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Winter Haven Worship Center
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

Winter Haven Worship Center in Florida began in 1991 as Haines City Worship Center with a congregation of just 100 members. The pastor who pioneered the church was Jeff Connor, a Southeastern Bible College graduate who served in churches in South Carolina and Florida before taking the reins of Haines City Worship Center. In just three years, the church’s congregation more than doubled in size, and the church made a bold decision to relocate 20 minutes away in Winter Haven. Church leadership purchased an old church building on five acres and changed its name to Winter Haven Worship Center.

In its new location, the membership of Winter Haven continued to grow, filling its 400-seat sanctuary and adding another service to accommodate the crowd. The facilities also expanded. The church beefed up its amenities, adding a kids’ zone and a cafe. Winter Haven also acquired more land. The church purchased 10 acres adjacent to the property, and a generous donor gave them more than 20 acres, for a total of 43.

Winter Haven—which defines itself as a Pentecostal, full gospel, non-denominational church—knew it wouldn’t be long before it added to its campus. And, when they did make that leap, church leadership wanted to be sure they met all areas of need. They hired Crafton, Tull and Sparks architects to team with design-build firm Churches with Daniels and create a master plan that could be built in phases as the church continued to grow. The plan included a new sanctuary, family life center, corporate offices, and a complete remodel of the old building. The first phase could be started immediately, but it would have to address the most pressing needs of the congregation. The church decided to focus first on the new sanctuary.

“They wanted to add on their existing facility so they could continue to use all of that square footage while adding a 1,000-seat sanctuary with stadium seating and state-of-the-art sound, video and lighting,” said Steve Owens, project manager with Churches by Daniels. “But they also needed to add nursery space (to the new building) so that the church’s smallest members could be in close proximity to their parents.”

Moving the nursery into the new building provided an opportunity to expand amenities for children and youth.

“Adding a new sanctuary also allowed the church to begin using the old sanctuary as the new youth room,” Owens said “They also were able to move their café into the lobby of the new building.”

The 25,000-square-foot, 1,008-seat sanctuary was designed with close attention to detail.

“A/V was key for the pastor,” Owens said. “He wanted a cutting-edge audio/visual system to help create a particular Sunday morning experience and stadium seating because it makes the sanctuary feel closer.”  

Outside the sanctuary doors, a generous lobby with café tables would give both guests and members a comfortable setting for fellowship. The heightened A/V would also enable the church to hang flat-screen TVs throughout the lobby and video its services to be available for viewing on its Web site.

Because the new building would have to tie into the existing building, the exterior was designed to have one cohesive theme. It would also have to blend in with the central Florida surroundings. This effect would be achieved by using a beige, sand-colored stucco finish to cover the tilt-wall concrete frame.

Staying on budget is always important, and Winter Haven was able to benefit from the downturn in the Florida building industry. By the time construction began, labor prices were dropping.

“We were able to get high-quality subs at lower prices because of the limited availability of work in that area,” Owens said. “This also helped push our schedule forward because most of the subs were able to devote all of their labor force to our job due to the economic downturn.”

Less than a year after construction began addition and renovation, the project was completed. It was a joyous day for the church as well as the community, which has benefited in numerous ways through the church’s outreach programs.

Winter Haven now enjoys a membership of more than 700 each Sunday, and guests continue to visit the church. With its new, large sanctuary, Winter Haven is able to go back to one service on Sundays, and because of its state-of-the-art A/V, sermons are now available online for those who are unable to attend church.

Churches by Daniels, a specialty of Daniels & Daniels Construction, is a full-service construction company located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, www.churchesbydaniels.com.

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