How Better Sightlines from the Pastor to the People Makes for Better Preaching Blog Feature
Marian V. Liautaud

By: Marian V. Liautaud on August 15, 2019

Print/Save as PDF

How Better Sightlines from the Pastor to the People Makes for Better Preaching

Church Design | church facilities | Church Culture

Orland Park Christian Reformed Church in Orland Park, Illinois, was built in 1970. Over the years, pastors have experienced several physical barriers that inhibited the worship experience. In the sanctuary, there was a disconnect between the pastor and the congregation because of the positioning of the existing worship platform, which was too high and not wheelchair accessible.

The balcony didn’t lend itself well to good sightlines, so the pastor was forced to stand at the back of the platform in order to be seen from the balcony. Additionally, there wasn’t enough existing pew seating, and it was outdated and in need of repair.


Like seeing what design challenges other churches face? Subscribe to Aspen’s free monthly e-newsletter, Framework.

Sign Up Now



The original windows were fraught with energy performance issues and in disrepair. The existing audio, video, and lighting within the sanctuary required an update. Additionally, there were overall wayfinding and visibility issues throughout the dark and difficult to navigate church, and a lack of flexible connecting space.

The existing nursery wing was dark and dreary and wasn’t serving the function of the church families, and its security was outdated and confusing. The existing restroom core was difficult to access and navigate, and the women’s restroom was too small to handle traffic.

Design Solutions for Ministry Impact

Aspen Group addressed each of Orland Park CRC’s design challenges with unique solutions to maximize their church building. The balcony was re-tiered, which gives the congregation a better line of sight to the pastor. This design solution allows the pastor to now move freely on the platform and have closer proximity to the congregation on the main level. Additionally, the platform was renovated to incorporate a ramp for wheelchair accessibility.

Derek Buikema, lead pastor at Orland Park Church, says, “Before, we didn’t have any way for people with mobility issues to get onto the platform. Now that there’s a ramp, more people can participate. A personal way this has affected me was when I asked my 91-year-old grandfather, who was a minister, if he would baptize our son. He initially said no because it was too hard for him to get to the baptismal font when he had baptized our daughter previously. When I told him we now have a ramp, he said, ‘Count me in!’ and he baptized our son.”

Along with a better platform, new fold-down theater seats were added to the traditional pews to appeal to multiple generations and different preferences. New windows were added to increase energy performance as well as providing daylight within the sanctuary.




A new, state of the art AVL system was installed, the existing pipe organ received an extensive overhaul, and camera updates were made to allow for live-streaming of the worship services online. Also included was a hearing loop system, which enables people with hearing disabilities to enjoy the service like they never could before.

Multiple areas within the narthex were opened up to maximize visibility and flow. Operable glass walls and new seating were incorporated to improve flexibility of this new connecting space. Aspen provided all new wayfinding signage and lighting to improve the overall navigation and visibility.

The women’s restroom was doubled in size and new men’s and family restrooms were added, each equipped with push-button doors to maximize accessibility.

Orland Park is now positioned to better enable people to worship God as a congregation, to be more accessible and guest-friendly, to facilitate better connection between people, and to enhance the experience of families.



About Marian V. Liautaud

Marian served as Aspen's Director of Marketing from 2014 to 2021, sharing stories about how Aspen designs, builds, and furnishes space for ministry impact.