In 2020, the McKnight Group is commemorating 50 years as a church building firm. One way we are recognizing this significant milestone is with a podcast featuring our Founder, Homer McKnight. In it he tells the story of the firm and how it grew to build so many churches and support their vision for ministry in the community. Here are some highlights from the installment: Early Years, Part 1.

Forming the Partnership “Group” in The McKnight Group with Bill Hosterman

At the end of the first podcast episode, Homer McKnight tells how he had created the church design for Grove City Church of the Nazarene and accepted a call from God to build the church as well. Soon, other church building projects came into his pipeline and, in Homer’s words, “Those days are kind of a blur, but I remember I was working all the time. I was on the job during the day and drawing at night.” Homer realized that he couldn’t keep up. There just weren’t enough hours in the day, and he also really needed a licensed architect (since he was still in the licensing process).

Fortunately, God had a plan. Homer asked a contractor if there was another architect in his network who might want some work. As Homer recalls it, “He said, ‘Well, I know a guy that works where I work, who’s just like you. He’s a religious guy. He doesn’t cuss. I’ll introduce you.” That’s how Bill Hosterman joined The McKnight Group. (Listen to the podcast to hear why Homer liked Bill, and Bill’s memory of how prayer guided him to say yes.)

Developing the Church Design-Build Concept Together

One of the benefits that Bill brought to the McKnight Group was his experience in the construction field. At that time, architects (and the national professional organization, AIA) weren’t supportive of design-build, the idea of combining design and building projects under one company. In contrast, Bill found that his construction experience made a big difference. Many architects “[didn’t] know the difference between the paper architecture that you do and the construction that ends up in the field. And I think having construction knowledge and then joining in with a design-build firm was very valuable.”

Understanding Churches’ Unique Needs: The Church Building Master Plan

So, Homer and Bill began approaching their church design and building work as a package deal. Bill often found himself working half-days on drawings and half-days in the field with church building projects. Soon, they discovered that much of what they’d learned in architecture school about church design didn’t mesh well with the needs of church leaders and the actual function of a church building. In Homer’s words, “Architects and consultants had put little to no emphasis on the future when they designed their building. They had a piece of ground, they’d plop a small first building right in the center of it, without regard of how you’re going to add on where things would go in the future.”

This led Homer and Bill to begin thinking about the need for having a church building master plan. Churches tend to have one building project after another (learn why by listening to the podcast), so a master plan for the entire church design is critical to long-term success. Because they figured this out, the McKnight Group earned  a reputation for being problem solvers. This brought them more church design business and the company grew.

To learn more about what Bill calls “a very interesting and wonderful adventure that we were starting out on,” listen to the entire church building podcast episode.