A Church Isn’t a Building, But the Building Is *Really* Important

This architecture team draws up plans to help churches maximize — and afford — their costliest, most valuable, highest stress, most vital asset.

No one denies that your church’s building is an important extension of your ministry. But your physical facility is more than a neighbor’s first impression – it also provides one of your greatest opportunities to love your neighbor. And as a part of the physical fabric of your community, your space makes an impact, whether you’re intending it to or not.

In recognition of this, many ministries are shifting how they treat their own building projects. They welcome their community into the thoughtful, well-designed environments they’ve crafted and open space to their communities mid-week. By initiating building projects — new buildings and renovations — churches are providing much needed community centers, affordable housing, retail and more for the neighborhoods their congregations call home. They’ve listened to the needs of their community, and responded by leveraging their facilities to meet those needs, become better neighbors, and be a place that shows the love of Christ to their communities.

As part of a small architecture studio, embedded within an internationally known design firm, we get to be a part of this. Here are several church buildings we designed to allow churches to use them as powerful tools to further love our neighbors.

The Bayou Church — Lafayette, Louisiana

The Bayou Church just finished a much-needed building expansion, opening their new coffee shop, Bayou Beanery, and a theater specifically intended to be available to and used by the community throughout the week. With those spaces, the church can both meet its own needs and invite community use.

Ragamuffins Coffee House — Laurel, Maryland

Redemption Community Church realized their suburban location limited them from being more deeply engaged with their neighbors. So, they sold their church facility in the suburbs in order to buy and renovate a storefront on their local Main Street in Laurel, Maryland. 

On Sundays, Ragamuffins hosts Redemption’s Sunday worship. For the rest of the week, the coffee house serves the best coffee in town and houses community events like game nights, coffee tastings, and live music in the same space. With those events and the coffee-shop interaction, the multi-use space has given the church opportunity after opportunity to reach their community. Overall, this was a relatively small-scale project with high community impact.


The Church at Severn Run — Severn, Maryland

The Church at Severn Run wanted to reimagine their 43 acres of land and use the space to maximize their community reach. The planned developments address known needs of their community — including a large ability-inclusive playground, a daycare, a retail space for affordable clothing, transitional housing, job training, outdoor gathering areas, sports fields, a cafe, and flexible meeting spaces. The church’s food pantry, which serves over 1,500 people weekly, would be expanded to a market-style food bank, where those in need can get their food with more dignity than food pantries often afford. Some of these programs will be part of the church’s existing building expansion.


D.C. Housing — Washington, D.C.

A number of churches in Washington, D.C., are addressing the lack of affordable housing in the city by developing parts
of their property into housing. These churches have determined their property is their most valuable asset and tool to addressing this need.

By partnering with like-minded developers in shared ownership or long-term land leases, a church need not be responsible for a large capital investment, thus freeing their finances up to address expansion needs, deferred facility maintenance, or ministries in need of support.


Grace Community Church — Arlington, Virginia

As Grace Community Church (GCC) looked for a more permanent home, the church decided to plant themselves in the middle of the ongoing development in their community. Ballston Quarter, formerly the Ballston Common Mall, was in the process of revitalization. Now, it’s a central hub of Arlington, featuring housing, restaurants, flexible meeting space, and more. The church now meets on the second floor of the mall, and its children’s area operates a full-time daycare during the week.


Kingdom Fellowship AME — Calverton, Maryland

Instead of building a new building, and intentional on being in the midst of their community, Kingdom Fellowship AME bought two vacant office buildings and transformed them into their new church facilities. The Kingdom of God is a treasure found in a field, their design says, as described in Matthew 13:44–46. The lobby is encapsulated by tessellated glass and lit to recall images of treasure and jewels.

Scroll to Top