First Baptist Church of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Michigan, recently constructed one of the most creative and practical meeting rooms for its youth I have ever seen. So I took the opportunity to interview Mark Thompson, First Baptist’s associate pastor of student ministries, about his church’s new resource for ministry.
How did you get the idea for constructing a new youth room?
We were originally going to build a whole new educational wing, but the price was more than we could handle at that point. We had an old fellowship hall that was one big room with a small kitchen. This section was gutted and redesigned to include a big meeting area, two smaller classrooms (which double as a café), and a new kitchen. We went with a coffeehouse theme to create an atmosphere of fellowship.
What ministry needs do you hope to accomplish through this new room?
It is fantastic to have one area to meet in for each aspect of our student ministries. Students have a place to come to that is theirs, creating ownership. This includes Sunday School for junior high and senior high, Awana, and youth group.
How will it be used?
While it is primarily a youth room and Sunday School classrooms, the large area is ideal as a conference area for hosting seminars for our adults. We have already hosted several of these. We have “canned lighting” for fellowship activities and then bright fluorescents for classes. We also want to use the room for outreach to teens who do not come to our church or youth group, a place for those students to spend time with our church’s teens. Our Rochester community has made it a point to get students off the streets and not to have public places for them to hang out.
Who designed the room, and how did that process take place?
Several men in our church, along with our trustees, have building experience. One of our youth sponsors works with the General Motors leadership team and has a lot of knowledge and experience. It is certainly great seeing God use church people with their gifts and talents to help His church. We worked with an architect who listened to our needs and came up with several possibilities. We had to get several building permits and inspections along the way. It has been a stretching experience, but our people have prayed over this and have given generously of their time and finances.
How is the room set up? And why did you design it that way?
The large area is set up to hold all our students at one time, using conference tables and chairs that all face one direction toward a large screen and a permanently mounted AV projector. Speakers are mounted on the wall, and all the worship team instruments and a laptop can be hooked up to ports on the wall up front. We have a sound system closet, and double doors lead to the two smaller classrooms/coffee shop area. Those rooms are used for junior high, Sunday School, and small groups. In those rooms we use café tables and wooden café chairs—some short, some tall. The kitchen, after it is completed, will have a double convection oven, countertop burners, coffee machines, a microwave, a triple sink, a hand sink, and a fridge. Every element in the main room can be changed for other purposes. For example, the conference tables can be put together so they give more of a café feel.
Did you hire people to complete the work, or did your people do the work? How long did it take?
Several church people gave us advice, and most of the work done by church people was destroying the old kitchen, painting, installing ceiling tiles, and putting furniture together. A man in the church did the entire heating/cooling system, as that is his business. Most of the mechanical, electrical, and dry-walling was done by professionals. Several people in our church were qualified, but we needed the workers to be insured. We encountered several waiting periods with our city concerning permits and inspections; that part took a lot longer than expected. We’re still working on the kitchen, and we started the planning stage in October 2005.
How are you using the room now? What are your future plans?
We are using this facility for classes and seminars. When the kitchen is completed, we look forward to Sunday Night fellowships for each of our adult classes, as well as parent-student “coffeehouses.” We plan to host “Fifth Quarters” for our students to invite their friends back to the church after football and basketball games.
How have the students and church family responded to the room?
People are very excited, and even though we’ve had many meetings and discussions, there is nothing like seeing the room completed. People still come and stare. Our goal was to do this the right way so that as we desire to improve other parts of the church, people will be excited about those other improvements too. We want this to be a multipurpose room that is used by students and adults alike.
What advice would you give to another church that is thinking about remodeling or building a youth room?
There is a difference between remodeling an existing room and building a new room. A lot of work goes into a project before you even start in regards to permits, state laws, and what your city or district expects you to do for safety. So you’ll want to check on those things right away.
As you start, don’t allow your finances to dictate what you will do. You must start with a purpose and knowing how you will use the room. Too many times we remain within our budget but in the end can’t fulfill the purpose of what we were trying to accomplish with the room. You can trim costs later, but dream big now. Allow God to work. If you were given a bigger budget, do you know exactly what you would do?
Give yourself time to brainstorm, pray, and visit other buildings and ministries.
Make sure you know your needs and wants. In our case the room will be used by many other groups of people. In today’s society everyone seems to want their rooms to be multipurpose.
Don’t forget about storage. You can never have enough. We visited a church that had just built an expensive building, and they emphasized over and over that they needed more storage—and they had been occupying their building only a few months.
I was blessed to have professionals help me with a budget, and they offered advice on how to work with contractors. Our church’s prayer life certainly improved during this project.
I am certainly no expert, but I would be happy to help, share, or pray with you if your church is working on a project to improve a room for your youth ministry. I can be reached at First Baptist, Rochester Hills, Michigan: 1-248-652-6151.
Mel Walker is the director of student ministries for Regular Baptist Press and is a member of Heritage Baptist Church in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.