Here Today, More Tomorrow
With their feet in the present and their eyes on the future, one church builds an expandable sanctuary space.
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Community of Faith (COF), in Hockley, Texas has been growing steadily since its inaugural service on Easter Sunday, 2003, when 187 people attended. Within thirteen years the church had grown to over 7,000 when ground was broken to build a new worship center on their existing campus. The new auditorium opened this past Christmas to the tune of 13,000 attendees.
This substantial growth mirrors a similar trend that COF experienced when they opened their Becker Road worship center in 2007. At that time, Becker Road’s attendance doubled within two weeks of opening the new building.
While this growth was a welcomed blessing, founding pastor, Mark Shook says it created issues that needed to be worked out.
First and foremost, Becker Road’s brand-new worship center, which sat 1,800 guests, was outgrown within the first year of opening its doors, forcing the church to pack out weekends with five services to accommodate the ballooning attendance.
Banking on that experience, Shook and his staff sought ways to prevent the same problem from happening with Community of Faith’s newest worship center.
“We were estimating that a new worship center would increase attendance anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people relatively quickly,” Shook said. “We threw around some possible solutions. Originally, we were planning on doing video satellite campuses, but the further along we went, we thought an expandable worship center was the best solution.”
FUTURE PROOFING SANCTUARY
Community of Faith turned to LIVE Design Group after having creative differences with a previous architect. Through onsite LIVE Sessions with Mark and his staff, the LIVE Design team got a feel for COF’s vision and was able to create a plan for a worship center designed for both present and future ministry (The new worship center currently seats 2,626 and can expand to 4,336 seats).
“Participating in the interview process after the church already tried other architects says a lot about the way we work,” says Aubrey Garrison, Live Design’s primary architect on the project. “It makes me happy that Mark felt that he got to the right solution.”
The LIVE Design Sessions were huge wins for Community of Faith. Not only did Pastor Shook and his staff get a chance to convey their vision to LIVE Design in these sessions, but by breaking the concept down piece by piece, Shook was also able to understand and communicate the vision that he actually wanted.
This is not the first time that LIVE Design Group had been asked to develop an expandable worship center, but previous projects had faced major acoustical limitations. The primary challenge with designing an expandable worship room has been finding one acoustic solution that could work for both present and future room phases.
As the space grows, it changes the acoustic dynamics of the room. The sound would either be great in the initial phase or great in the secondary phase, but not both. In the past, designers believed that acoustics would prevent an expandable worship center from succeeding. Recent
acoustic technology has improved to the point that expandability could be a viable option.
Now, with advancements in acoustic capabilities, Craig Krawczyk, a lead designer on the project, was able to develop a unique solution to meet that challenge. With the help of Wave Acoustics, sound configurations in the worship center were actually reproduced digitally for Community of Faith. Wave was enlisted by the church specifically to tackle this challenge, and they succeeded; the digital technology that Wave implemented allows changes to the acoustics when COF’s worship area is enlarged, resulting in ideal acoustics.
Krawczyk turned his attention to actual room design. In the past, designers have considered expanding sanctuaries in the back of the worship center. This type of expansion can disturb many other areas of a church including common and foyer areas, entrances and even classrooms. With this in mind, Krawczyk came up with a revolutionary idea to expand Community of Faith’s worship center from behind the stage. His expansion design included
a temporary wall in the back of the space that can be removed. From there the stage can be moved back, and thousands of additional seats can seamlessly be integrated. This was an idea that Pastor Shook really gravitated towards.
“Expanding from behind the stage will work great for our community,” Shook said. “Expansion can be done [on the new phase] while we are still meeting in the current one without any disruption of ministry.”
Shook says that Community of Faith has readily adopted their new worship center and fits the church family very well. Everything from the industrial feel to the unorthodox, organic seating have COF’s DNA all over it. Krawczyk worked with Shook to get everything just right, including the original seating design.
“Most worship area seating configurations are symmetric and balanced,” he said. “Mark wanted a room that was looser, that had non-symmetric seating, [a room] that was complicated, lively and energetic. It really feels like more of an arena than a sanctuary.”
“I am super pumped with how the space ended up. Everything the room is about fits us really well,” Shook says. “The design is simple elegance that matches our culture.”
Pastor Shook explains that the facility has exposed beams, concrete floors and some other industrial features that allowed the church to divert thousands of dollars toward ministry rather than the building.
“Some may not like it, but I’ve noticed that it seems the unbelievers that come to the church actually really like it. I think they like to see that a church is not simply spending money on itself,” he shares.
Along with keeping things simple, Community of Faith has a tight, family type of culture. Shook says that chairs are a bit closer together, and he worked with the LIVE Design Group team to develop organic seating so that the church family did not feel confined to rows of seats.
“In this whole process we wanted to make sure that we would keep that family feel. LIVE Design got that vision and they worked hard to help us stick to it throughout the whole process,” Shook recalls. “As an example, the expanded portion of the room that will be phase two of the worship center only goes back 25 feet from where the stage currently sits. In that space we are going to incorporate roughly 1,700 seats!”
With an intimate, family feel the mission-focused construction is built to reach the Houston area both today, and tomorrow.
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The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.