We wrote recently about how the pandemic is providing church leaders with a variety of opportunities for thinking “outside the box” when it comes to their church building. One of those opportunities comes from the number of businesses that closed during the pandemic, and had commercial buildings put up for sale as a result. As construction costs have risen, more churches are exploring options for converting such existing commercial properties into functional and effective church buildings. Here are some example projects we’ve worked on where church leaders were able to think about church design in creative ways.

Teaching about God in an Abandoned Middle School

In one town, we helped church leaders see the possibilities in a middle school building (before and after pictured here) that had been empty for years. In this case, we saw all the beautiful natural light coming into the cafeteria and converted it into an attractive café space that is once again filled with food and conversation—but now focused on Christ. In another area, we took a performance platform and turned it into a semiprivate meeting space, creating a unique feature that helps this church building stand out in the crowd.

Of course, many of the existing classrooms were a natural fit for the children’s wing. Those spaces for teaching the ABCs are now classrooms for learning about Jesus. Finally, we converted the gymnasium into their worship center, where the walls these days echo with voices raised in praise instead of the cheering of sports competition.

Gathering for Worship in a Church Building That Once Stored Carpets

Another example of a successful commercial building conversion was an old carpet warehouse. In this case, two churches merged and needed a bigger joint space in which to worship. This big-box building was easily divided into a spacious foyer for making a good first impression on guests and a worship space in the back. The high ceilings that once accommodated long rolls of carpet now makes for a soaring worship space for 250 people. By choosing movable seats rather than installing pews, church leaders also made the worship space flexible for other uses, such as banquets and classroom-style setups for teaching events.

Imagining Creative Church Design

You might ask if there are types of commercial buildings that couldn’t be converted into an effective church design. While some might be more challenging than others, we’ve found creative ways to repurpose a variety of existing commercial buildings with creative church design.  In this post are details on how we converted an old car dealership, turning the service entry area into a foyer, the showroom floor into the children’s check-in area, and the service bay into worship space.

While we can’t claim that anything is possible, a prayerful imagination can make most types of old retail or commercial buildings into very effective church designs. Thinking “outside the box” is one of the ways we encourage church leaders to get creative. Another way we support you is with our free i3 webinars, where we talk about all aspects of the church building and how to make it a more effective tool for ministry. We encourage you to sign up for our next i3 webinar and learn about other creative solutions to match your church building to your mission for ministry.