Built to Be a Beacon: How One Urban Church Offers Hope—and a Home—to Its Community
St. Timothy Community Church in Gary, Indiana, stands at the corner of 25th and Grant, a beacon of hope and light in a neighborhood that’s marred by economic hardship and gang violence. Though the church’s exterior design and location creates an inviting presence in the community, church leaders wanted the building’s interior to convey this same sense of welcome for all ages—especially for youth.
Unfortunately, St. Timothy’s renovation in 1990 with a different builder was coming apart at the seams. Faced with a rapidly deteriorating building, St. Timothy reached out to Aspen Group for help. “Initially, we just wanted Aspen to fix our foundation problem and redo the building as we had it before,” says Greg Jones, president of the building trustees for St. Timothy’s.
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Because St. Timothy’s plays such a pivotal role in the community, Aspen wanted to not only fix the church's foundation problems, but we also wanted to understand what their ministry needs were so that we could be sure to build space that advanced the church’s mission to be a ‘beacon on 25th.
During Aspen’s Discovery process with St. Timothy’s, the congregation voiced the need for the church to address the gap between children’s and adult ministry. With a thriving catering operation and a large banquet hall, the adults had plenty of space to gather. The youth and teens, however, had no place to call their own.
To create more space in the church where youth in the community could hang out and become part of the congregation, Aspen recommended that St. Timothy’s forego renovating their large banquet hall space and instead use that square footage to create flexible, multipurpose space. This allowed them to create partitioned classroom space, as well as larger, open meeting spaces that could accommodate different types of teaching environments and group activities.
The lobby space, which now includes comfortable, flexible seating for people to gather and mingle after Sunday services, doubles as banquet space for large group events. The church also renovated its commercial kitchen to help maximize the space and efficiency for the catering operation.
While overall we have the same amount of space, it’s been divided into space that is more intimate and functional for a number of activities to happen at the same time.
One of the things St. Timothy is enjoying since the renovation is the technology that’s been infused into the building. Now, they can stream the worship service into the ministry center, giving them avenues they didn't have before.
The updated look and feel of St. Timothy’s is inviting for all ages. Now, the youth in the surrounding neighborhood have a place to call their church home just as the adults do.