“Experience Empowering Excellence”

Community Outreach Meets Intergenerational Ministry

by Dawn Allcot

As published in Worship Facilities, May/Jun 2011

ChurchOfHopeThe most successful church building projects start with a strong master plan driven by a powerful vision. One would be hard-pressed to find a pastor with a more powerful vision and a stronger heart for outreach and service than Church of Hope’s Pastor Peter Young.

Young worked closely with locally based Lawson Group Architects’ Don Lawson, principal, to create a master plan for the 50-acre Church of Hope campus that emphasized outreach to Sarasota’s large senior population, as well as to families with young children. A children’s area with its own theater and a youth facility with a game room and worship facility were two components of the first phase of the building project, while a Senior Living Community is part of Phase II. When the facility is complete, it will include more than 400,000 square feet devoted to ministry and outreach.

“The Phase 1 building program was so detailed it became a fairly simple process of designing a highly flexible and adaptable facility. Few revisions were necessary to our initial design recommendation, and we proceeded to complete the design and focus on the actual construction,” Lawson says.

Cutting Costs with Good Stewardship

To reduce costs, each aspect of the building project was value engineered prior to construction, resulting in a facility that married a pre-engineered metal sanctuary building with conventional masonry and concrete construction, using bar joists and metal trusses fabricated on site.

Scott Herman, senior project manager for Tom Wessel Construction, the Sarasota, Fla.-based builder who completed the project, says, “It turned out [to be] less expensive to build the main sanctuary as a pre-engineered metal building with purlins [horizontal structural members in a roof] and columns and a metal roof. Everything else tied into the sanctuary, visually, so aesthetics and costs both came into play.”

With a strong roadmap for the church’s growth, Young was also able to save money by applying for all necessary permits and variances at one time, at the start of the project. He says, “We have permits to include space for daycare for 150 students, a private school for 250 elementary and high school students, residences and education development facilities for 100 ministers-in-training, and a Senior Living Community to house 200 people, in addition to accommodating more than 2,500 worshippers in the sanctuary.”

Cultural Relevance

Included in Phase 1 was a series of classrooms, gathering spaces, and administrative offices, as well as a 1,200-seat initial sanctuary. The sanctuary includes extensive audio, video and lighting systems, designed and installed by Encore Broadcast Solutions headquartered in Tampa, Fla., along with Pro Audio Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., and ARC Associates of Jacksonville, Fla.

The technology is testimony to the senior pastor’s commitment to cultural relevance. “Jesus used what was contemporary,” Young says. “He was artistic in how he told his stories, and told stories based upon what the culture understood. We want to demonstrate, through the use of technology, that we are being culturally relevant.”

At the centerpiece of the A/V/L systems, and of the church’s outreach initiatives, is a 15-story steeple visible from Interstate-75, one of Sarasota’s main thoroughfares. “The steeple is designed with a translucent pyramid roof with internal lights that shine like a beacon throughout the night,” Lawson describes. “Computer controlled color-changing lights illuminate the exterior surfaces of the entire steeple.”

Building the tower posed some construction challenges for Wessel’s team. Piles driven into the ground support the structure. Herman comments, “Driving those piles while the church was being constructed and not disturbing other areas of the church was a challenge, because it was an unknown.”

Complementing the tower, and also visible from I-75, is a 56-foot-long stained glass window in the sanctuary with the word “HOPE” in the middle that is back-lit at night. “Every car that travels along the west coast of Florida is greeted by the steeple and the word ‘HOPE’ as they enter the community,” Lawson says.

These features represent two visible aspects of the worship facility that relate Church of Hope’s commitment to community outreach. But in order for a church to reach its surrounding community with a message that is culturally relevant, the church must begin by identifying the community’s unique culture. In the case of Sarasota, it is a top-ranked retirement community with a strong arts base. Nationwide, an average of 18% of the population is over 65 years old. In Sarasota, the over-65 set represents 32% of the population. “Seven thousand baby boomers turn 65 every day in the United States,” Young says.

From this knowledge was born Young’s vision for a Senior Living Community (SLC) that will connect the senior population with Church of Hope’s ministry programs—and its youth. “The SLC will include independent living options, assisted living options for seniors who need help with daily activities, and memory care facilities for seniors with Alzheimer’s who have even greater healthcare needs,” Lawson states. The youth and children’s ministries will create programs that include seniors, while many of the able-bodied seniors can volunteer in the youth and children’s ministry programs.

“We can meet the growing needs of the senior demographic, provide quality care, and also create a huge dynamic of harmony with the intergenerational connections,” Young says.

Equally important is the SLC’s potential as an alternate revenue stream for the church. “Three years after completion, my goal is to derive $500,000 annually for the Kingdom of God,” Young says, pausing for emphasis. “The Senior Living Community will fund the ministry.”

To build the facility without incurring any debt, Church of Hope created a joint venture with Omega Communities, a firm that specializes in developing senior living communities in conjunction with impacting churches. The church will lease the land to the joint venture and Omega Communities will spearhead the building project for the SLC so it does not distract from pastoral duties at the church.

Young’s future goals include spreading this format and formula to other churches, to assist other ministries in achieving their financial goals while simultaneously offering needed services to the aging baby boomer population across the country.

Meanwhile, in Sarasota, the Church of Hope moves into the next building phase, firm in its mission and vision. “The design of each building creates a further integration of the ministry, and further defines the mission and vision of the church,” Lawson concludes. “The community will continue to view Church of Hope as the anchor for embracing the needs of the entire community. The buildings enhance the ministry vision and provide the framework to meet the needs of the people in southwest Florida.”


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