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Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

Much good fortune has been bestowed on Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois, since it began as a mission congregation of the American Lutheran Church in 1979. The spirit of the congregation kept growing and, in 1988, a worship center was built for the 250 families of followers to call home.

A decade later, church leadership set in motion the first steps to a plan that would ready itself to creative ministry in the year 2000 and beyond. A new ministry facility was constructed in 2000, and the church focused on reaching as many people as it could in the greater Naperville area. At one point, church leadership envisioned building a large 3,000-seat sanctuary to accommodate its growing membership.

However, in 2007, the church conducted a feasibility study and pinpointed its vision to “reach and transform spiritually distracted families in our local community so they come to know and love God.” This meant that rather than building a huge sanctuary for one-themed worship, the church would take a brave step to broaden its worship opportunities to appeal to a wider range of populations.

Under the same roof, Good Shepherd would offer both a more traditional praise service to appeal to the baby boomer generation in its sanctuary, as well as an edgier alternative service geared toward the “20-something” crowd, then known as the 11:11 service, in the gym/activity center.

The varied services proved successful, and church leadership was now faced with another challenge – how to best accommodate its growing ministries.

“We were packing this place out,” said Greg Wenhold, co-senior pastor of Good Shepherd. “Making more room for members was crucial, but relying on the old master plan that called for a large sanctuary just didn’t make sense. It felt too brick-and-mortar. And our vision was definitely birthed out of vision.”

Renovation and expansion plans for the church had to match the church’s mission. The church chose Aspen Group, based in Frankfort, Illinois, to plan a building program that would complement the church’s style.

“It was obvious the previous plan didn’t make sense for the church anymore,” said David H. Wilde, AIA, with Aspen Group. “There had been too much of a shift in the direction of the ministry of the church.”

The new plan would have to include not only bringing the old sanctuary up to 21st century expectations, but also building a complementary worship center for the alternative service and blending the two groups in a way that they would still feel connected.

The first phase would focus on renovating the existing sanctuary. The space was refreshed with new carpet, paint, and refinished pews. A choir loft was also relocated to allow for better acoustics, which enabled seating to be expanded to 650. Technical and audio-visual updates were also made.

Renovation and expansion of the stage also allowed for multiple styles of worship, spanning from traditional to contemporary, while still maintaining the reverent atmosphere that Good Shepherd valued.

The second phase added a worship center designed to feel more intimate and offer a versatile, alternative setting for the 11:11 service. The seating and stage were designed to be flexible enough to allow for countless configurations to accommodate a variety of activities.

For example, windows allow for natural light, but the addition of blackout drapes created a theatrical “black box” effect. The room also has high-tech audio and visual components.

The two worship spaces were connected by an open lobby with soft seating and tables that allow for casual conversation and a full-service café for gathering and connecting. The lobby was designed to complement and connect the two styles of service with high ceilings, wooden arches, and decking similar to the sanctuary. The focal point is a central fireplace and a cross element in the front of large windows.

“Now you come into the lobby and it’s an inviting area where people immediately feel engaged and welcome,” Pastor Wenhold said. “The lobby area is used all during the week. Right now, I’m looking out and there are people out there with cups of coffee holding meetings.”

The exterior of the church was designed to blend with the existing structure as well as to enhance the image of the overall building, according to Wilde. The building was also fitted with Accel-e wall panels, a new building product by Accelerated Building Technology, a Syntheon Company, to create a thermally efficient envelope. The panels also helped speed of construction time.

Construction was completed last fall, and now Good Shepherd holds six weekend services, a traditional service on Sunday at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.; a contemporary service on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 11:00 a.m.; and an alternative service on Sunday at 9:29 .m. and 11:01 a.m.

“In one-hour’s time, we max out with 1,000 worshipers,” Pastor Wenhold said. “We figured, if we can do 1,000 people during each hour of service, and with a variety of services, we think we’ve done a good job reaching the community.”

Renewed growth confirms the church’s decision.

“I am truly blessed to say that everyone loves the renovation and addition,” Pastor Wenhold said. “We have multiple venues here but everyone has the same vision here. I tell you, my hat’s off to Aspen Group for doing a phenomenal job guiding us through this process.”

The Aspen Group designs and builds original, effective facilities for growing churches by using an integrated process, combining visioning, feasibility, architecture and construction, www.AspenGroup.com.

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