Christ Community Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey
Christ Community Church (C3) in Houston, Texas, was founded two years ago with a vision of being a church-planting church rather than a megachurch, and to focus on its missions giving. The small group met each Sunday at a Westin hotel for worship services, paying a premium price for three hours of use. Each week, the growing membership would setup for services, then breakdown until the next week. As more people joined, more rooms were rented.
“Within about six months of starting Christ Community and seeing God bring people to the church, we had the fortunate problem of considering what we would do about future meeting space,” the church describes on its website. “We began to pray and consider our options with the unwavering commitment to make decisions that would be marked by a utilitarian view of future church space (and) a commitment to steward God's resources well over the short and long haul.”
“We looked at a lot of different scenarios,” says Seth Thornton, C3’s pastor of mission and community. “We looked at leasing, we looked at buying land and building, and we looked at buying something and renovating it.”
Leadership focused on its mission to be good stewards of the resources it was given, using most to serve others in the community and beyond, and decided that the most cost-effective solution would be purchase and renovate an existing property.
C3’s search committee identified a vacated office building on 3.5 acres of pine tree-lined property in Sherwood Forest. The one-story, 26,000-square-foot building provided ample parking and could be gutted and modestly remodeled to provide exactly what the church needed, if only they could identify what they needed. They hired Zeigler Cooper Architects to help realize their vision.
“They were a new church and being so young, and they were still trying to figure out what they would need in the future,” said architect Paul Lodholz. “We went through three designs and looked at several different options.”
After much discussion and planning, church leadership was able to identify the type of space it needed. Lodholz’s plan included a worship area that could seat up to 500 people, entry/commons space with a coffee shop, several classrooms and preschool rooms, and offices and conferences space for staff.
The worship area was designed to hold upholstered stacking chairs so that the room could be rearranged for special events. A stage, large screens and a quality audio/visual system were also installed. The ceiling was also opened up to allow more height in the room.
“It wasn’t an old building,” he said. “It was built in the 80s, so all the basic components were in pretty good shape. It wasn’t a terrible office building, but it wasn’t anything special.”
The building did require a whole new infrastructure – new plumbing, electrical system, heating and air and sprinkler systems. The interior décor was made to be what Lodholz describes as “casual.”
“We knew what we wanted the space to feel like. We wanted it to be comfortable,” Thornton said. “We could have probably built something nicer with the resources we had, but we wanted to be intentional about what we did and what God had given us.”
The idea, he says, is not to grow C3 into a megachurch, but rather plant more small churches in communities throughout the city.
When it came to exterior design, the church had no plans to change the façade to make the office building resemble more of a church.
“The day we walked up to the property, it was a brown brick building with windows. And the day we walked away from it, it was a brown brick building with windows,” Lodholz said. “That doesn’t mean the church didn’t want to have a different outward appearance; that just wasn’t their emphasis. They didn’t want to drop a lot of money into a design feature at the time.”
About five months after renovations began, the project was finished. In January, two years after Christ Community Church was founded, it opened the doors to its new home.
“The architects and the contractor were great to work with and did an excellent job,” Thornton said. “It was a joy to see. Our people had been faithful for two years, meeting in a hotel, setting up and breaking down every week, serving that way. And to see their faces when they came here and saw. It was just a blessing. Just God’s hand allowing us to have a place to be.”
Ziegler Cooper Architects, based in Houston, Texas, designs buildings that are inspirational, highly functional and sustainable, resulting in extremely valuable assets for their owners, www.ZieglerCooper.com.