Building a Story at Community Christian Church–Yellow Box
A church building is more than a place of worship. It’s more than a multipurpose space or classrooms. The building is the body language of the church. Everything about the space communicates who the church is.
Every space tells a story, and every church we build has a story behind its design.
“The heartbeat for Community Christian Church has always been to help people find their way back to God.” says Lead Pastor Dave Ferguson. As attendance began to grow at the “Yellow Box”—the nickname for COMMUNITY’s original campus based on its striking yellow exterior and unique design—they reached a point where they were having five services.
“I’m not a big fan of buildings,” Ferguson admits. “But it was clear that if we were going to advance the mission, we needed more space.”
“We started thinking about whether we could remodel within our existing four walls,” says Doug Leddon, executive pastor at COMMUNITY. “Should we move, or should we add on? That’s when we brought Aspen in to help us think through that. This is about the time we brought Aspen in to help us.”
According to Greg Snider, project developer for Aspen Group, it was crucial to understand the alignment that COMMUNITY has with the culture, their leadership, ministry, and then into their facility.
“We wanted to exist for the community,” says Ferguson. “Whatever we did, it had to have that in mind—a genuine seven-day-a-week facility.”
“It was important that the space spoke not only of who they were as a church, but who Naperville is,” says Snider.
Aspen Group designed specific spaces to meet COMMUNITY’s needs to reach into the neighborhood—a new state-of-the-art auditorium with theater seating for more than 1,100, a new cafe and lobby spaces to encourage conversation and connection, and a 1,000 square foot training center to mentor and train new pastors, church leaders, and leaders of every kind, including local school districts and businesses.
Although the new auditorium seats nearly double the capacity the gym held for celebration services, specific design elements were incorporated to create a sense of intimacy in the large worship space. “One of the ways we did that was to create an auditorium where you enter in the middle of the room,” says Snider. Having people enter the large auditorium midway down the row of seats makes the room feel smaller.
Seating clusters line the perimeter of the main floor and raised nooks with high-top tables and outlets for plugging into devices during services all help create a more intimate feel in an otherwise large space.
Aspen took inspiration from House of Blues, using retro chandeliers and different colored seats so it feels more like a smaller venue than a vast sea of seats.
The second floor features skybox seating for people who prefer to sit above the crowd.
To create intimacy in the large lobby, “we pulled in higher-back sofas that are curved and pull in a more intimate feel,” says Lynn Pickard, senior interior designer for Aspen Group.
Though the auditorium and new lobbies provide a top quality venue for many types of events, it’s the addition of another new space—a second-floor, glass-enclosed training center—that may have the greatest impact on both the church and the community.
“Our passion is to train and equip future leaders,” says Ferguson, who co-founded the NewThing Network, a global church planting movement. “Our auditorium will help us reach thousands. But the training center will help us reach tens of thousands. It’s to mentor and train new pastors, church leaders, and leaders of every kind, including local school districts and businesses. I think we’ll look back and see that our greatest investment will be in the training center.”
Leddon says the new space is unlike any church he’s ever attended. “Basketball on a Sunday morning? I’ll go. It’s disarming. Balls will come flying out of the gym into the café. There’s no pretentiousness here.”
Room to Grow
Since its renovation, Yellow Box has seen steady growth in attendance. “God is definitely moving in the new space. More people are coming,” says Leddon. “It’s a great venue for concerts and local events. We had always hoped this would be inviting, comfortable space, where you could grab coffee and hang out. With the new building, everything we prayed and dreamed about is coming true.”
“Spaces are not neutral,” says Snider. “They always tell about who the church is and what's most important to them."
Everything about Community Christian Church-Yellow Box feels true to who they are as a congregation.
“Spaces often tell a story,” says Ferguson. “This is a place where you’re welcome, and maybe there’s even whispers going, ‘This is a place where you can find your way back to God.’”
About Marian Liautaud
Marian joined the Aspen team full-time in 2014. With more than 20 years experience in publishing, she spends her time telling stories about how churches use their facilities as a tool for ministry, and how to align culture, leadership, ministry, and facilities for maximum ministry impact. She spearheads the annual Alignment Conference for Aspen Group and oversees ministry relations and all communications for Aspen Group.