June 2, 2016
Our Theming project was a featured article on Children's spaces.
Kids’ Area Designs: Connecting Grace
As the ministry grew and developed over time, the children’s spaces expanded to wherever there was room. The ministry required a re-imagining of their children’s spaces to create continuity and provide a better experience for families with children.
Cathy Hutchison · June 2, 2016
Grace Church St. Louis redefined their children’s spaces with their “Connecting Grace” project. As the ministry grew and developed over time, the children’s spaces expanded to wherever there was room. The ministry required a re-imagining of their children’s spaces to create continuity and provide a better experience for families with children.
“We were a church that started in the 70’s coming out of the Jesus movement. We were buying buildings and attaching buildings. We just kept adding on,” shares John Senter, Facility Director at Grace Church. “At the end of this whole process, the children’s ministry was really disconnected. There were four registration tables. You had to go up and down stairs to reach classes that were on three different floors.”
“The conversation started around re-theming the children’s spaces,” remembers Senter. “But the more we explored with the church, the more we realized that re-theming it still would not have made it functional.” John Senter, facility director at Grace Church.”
“When we built our atrium, our Senior Pastor had asked for a lower level to be created—which was mostly used for storage for years. Suzanne Lercel and Dennis Elledge of LePique & Orne Architects showed up with some of the most creative thinking we’d ever seen” comments Senter. The creativity was to tie two lower levels together and create a single 30,000 sf space where all children would be located. The parents and children walk into a well-lit, colorful art gallery with open hallways that have spaces to check-in and ask questions. The artwork teaches the beatitudes, aspects of love and fruits of the spirit. “It is designed to draw people in and create a journey for both kids and parents,” shares Lercel, Project Designer. “Each age group has its own theme within their room.”
“We interviewed several theming companies, but realized at the end of the day we wanted to maintain the ‘Grace look’” notes Senter. “LePique & Orne had designed the whole campus. Not only did they create something architecturally, they worked with our Children’s Pastor to create the theme for the space.”
Because the church took on the theming, they wound up hiring local firms to cut the wooden elements and to source the materials. “We spent a lot of time ordering things. We used blue jeans for acoustic absorption on the back wall of one of the rooms,” recalls Senter. “It would have been nice to have a theming company to come in and do it all, but it was challenging and a little fun to do it ourselves. Lercel introduced us to Etsy.”
Dennis Elledge of LePique & Orne served as Project Architect. “The difficulty before was to create a central hallway to be able to be at the main desk and see all of the entrances and rooms. The renovation of the lower level not only created controlled access for security, but also made it more open so that it has a better feel.”
One of the innovations of the Connecting Grace project is “volunteer central.” “We wanted a place where volunteers could work and hang out. We have food and resources. The monitors carry a feed from the services, and the space is also used for small groups,” describes Senter.
“We wanted to do something wonderful and creative that didn’t blow the budget,” says Elledge. “The question was always ‘what’s the best bang for the buck?’” For Grace Church St. Louis, creativity and artistry allowed them to produce something locally that stayed within the budget while creating a welcoming experience for children and families.