Reaching Out and Building Up for Future Generations: Orland Park Christian Reformed Church
Orland Park Christian Reformed Church (OPCRC) in Orland Park, Illinois, was built in 1970, and over the past three decades, the church building has undergone three major additions (see Facility History image).
In 2017, Aspen Group partnered with OPCRC to embark on a major renovation of about 40 percent of its entire facility. Tying together various eras of construction and creating an updated, consistent design aesthetic were but two of the challenges Aspen faced in working on OPCRC’s renovation.
OPCRC identified four key objectives for their church building project:
- Better enable the worship of God
- Be more accessible and guest friendly
- Enhance the experience of families
- Better connection between people
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Better Enable the Worship of God
In the sanctuary, there were several challenges inhibiting the worship experience. First, there was a disconnect between the pastor and the congregation due to the nature of the existing worship platform, which was too high and not wheelchair accessible. The balcony didn’t lend itself well to good sight lines so the pastor was forced to stand at the back of the platform in order to be seen from the balcony. Additionally, there was no wheelchair ramp or accommodation for someone with a physical disability to get on the platform.
Pew seating throughout the sanctuary was insufficient, outdated, and in need of replacement. The original windows were fraught with energy performance issues and needed much repair.
Finally, the existing Audio, Visual, and Lighting (AVL) within the sanctuary required updating.
“Our sanctuary has been a place of worship, weddings, baptisms, and professions of faith for decades,” says the Orland Park Christian Reformed Church Building Team. “We wanted to further this rich tradition with updates that include new seating, lighting, finishes, and audio/visual improvements. We wanted these upgrades to help build people up as we worship and gather together for years to come.”
To accomplish OPCRC’s goal to “better enable the worship of God,” Aspen re-tiered the balcony by over-framing new levels onto the existing ones, which gave the congregation a better sight line to the pastor and allowed him to move freely on the platform in closer proximity to the congregation on the main level. Additionally, the platform was renovated to incorporate a ramp for wheelchair accessibility.
Aspen installed all new pews (a combination of traditional pews along with “hybrid” pews, which combine the main construction of traditional pews with a fold-down style theater seat), as well as new theater seats in the re-tiered balcony, allowing for a variety of seating to appeal to multiple generations and preferences. All three new styles of seating have dramatically improved the quality and comfort of the worship seating.
New windows were added to increase energy performance as well as allow for natural daylight within the sanctuary. A new, state of the art AVL system was installed, and camera updates were made to allow for live-streaming of the worship services online. The church also installed a hearing loop system, which enables people with hearing disabilities to enjoy the service like they never could before.
Lastly, the existing pipe organ received an intensive updating and overhaul to improve the sound quality, function, and musical versatility. Hundreds of old wires were condensed down to a single Cat-5 cable going to the organ console, which was then placed on an all-new mobile platform for flexibility of location on the worship platform.
All of these updates achieved one of the church’s main objectives: “to better enable the worship of God.”
Be More Guest Friendly and Accessible; Facilitate Better Connection
Before Aspen renovated OPCRC, there were overall wayfinding and visibility issues throughout the dark and difficult to navigate church, and a lack of flexible connecting space. Additionally, the existing restroom core was difficult to access and navigate, and the women’s restroom was too small to handle traffic.
To resolve these problems, 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 the space.
“We wanted to improve the flow of the building so that people move organically throughout the spaces, enabling them to create gathering spots in the right areas and to promote impromptu connection areas with one another,” says Mark Swingler, Aspen Architect.
These changes specifically addressed the church’s objective to facilitate better connection between people.
Additionally, all new wayfinding signage and lighting were installed 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 handicapped push-button doors to maximize accessibility. These changes have helped OPCRC “to be more guest-friendly and accessible.”
Enhance the Experience of Families
OPCRC’s young families are the future core of ministry. “We want to better connect young families to each other and have proper spaces that make clear that we value them,” says the OPCRC Building Team.
The existing nursery wing, however, was dark and dreary, and was not serving the function of the church families, and its security was outdated and confusing.
Aspen completely redesigned the nursery wing to increase flow, visibility, and function of these spaces. Multiple operable glass walls were incorporated through the space to provide flexibility and options for the volunteers running the ministry. With the new layout and “Family Lobby” concept, the flow of families and the child check-in process was greatly improved to maximize security.
“We wanted to ensure confidence in us as a church with people’s children, creating spaces that are fun, safe, and overtly inviting, and also great educational environments as well,” says Dan Roeda, Pastor of Congregational Life. OPCRC’s new kids’ space accomplishes this.
Tying It All Together
According to Aspen Architect Mark Swingler, OPCRC was a fairly complex building to approach design-wise as well as for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing systems due to the nature of the five different eras of construction.
“One additional challenge was that the stair access to the balcony was not to code and needed to be updated,” he said. “We fully enclosed and fireproofed the stairs to improve the overall safety of the balcony, sanctuary, and lobby spaces.”
Aspen understood OPCRC’s desire to create space for ministry impact, as well as how to resolve structural and system issues that come from adding on to a building in phases. With their renovation now complete, OPCRC is now positioned to better enable the worship of God, be more accessible and guest-friendly, facilitate better connection between people, and enhance the experience of families now and for years to come.
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.