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Multi-Ministry Spaces
By: David Strickland

Many churches have and will continue to grow during the current difficult economic times. As a result, a common challenge that faces so many churches is how to maintain momentum and continue to provide for the growing needs and ministries within the church when it seems that almost everyone is impacted financially. 

It is not unusual to have several ministries that need newer and larger space all at the same time as a result of the growth. Often, these ministries are very unique from each other, requiring different furniture arrangements and technology applications. If a construction project of any kind is a possibility, how does the building team choose which ministries will be provided for with new space and which ones will not? With good planning, all ministries can be served as their needs expand and change. It is very difficult to develop a design that will meet the budget and provide dedicated space for all ministries. 

Historically, multipurpose buildings have been utilitarian structures that were oftentimes physically separated from the remainder of the campus and, at best, used one night per week for recreation purposes and then occasionally for congregational fellowship events.  A well-planned multipurpose space can literally become the heart of an existing church that has outgrown their facilities or a new church that is just beginning to grow. In many instances, a multipurpose building has become a bridge to the community for outreach ministries providing weekday opportunities for recreation activities; it has become the venue that is utilized for more hours per week than any other space on the church campus because of its versatility. 

Of course, each church can and should be selective and intentional regarding what ministry functions can utilize the same space. The various uses have to complement the ministries of the church; otherwise, the facility can become under-utilized space. 

Several ministry needs can be nicely provided for with one additional facility. These ministries typically might have been thought of as best provided for in two or three separate and distinct spaces. One example that has shown benefits of the multiuse approach on many occasions is the planning of a room that will accommodate 600 to 700 seats for a congregational worship setting will also accommodate 400 to 500 seats for a fellowship ministry setting. This same space could also accommodate a thriving recreation ministry, with its size accommodating a regulation high school gym floor.  Such a facility provides programmed ministry space equal to approximately 45,000 square feet of required building space. Utilizing the multipurpose approach, all ministries are accommodated in approximately 12,000 square feet of actual building space. 

When using a multipurpose space for worship, consider fan-shaped seating, since it can offer very good sight lines. This is easily set up with a platform on one of the long sides of the rectangular space in a multipurpose space. The room can be shaped with slight angles at the perimeter walls for improved acoustics. Attention should be given to the selection of the most basic building materials, as the proper selections can also provide benefit to the acoustic environment. 

The integration of state-of-the-art audio, video, and lighting equipment that is utilized for worship can easily be installed in a space with a high structural roof system that is appropriate for large numbers of people that might be in the worship setting, in the fellowship setting or in the recreation setting. Generous storage space should be planned for in order to stack and store chairs, tables, and recreation equipment. Retractable divider nets can be installed in front of the platform to provide protection for instruments.  Another retractable net could be installed at the mid court line to allow for multiple games to occur at one time. A kitchen can be designed and constructed next to the multipurpose room for the preparation and the serving of food for church and community functions. 

There may be a fear that something critical may be sacrificed with multiuse space. However, I have seen it work very successfully without having to feel like you are dining in the worship center or attending worship in a gym. Ultimately, there are so many opportunities under one roof, and this is a fundamental reason why multi-ministry spaces are here to stay.

David Strickland is a principal of the Religious Studio at CDH Partners, a design firm in Marietta, Georgia, www.cdhpartners.com.

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