Walk Through the Church Facility: The Fellowship Hall

What should you plan to construct? What can you afford? What is the cost difference between a sports facility and fellowship hall? Could we worship in the same facility?

What functions are to be facilitated in this building?

The first question to be answered is, “What functions are to be facilitated in this building?” The functions to be served dictate the features of the building if you are to be satisfied with the accommodations. Otherwise, you will be disappointed with the facility.

Will this building also be used for our worship services?

Then the acoustics and aesthetics must accommodate congregational participation and quality expectations. These features will add cost. You will need heating and air conditioning that is not so noisy that you can’t hear. You should have acoustics for congregational singing, not just a sound system blasting canned music or preaching at the people. The floor should be carpeted with squares of gymnasium carpet. Seating must be comfortable, with adequate chair storage when the room is used for sports. Get ready for lots of work day after day arranging the room for the multiple functions.

Is this to be our banquet facility? For how many?

Plan to a lot 12 square feet per person to determine the size room needed for the banquet seating capacity you want. The best floor for multiple uses would be the squares of gymnasium carpet so that a damaged section could be easily replaced. Round tables are preferable. Allow ample table and chair storage. More sophisticated heating and air conditioning will be required with a capacity for this number of people, instead of the minimal system (units hanging from the ceiling) for the gymnasium for a few in sports.

What about the kitchen?

The size and sophistication is governed by function, code, and affordability. If your local code enforcement (building code, health department) requires the full spectrum of public service features, expect to spend as much as $100,000 for the kitchen with stainless steel, commercial equipment, and fire safety features. A fire marshall in one community recently told me, “If you have any kind of stove, you will have to have a hood and fire suppressant system.”

Many churches are opting for the less costly warm-up kitchen with warming ovens on wheels to hold hot carry-in food, or microwaves rather than a stove. The domestic style kitchen is adequate for others, with most meals carried in either by the church people or a caterer, with no food service for the “public” and full food preparation in the kitchen. Be sure to check your local codes and know what is required in your community.

Will this facility be used for spectator sports?

The high school basketball court is usually 50′ x 84′. Junior high is 43′ x 74′. Volleyball is 30′ x 60′. The Awana circle is placed in a 40′ x 40′ square. Add safety zones around these courts. Can you justify additional space for spectator bleachers? Probably only for the large church/school ministry, unless you also use the space with movable dividers for adult education.

Smaller churches should consider more participatory activities (Awana for children and youth, other total group activities for adults) that can function with a lower ceiling. This saves cost. The Awana circle will work in a properly designed room with a ten- or twelve-foot ceiling. The preferred height for the gymnasium side walls is 20 feet.

Will we have to use this area for adult Sunday school?

If so, the room must accommodate, not dictate, your teaching philosophy. The best arrangement is fellowship groups of 35–50 people maximum, divided into small discussion groups for relational study and interaction. Acoustical, hanging, movable partitions are extremely costly and have many code ramifications. Free-standing partitions can be used to divide the large facility into rooms for each fellowship group (ca. 600 square feet for each area).

What other functions do we want to serve in this facility?

Do we need locker rooms or just rest rooms. I’m told most Christian day school young people do not shower at school. How about a stage? The fixed stage often triggers the requirement for a fire sprinkler system in the building, while the portable stage, building type, and area size may permit you to eliminate the costly sprinkler system.

What type of building is best for the functions we want to serve?

Steel? Not necessarily! It depends on the functions, size, code, and finishes. Banquet functions require different code applications than a sports facility (related to the number of people). Walls and ceilings have to be reinforced to be durable for sports.

The best overall system for the multi-ministry facility is the rigid panel system available through Congregational Building Systems. It cost less to construct than a steel building with similar finishes. The insulation value is possibly R-35 (super-insulated). Heating and air conditioning cost may be reduced by 50 percent. The ceiling and walls have quality finishes (even excellent acoustics) while being very durable for sports.

First, determine the functions to be served in the building. Then let knowledgeable design professionals for churches help you determine the best design within your church’s affordable cost.