knows where their particular ministry fits within the overall plan. Some might not be happy about it, but they will have trouble making waves about it because everyone else is on board. Publicizing your vision can serve as a tool to help spot the people who want your church to go in a different direction. Then you can explain the reasons behind your church vision and help to bring them on board.

We also recognize that one church cannot do every ministry, so it’s possible that the process of sharing your church vision might cause some people to go elsewhere. There will always be other churches, and other ministries, and that’s okay. There’s a limit to the ministry that any one church can effectivity provide — and a church vision will clarify those limits.

The Financial Effect of a Church Building Vision

Finally, a church vision is especially important in determining the scope of any church building project. It gives you a template that helps you check what you’re spending, how big you’re making spaces in your church design, and what your priorities are for the new church building. It also makes those tough decisions easier. You might have a church design that costs $5 million if you were to build everything at once, but you can only afford $1 million. With a church vision and church design master plan, you can easily determine your highest priorities, and select which part of your new church building to begin first.

There’s much to consider at every stage of a church building project. This is why we share our free i3 webinars every year. Our latest lineup is available here and you can register for upcoming webinars here.

2021-01-05T16:29:48+00:00 January 5th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Three Tips for Church Leaders to Bring a Church Building Vision to Life

Having a compelling vision drives the success of a church building or remodeling project, but success requires more than simply having vision and writing it down.  

A vision statement is not designed to collect dust on a shelf. As a church leader, you’ve already demonstrated that you have what it takes to rally an organization around a bold initiative. It’s what makes someone a leader.

So, when it comes time for a church building project, it’s important that you consistently communicate the purpose of the project, the timeline in which the vision must be sustained, and that you also remind church attendees of that vision in a captivating way. All of this will lead to project unity. Here are three tips to make it happen.

Tip 1: Communicate a Clear and Compelling Church Vision

A new church building, and even some church remodeling projects, can take more than a year to complete. However, you have a limited amount of time to get everyone on board with your church vision for ministry. In order to prevent any misunderstandings, it’s important to have a clear and concise church vision statement. We always suggest that the vision statement is written down and shared frequently.

Think about it this way: church leaders get excited about new projects. It’s possible to then talk about them for days, sharing all the details and eventually, possibly, overwhelming people or turning them away. A compelling church vision that can be communicated in a single sentence or paragraph is helpful to give clarity to everyone. It also helps keep everyone on the same page.

Tip 2: Build Unity Quickly in Your Church Community

Unity is critical to the success of any church building project. Getting and keeping everyone on the same page helps your church community keep moving forward. A church building is expensive these days, so it’s rare that everybody gets everything they want the first time around. Instead of arguing over whose ministry is most important and what most needs to happen, church leaders need to help staff, volunteers, and attendees understand that you’re working with a long-range plan.

With a long-range church vision and phased church building plan, everyone understands the vision, the big picture, from the beginning. Then priorities become much clearer. People can see how the first step is needed to support their ministry, which might be in the second or third phase. They understand where their specific ministry plays a role in the overall church vision.

Tip 3: Support Shared Sacrifice During the Church Building Process

As we noted above, any church building project will take a while to reach completion, especially if you’re implementing it in phases. Another key tip to successful implementation of your church vision is clearly describing the end result. When church leaders make the vision compelling, attendees understand what’s going to happen. They know where you’re going. This allows people to put up with disruption for a while longer. They will sacrifice in the present because they know where the church is headed. When they’re inspired by what lies ahead, they’ll put up with the challenges that come with any church building project. They feel part of something bigger than themselves.

As you know, we share tips like this throughout the year, using our free i3 webinars to communicate ideas, insights, and innovations for the church building process. Our 2021 lineup is available here and you can register for the first three upcoming webinars here.

2020-12-22T15:49:51+00:00 December 22nd, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Asking the Right Questions If You’re Struggling to Develop a Church Vision

A vision for ministry is the starting point for so many elements that make a thriving church community. Not only will it help shape the kinds of ministries offered, it’s also key to making a church building that functions and supports that community, among other things. But we recognize that the idea of a church vision can be difficult to explain, and a concrete church vision can be challenging to pin down. Here are some questions to ask and ideas that can help church leaders determine your church vision, and whether your church building is helping or hindering that vision for ministry.

The First Question to Ask About Your Church Vision

The first, and most obvious, question to ask when defining your church vision is who you want to reach. To say you want to reach everyone is true for all of us, but go further and ask who are you best at reaching? For example, say you’re great at evangelism and feel God leading you to reach the unchurched, people who have no history of attending church in their life. Your church building is going to tell a story to everyone who enters. If you find a way to bring them in and what they see is old wood beams, pews, stained glass, and elegant floral arrangements displayed on old-fashioned, fragile furniture, they’ll probably not connect with those building features the same way someone who grew up going to church does. 

The Next Questions to Ask About Your Church Building

So, once you decide on who you want to reach, the next question is how to attract them. In the example above, what would be attractive to people that don’t attend church regularly? The old standards of pews and steeples aren’t going to matter to them. Instead, they could better appreciate a clean, contemporary feel, with solid furniture, a welcoming vibe, and amenities they can relate to—like a café with comfortable seating areas and perhaps a children’s play area close by.

As you walk around your church building, try to see it with the fresh eyes of a first-time attender. Would they know where to go for worship? If they went to a class, would they be directed to an attractive and welcoming classroom, or a cozy space with comfortable seating and good lighting? Or are those spaces reserved for the regular attendees, leaving the first-time attender to gather in a small, crowded room with old folding chairs? When they drop their kids off in the children’s area, will they be shown an outdated, poorly lit space, or a brightly colored, attractive children’s area with a security desk and clear safety signage?

The Best Questions to Ask About Your Church Design

As you can see, asking the right questions will help you develop the right vision for reaching people in your community. It’s also important that your church building tells its own story about your vision. Both must be in sync, or you will have to overcome the non-verbal messages your facility sends to attract the people you want. This is when it’s important to look at your church design and compare it with your priorities. Ask what you can afford and also what’s of greatest importance. We know that a new church building can be expensive. The good news is that you don’t have to start with a brand-new church design. Instead, you can remodel your existing church building to meet your current needs. We’ve got lots of experience in guiding church leaders, so feel free to ask for our help.

You can learn more about the right questions to ask—on many topics! — in our free i3 webinars. The first three in our 2021 webinar lineup are available for sign-up now!

2020-12-08T20:27:53+00:00 December 8th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Aligning Your Church Building Vision with Modern Technology

Church leaders have quickly learned that technology is critical to supporting a thriving church vision for ministry to the community, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has forced many churches to reevaluate their use of technology, or experiment with technology in ways that they might not have imagined before. Here’s an example of forward-thinking church leaders who had a traditional church vision, but still recognized the need for some church building updates to meet modern technological requirements.

Church of the Messiah in Westerville, Ohio

Church of the Messiah is a traditional church that wants to stay that way – making use of choir robes, pipe organ, piano, and the like in their services. Modern technology perhaps doesn’t seem to fit neatly into that vision but was still something the church leaders knew was needed. While they had installed a remote camera, which you can see in this first picture, they had wires and cables running everywhere, a lack of proper lighting for videography, and no functional platform at the front of the church building. They came to us looking for church design ideas that would keep the traditional worship feel while still making the church building more functional for worship in the modern age.

Integrating Modern Technology into a Traditional Church Design

Take a look at this second photo to see what we were able to accomplish. Obviously, those cables are now hidden away. The platform at the front of the worship space is larger and the movable chairs open up the platform while giving it more flexibility. Stronger lighting improves visibility, livestreaming, and video recording of worship services.

The biggest change is in the many video screens that have been seamlessly integrated into the traditional church design. The entire front end is now one large screen, which helps the space appear larger when projecting something simple, like this skyscape. It can also be used for multimedia, or for projecting traditional images, such as stained glass, which help to enhance the traditional aspects of their church vision for ministry.

Thinking Beyond Technology with Church Building Flexibility

Flexibility is not often a priority for church leaders with a traditional church building. However, we were able to give Church of the Messiah some flexibility in the use of this church building. For example, the first three rows of pews on the main floor of the sanctuary were replaced with chairs. This allows them to expand the front space for Christmas or Easter events, and gives them additional handicap seating as needed.

Beyond the worship space itself, we integrated wheelchair access into the church design and remodeled their foyer so that it would better meet the church’s needs and vision for ministry to their community. All this was accomplished with an eye toward blending modern technology needs with a solid, traditional feel in this church building.

We showcase church building examples like this in each of our free i3 webinars, which are designed to inform and inspire you in imagining how your existing church building can be remodeled to meet today’s church vision needs for ministry in your community. We will shortly be unveiling our 2021 lineup of church design and building webinars, so stay tuned.

2020-12-01T22:18:34+00:00 December 1st, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Revision the Role of Your Church Building during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many aspects of life in America, and church is one of them. While it can be tempting to focus on all the problems, God can transform anything. In this case, COVID-19 also gives churches an opportunity to break the church building status quo and evolve in order to better minister to their communities.

Understanding the Pitfalls of the Status Quo

It’s common for people to get comfortable with the way things are at church. Over time, it becomes more difficult to make changes because folks are happy with the status quo. While we can become comfortable with how we use our church building and the ministries we do in and throughout it, being comfortable is not where Christianity thrives. What’s best for a church can sometimes be very different from what attendees want.

Therefore, the COVID-19 crisis presents a golden opportunity to reevaluate and update our church vision for ministry in the community. In fact, COVID-19 has already forced most churches to do just that in order to provide a safe environment. What George Barna once said is even more relevant today: “The things that got you where you are today will not be the things you need to get you where you need to be tomorrow.”

Why You Should Revision Your Church Design

Making vision and ministry changes internally is only part of the change process. How a church building looks from the outside, or as attendees enter, can speak volumes about the vision and direction of the church. An old building with a new direction inside looks the same from the outside. Imagine that a new family comes to town and passes by an old church building. When they look at the church design, can they imagine that it has vibrant ministries for families, or does it seem to be a standard traditional church? Curb appeal, in this case, means more than healthy landscaping, a freshly sealed parking lot, and a church building that’s clearly well cared for. It’s also about getting a sense that this church building is the home of a warm and friendly community that ministers to all ages.

Bridgetown Church of Christ: Changing Up the Church Building Status Quo

Here’s an example (prior to COVID-19) that illustrates how church leaders modernizing their church vision communicated the change through a remodeled church design. Bridgetown Church of Christ was constructed in the 1970s. Driving by the church building, you wouldn’t understand that there had been a complete change. They had hired a younger staff, refocused their programs to appeal to younger people, and changed their ministry direction to reach the neighborhood. Once guests got inside the church building, these changes were evident. However, from the outside, it looked like the same old traditional church.

As you can see in these before and after photos, we transformed the exterior church design appearance to reflect their updated church vision. Now, it’s possible to see that something new and different is going on in the church. We also took the opportunity to build new restrooms, increase energy efficiency, and create warm, friendly places for people to gather. Now, the message on the outside matches the ministries going on inside.

While COVID-19 has kept many people away from church buildings, that won’t last forever. People will be back. Does your church design send the right message? If not, give us a call and let’s talk about possible changes you can make. Also stay tuned, because we’ll soon be providing details about our free i3 webinar lineup for 2021!

2020-11-24T17:51:02+00:00 November 24th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Don’t Be Afraid to Dream Big with Your Church Building Vision

Much goes into finding the right vision for your church’s ministry, as our series of blog posts on this topic has demonstrated. While there’s a lot to consider, we want to encourage you to make sure to think big.

We’ve been helping church leaders envision new or remodeled church building projects for fifty years now. Over those decades, we’ve come to see that it’s especially important for church leaders to start the vision process with broad thinking that leads to a master plan.

Develop a Grand Vision

The best way to dream big is to consider the following. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? How would you like to proceed if money wasn’t an obstacle, or even a concern? How do you really want to give glory to God through your church building and the ministries it supports? By dreaming big at the beginning, your vision for ministry will not be limited by human concerns, but instead driven by God’s plan.

Consider What’s Possible Now

While God gives us the vision, he does not always give us all the money to make it happen right away. Once you’ve outlined your grand vision, it is time to consider what is affordable at this stage on the journey. This doesn’t mean that you let go of the dream, but that you get it all down in a master plan, and then break that plan down into affordable pieces. At this point, money, budgets, resources, time, and land will all come into play. You’ll need to choose the right priorities in terms of what comes first.

For example, while the need for a Christian school may be an important part of your church’s vision, it is also important to have adequate worship space. Are both of these facility needs achievable in a first phase multi use project?  Or is this something that has to be built with separate uses from the very beginning? This is where a master plan helps with communicating the entire vision, so that families with young children will be happy in your church building and see hope in the future development of the facilities for ministry.

Focus on the Right Steps Toward Your Dream Church Building

The master plan lays out the phases, and steps within those phases. However, if you choose a step that will cost more than you can afford, it could become a stumbling block to the broader vision. You might find that your church ends up focused more on funding concerns than on ministry. If that happens, the entire process can end up losing steam and excitement.

Instead, be careful to choose steps that are sized to be affordable and big enough to make a difference. By investing in your vision for ministry in steps and phases, you can accomplish your dream over the course of time. As we outlined in a recent post, one church took 30 years to fulfill its master plan, but they got there, step by step.

So, don’t be afraid to dream big. That’s how we started building churches half a century ago, and that’s how you can build your vision for ministry in your community. To learn more about the many ways we can support your master plan and church building process, check out our free i3 webinars.

2020-06-23T19:19:46+00:00 June 23rd, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

A Master Plan Brings Your Church Building Vision to Life

Once church leadership has decided on its vision for ministry, the work can begin on creating a church building that works. Master planning is where vision typically leads when it comes to facilities, whether it’s remodeling what exists or building new ones.

Not only is a master plan an excellent way to document where the church’s vision takes the physical plant over time, it is also a way to easily give everyone an idea of what’s possible, and what you hope to accomplish. Well-made master plans can take years to develop. To fully understand how they can impact a church community over time, this post will highlight a case study of a church we began working with about 35 years ago.

A Master Plan Case Study

Way back in 1985, we worked with church leaders to develop this master plan for their church building complex. They were working with 27 acres of property and had a worshipping community of about 400 people.

Notice in the first image how they were dreaming big with their vision for ministry. You can see the church building complex at the bottom of the image, with an expanded worship center to seat 1200, a multi-ministry center, and two education wings. In addition, they had a vision for a Christian school on the property, and an assisted living facility. Both of those projects were slated for the future, but it was important to show the entire master plan at the beginning, so church attendees would have a sense of the broader vision for ministry in the community.

How a Church Building Master Plan Can Change Over Time

Fast forward 27 years. As its vision evolved, the church created a second master plan. Here, you can see that many things have changed. They’ve purchased more land, the footprint of the school has expanded, and they’ve added a number of athletic fields on the newer property. In fact, the church grew so much faster than they expected that they developed a future vision that included a worship center seating 3200 people.

At this point, the assisted living facility was still part of the plan, but it hadn’t yet been built. Instead, the church’s focus was on expansion of their successful Christian school. Later, a developer approached the church about the “practice fields” at the far lower right corner, under the label “Phase VI Preschool.” The developer purchased this land to build its own assisted living facility. So, the church’s vision for ministry to the elderly was still fulfilled, just not in the way it was originally imagined.

Building Excitement about Your Vision

One of the key reasons to develop a church building master plan that illustrates your vision for ministry is to generate excitement in your church. When attendees see what’s possible, they get fired up and on board with what God can do through them. A Christian school that didn’t exist in 1985 now educates 650 children in 12 grades. A vision for ministering to the elderly is now thriving because the church leaders were willing to think creatively about partnering with other organizations in the community.

That original master plan is now 35 years old, but it’s still inspiring because it’s part of this church’s visionary history. To learn more about ways to make your vision a reality, sign up today for our upcoming church building i3 webinars.

2020-06-16T19:19:31+00:00 June 16th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Why Vision Matters in Unifying Everyone Around a Church Building that Works

We spend much time and space in this blog discussing vision and its importance. But what does vision actually do for a church? The answer can be found in other questions, like “How do the people in your church know where the church is going?” or “How do you know if your attendees are on board with the direction?” A strong vision can answer all these questions, while serving as the tool for a church building that works.

Being Part of Something Bigger

As we’ve discussed before, every church needs a vision for ministry in their community. That vision helps everyone get on board with your plans for sharing God’s word with others in your area. When church leaders can capture that vision, and define it, and say, “This is what we’re about,” it helps people know where the church is going while helping attendees to get on board with that vision. Most of all, it helps people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. People sometimes think, “I could never do this,” but when the church is doing it, they can join in and believe, together, that anything is possible.

Being Unified Behind the Vision

Joining together is a critically important component of any church vision process. You need something that unifies people, helps them come together, and gives them a reason to be part of a team. When you can gather people together around a vision, they get to know each other and build relationships. When they know each other, it’s easier to provide support to each other, and to achieve the vision that you’re seeking to fulfill together.

A church without a lot of unity, especially in leadership, will find it hard to get anywhere or accomplish anything. At times, clearly articulating your vision can reveal those who are not in unity with the vision. Sometimes church attendees just go with the flow. Then, when there’s a new vision, a new direction, some of those people can begin to get uncomfortable and ask questions. As a church leader, it’s important to listen, to get a heads-up on who is on board and who’s not. Then you can speak with those people who are struggling with your vision and help them see why it matters, and how to get on board.

Aligning Your Vision with Your Church Building

So, what does all this have to do with your church building? Some church leaders might say they have a vision to reach unchurched people but will then build a church building that meets their own needs, not the needs of the unchurched. Such a church building becomes a place where guests do not feel comfortable, or even welcome.

The right vision allows church leaders to put their church building money where their mouths are. It’s essential to ask why you would take on a ministry when it’s not part of your vision. If it’s not where God is leading you, let it go.

We’ve been doing this church building work for fifty years now. We have developed a solid understanding of the need for a focused and powerful vision for ministry to guide your church building process. To learn more, sign up for our forthcoming free i3 webinars, where we share more wisdom gained from building churches for fifty years.

2020-06-09T18:56:14+00:00 June 9th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach in Finding Your Church Vision

We have been posting a series of articles to help church leaders develop a clear vision for ministry in their community, leading to ways that vision can be reflected in a church building. Our prior post discussed finding ministries that are needed in your community. However, sometimes what’s needed isn’t obvious. At other times, these needs can appear so big that it’s hard to know where to start. In this post, we’ll address how you can refine your church vision in such cases.

Expanding Your Thinking about Your Church Vision

Sometimes it can be hard to see where God is leading you. In part, that’s because sometimes it can be hard to think outside the box—or, in this case, the church building. It’s not always easy to think about things in new ways. This is when it’s best to take things one step at a time.

At other times, you might think you have a clear idea about a church vision for ministry, but you don’t have anyone available to take it on. Your staff has their hands full already, and there’s no one with the time and passion to take it on. The good news is that, when the time is right, God will provide.

Oftentimes, that provision looks like a volunteer coming to you with a passion for something. It might be a passion for kids, or a passion for music, and those passions will fit in well with your church vision. As leaders, it’s then your responsibility to welcome those people, encourage them, build them up, and release them to start building on that vision.

Taking a Step-by-Step Approach

Over time, as that volunteer’s ministry grows, you will likely find that you need more space, resources, and volunteers, in order to help them. Fortunately, growth does take time. That means, as church leaders, you can take a step-by-step approach to meeting those ministry needs. Ask questions like, “How can we grow, and what can we do, for this season or this year?”

It’s important for church leaders not to get a mile ahead of the people they’re leading. If you get too far ahead with your church vision, others can’t see what you see. They can’t visualize the path you’re on. And when they can’t see, they won’t follow. So, it’s okay to take your time. As a leader, you need to have your full church vision in mind, but your role is to show others the next step they have to take at each moment.

Keeping Your Steps Aligned with Your Church Building

Of course, part of keeping that entire vision in mind applies to your church building. Keep asking how your current church building is supporting your church vision and noticing where it does not. Then, you’ll find yourself asking questions about where you are spending your money, and how your next church building can better reflect your vision. Are you going to spend money in achieving ministry space to reach a vision that’s all about you? Because you don’t want a facility that just fits the needs of the people you already have. You want a church building that’s going to bring more people to Christ.

We take a step-by-step approach with many of our free i3 webinars, because we know it’s easier for church leaders to follow our vision for their church building on a step-by-step basis. Learn more about our vision for churches like yours by signing up today for our upcoming i3 webinars.

2020-05-26T18:26:42+00:00 May 26th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|

Translating Your Church Vision into Specific Ministries

In some of our recent posts, we’ve been taking a close look at how to develop a church vision for ministry and why it matters. Here we’ll shift our emphasis from how you develop a church vision to understanding how the specific ministries in your church building flow from this vision.

Ministries = Strategies

In our view at The McKnight Group, we see ministries as similar to strategies in the business world. Ministries are the specific actions taken to reach people based on your church vision, like the activities you offer in your church building and the choices you make about where to focus your time, energy, and resources to bring people closer to God.

Why Every Church Building Can’t Hold the Same Ministries

As you know, there are a lot of churches in just about every community in America today. If every church in each town had exactly the same ministries, a lot of diverse needs would not be met. For example, families with young children have different ministry needs than couples whose children have left the nest and are striking out on their own.

So, once you’ve decided on a church vision, you need to take a look at what other churches in your community are already doing. If you decide to minister to families with young children, is the need in the community being met by an existing good weekday childcare programs at other churches nearby? If so, you don’t want to start one that would put your church in competition with others in the area. Instead, you might choose to focus instead on a MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) program.

Examples of Specific Ministries that Can Fulfill Your Church Vision

Once you know which people you want to reach, begin to brainstorm the types of ministries that will meet their needs. Working parents might welcome an after-school program, but empty-nesters will have no interest in it. Single parents will have different needs from couples, and younger adults will have different interests than older ones.

Your church building is another important element to discerning the specific ministries that you should choose in fulfilling your church vision. Do you have meeting space to help address the social needs of your community? Perhaps your church vision involves addressing issues like homelessness or drug addiction. If God’s leading you to think more broadly about how your church building can become an effective community resource, new ministries like these can help bring new people into your church building, and potentially into your worship as well.

Every church’s situation is unique, but church building projects usually encounter similar challenges. This is why we began sharing our free i3 webinars about how to develop a church vision, and to construct or renovate a church building to help fulfill that vision. To learn more, sign up for our upcoming i3 webinars today.


2020-05-19T20:14:05+00:00 May 19th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Vision|