First impressions are made in fewer than ten minutes. For new visitors to any church, a poor first impression can be made simply by not being able to identify the main entrance nor having a definable place to check-in children once inside. The layout and function of a church building can greatly influence a visitor’s first impression before a pastor ever utters a word from the pulpit. As Andy Stanley put it, “Environments Matter!”

Kreg Robertson, AIA, presented “Transition Stories: Church Re-Created” at PSCU 2018. In his presentation, Kreg introduced four PSC church renovation projects and explained how PSC architects overcame challenges to make each church a more welcoming, inviting environment for their respective communities.

“There are no neutral environments. Environments are the message before the message.”

Kreg highlighted PSC projects across Texas, but one of the most impactful was the groundbreaking work at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Midland, Texas. He began by identifying key issues the facility was facing.

The red circles mark numerous entrances and show that there is no definable front door; guests did not know where to enter. Having so many entrances to watch also presents security challenges. Once inside, the dark blue shaded area marks the long, circuitous route a visitor must navigate to access the different ministries inside the facility. The green areas highlight the church’s connections to downtown Midland.

To create an obvious entrance, the design team created a new, spacious amphitheater that added a space for people to gather, a feature the previous design sorely lacked. The amphitheater functions as an outdoor worship area, stage, and gathering place for not just members of the church but for downtown Midland, connecting the church to its community.

Inside, the chapel was updated as well. Kreg explained that church leadership saw their chapel as outdated and closed off. These issues lead to the space not being utilized to its full potential. To remedy the problem, PSC designed a new, multi-purpose space with fresh finishes and an operable glass wall that opens up as a stage for the amphitheater. The new space is flexible enough to support several seating arrangements, and the acoustics were improved to enhance guests’ overall experience.

Kreg explained that with any renovation project, there are voices that wish to preserve the nostalgia of the space in which long-time guests are deeply invested. One way PSC’s designers connected the new design to the facility’s history was by preserving the medalions from the old stained glass windows in the worship center and integrating them into the design. This helped tie the new design into the soul of the church’s community.

The revision was celebrated by the community and received many accolades, including the 2017 Worship Facilities Solomon Awards for Churches Design – Outdoor Spaces and Church Sanctuary Design – Traditional and Contemporary as well as a Merit Award at the 2017 Lubbock AIA Design Awards.

Kreg’s presentation also detailed landmark projects at Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas; Mid-Cities Community Church in Midland, Texas; and First United Methodist Church in Waxahachie, Texas. With each, he emphasized how vital intentional architectural design is to the ways in which communities interact with their facilities.