Creating New Space That Stays True to the Original Mission: Clear River Church Blog Feature
Marian V. Liautaud

By: Marian V. Liautaud on March 10, 2016

Print/Save as PDF

Creating New Space That Stays True to the Original Mission: Clear River Church

Church Design | Project Profiles | Millennials

Clear River Church has become home to hundreds of college students, millennials, and residents in and around Lafayette, Indiana. Located just across the bridge from Purdue University, this urban church is devoted to helping people live out their faith in their day-to-day lives, and not just on Sunday. Clear River needed to create more space so they could stay true to their original calling.

“We want people to experience Jesus’ life, love, healing and hope, grow to maturity in their faith, and live their lives in such a way that others around them also come to know, love, and follow Jesus,” says Tony Ranvestel, lead pastor at Clear River Church.

In order to fulfill this vision, Clear River needed more space. They were bursting at the seams in their original location.

What You Need to Know About Millennials at Your Church

Read the Research Sample

Initially, the church tried to buy property on the outskirts of town. “We tried twice and it didn’t go through,” says Ranvestel. “We had to circle the wagons and ask what God was doing. We figured out we weren’t supposed to move.”

Joe LaPaglia, president of Aspen VIP, helped find and negotiate potential properties in the downtown Lafayette area. Ultimately, the church purchased the entire city block directly across the street from its original building. Aspen Group then set to work on designing and building a new church home that would honor their desire to remain true to who they are and allow them to reach more people in this urban setting.

Clear River Church - Auditorium

Old House, New House

“Early in the interior design process, the church indicated that, first and foremost, the new space needed to feel like home to them,” says Dona Schnelle-Loftus, interior designer for Aspen Group. “Keeping that in mind, we took cues from their existing space and some of the older buildings in town.”

Details like exposed brick accents, tin ceiling, concrete floors, and reclaimed metal panels from the exterior of the building that was demolished to make way for the new construction all help the new space feel like their old space.

Clear River’s auditorium now seats 500, and they consistently fill both of their Sunday services. Vintage-style gooseneck light fixtures hang on the brick wall columns that divide up the walls of the auditorium. Large windows allow for a connection to people passing by on the sidewalk. Because natural light can wash the room, shades were added to allow the room to be darkened when desired. The room features a neutral color palette of earth tones, which alludes to natural materials.

Clear River Church - Cafe

Café Space for Connection

Outside the auditorium doors is a coffee counter made with corrugated tin from the building that was previously on Clear River’s new site. The floor is poured concrete, which further creates an industrial, rugged feel in the space. Blues and silver tones add to the neutral hues used in the auditorium, creating natural continuity from one room to the next.

An industrial-style staircase rises from the lobby to an open mezzanine and features high-top tables and chairs and other types of cozy seating to foster fellowship. Because it’s set apart from the main lobby, it gives people an alternate space for quiet or small group conversations.

A seating area under the mezzanine features tin ceiling, vintage-inspired lighting, and exposed brick wall, creating an inviting area to enjoy coffee and connect with others.

Clear River Church - Kids Area

Clear River Kids

Beyond the café lies the children’s ministry area. Emphasizing blues, greens and browns, the children’s space plays up the outdoors.

Reclaimed wood accents, an old wooden canoe, and carpet patterns—all inspired by the river and nature—help make the space fun and themed for the kids, without feeling stylistically disconnected from the rest of the building.

“As more young families discover that our kids’ space is clean and safe and a good environment for their kids, we’re attracting more and more families,” says Zach Miller, associate pastor at Clear River Church. 

Authentic Design

“When we started working with Aspen, we worried that this new building wouldn’t feel like us,” says Miller. “We were a small church in an old auto body shop—this was our DNA, real, raw, rough. We’ve always been a DIY, hand-me-down church.”

The visibility and credibility of the new building, however, has helped Clear River attract a different type of person to their church who wouldn’t have been comfortable walking into an old building.

Miller says the new building is a dramatic improvement. “I know people who have visited just because of the building! Aspen helped us keep our vibe, and the new building is helping us stay true to our mission: to invite people to hear about Jesus and make disciples.”

To see more photos of Clear River Church's new ministry space, go to Aspen Group's portfolio.


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.