Windsor Road Christian Church, located near University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, has been a steadily growing church since its inception in 1973. Their vision to be a “life-changing community of authentic believers, passionately pursuing Christ, unshakably committed to His Word, thoroughly equipped to serve, contagiously influencing our world for Him,” has continued to draw people.
Since moving into their current building in 1976, the congregation has grown from 200 to approximately 1,000 today. Over the years, numerous building projects with various architects and builders were undertaken to accommodate this growth. The result of this multi-phased approach to the church’s facility has been an increase in square footage with little aesthetic or functional flow between spaces as more has been added or adapted.
In 2015, Windsor Road hired Aspen Group to lead them through yet another major building project. This time the goal, according to Aspen Project Developer Greg Snider, was to create a master plan for the facility that would tie all the existing space together and create additional square footage for specific ministries.
“We looked at growth engines and growth barriers,” says Snider. “Though Windsor Road reaches lots of college students who attend University of Illinois, Windsor’s growth is mainly fueled by families,” Snider says. “Children’s ministry space was going to be a challenge if they kept growing. They needed more and better kids’ space. Student ministry is a strength too, and they wanted to enhance and upgrade this space.”
Fellowship and coffee in between services is also a staple at Windsor Road. “There wasn’t good community space within the building. Building the right kind of lobby for gathering space became a secondary priority after children’s and student ministry space,” he says.
With clarity on where to invest Windsor’s capital funds, Aspen Group built an addition onto the existing building and renovated the rest of it, with the exception of the sanctuary.
“Putting an addition onto a building that’s been added onto in different decades by different architects and builders is really a challenge,” says Snider. “There are inconsistent window sizes and roof lines, so to tie new space into an older building that’s been added onto over the years and have it come out looking cohesive is tough. And inside, making sense of the layout and flow was tricky. But when we can go in and fix the ministry flow of a multi-phased building—that’s exciting.”
When you can tie into existing space, you don’t need to build as much new space, according to Snider. “Most designers forget about spatial stewardship. Instead of figuring out how to connect old and new space, they end up with too much square footage and a disconnect between the old and the new. You get the wrong space, and potentially too much space, if you don’t focus on getting the stewardship of the space right.”
Unifying Children’s Ministry Space
Before Aspen built a new addition to house Windsor Road’s children’s ministry, the kids’ space was divided between two floors. Parents had to navigate strollers and diaper bags and youngsters up and down some of the most challenging space in the church. Additionally, children’s check-in didn’t function well.
The new addition creates brand new, functional space and unifies the entire ministry on one level.
“It’s exciting to do an addition when you can align a whole ministry into a space that’s current and fresh and relevant to today’s culture,” says Snider. “It’s what people expect when they walk in the door, and it matches up with who Windsor is.”
Meeting a Pent-Up Demand for Play Space
Aspen also created an indoor play space adjacent to the front doors and patio area at the church. With space for kids to play while moms and dads enjoy a free cup of coffee together, Windsor was able to meet a pent up need in the community for gathering spaces for parents with kids.
Adjacent to the indoor play space is a large group room. The whole room looks like a racetrack and features road signs, stands with fans, and garage doors that open into breakout rooms and play space. Outside this large group room is the new secure check-in area, which mimics a ticket booth for a race event.
The nursery section features a lot of glass, and a separate, secure nursery check-in area. Down the hall, there are banks of large breakout rooms and another large group room for kids.
Aspen renovated the church’s original sanctuary—the oldest part of the building—into student ministry space. By gutting some older classrooms, a new student lobby was created. Special finishes and a sophisticated AVL packaged were packed into this new student ministry space. With a new space of their own, students feel like they’re a valued part of the church community.
According to Scott Kunkel, a Windsor Road building committee member, “The new building is being used aggressively for ministry. We’re really happy with how the space works.”
New Uses for Old Space
The old nursery was remodeled into a hospitality/fireside room, a perfect space for newer families to connect with leadership and get introduced to the church.
Church admin offices, previously located in the prime real estate right inside the front doors of the church, were relocated into the old children’s ministry space. By moving church offices out of the front lobby, this prime real estate could now be renovated to serve as fellowship and gathering space.
Within the new front lobby, a welcome desk creates a clear hub for information, especially for first-time visitors. Visual cues and an easy-to-navigate open floor plan create clarity and direct first-time visitors to popular areas, such as children’s check-in, student ministry areas, and the sanctuary. The welcome desk also gives timely information on new classes, events, and upcoming activities in the church. Lobby furnishings and technology were incorporated within the space to convey the church’s value for families and the importance of relationships. With plenty of new seating options and areas to mingle, the new lobby truly serves as a Third Place space for people to congregate before and after church services, something Windsor Road was sorely missing in the past.
Outdoor Gathering Space
To further add to the Third Place space, Windsor added an outdoor patio outside the main entry. “We moved the entry drive and changed the front door to create a better experience as visitors come into the parking lot and approach the building,” says Snider. “The new patio really improves the front door space. In essence, we recreated the concept of a front porch, a place where people can hang out together.”
Building a new addition and changing entry points into the building also reduced the overall number of parking spaces. More parking needed to be recreated to accommodate existing cars and projected increased attendance in the future. Aspen worked hard to add more parking without sacrificing the aesthetics and functionality of the entryway.
Big Wins for Windsor
It’s challenging to reconfigure a disconnected building that’s been built in multiple phases. But Windsor’s intentionality in reaching families—their focus on making sure the new building reaches everyone and doesn’t leave anyone out—is what created clarity in the design of the new and renovated space.
“Students can connect better, parents feel good about leaving their kids in a safe, secure space, and the whole congregation has lobby and outdoor space to meet and greet each other on Sundays,” says Snider. “These are big wins for everyone at Windsor.”
In the end, Kunkel says, “Aspen provided a facility with everything we had hoped for.”
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