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Butler Architectural Group is a practice based in Texas with more than 35 years of experience.

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Dayspring UMC 'A Church Without Walls'

The church was established in 2008. Until moving into their new facility on Christmas Eve of 2011, their sanctuary was a movie theater. The idea of “no walls” evolved the longer they ministered from the theater. The lack of education space for Sunday Morning Bible Study to support their adult members created a remarkable opportunity to grow their congregation through small groups meeting during the week in homes, coffee shops, or parks. Each small group became a small family, which in turn strengthened the church. The “no walls” idea grew because of their broadened boundaries beyond where they conduct worship.

Their basic program requirements were to provide space on Sunday for pre-school through fifth grade, gathering areas for fellowship before and after worship services, a sanctuary for 320 and offices for staff. The project size was about 18,500 sf. The children’s area includes a space for a children’s worship time and break-out classrooms and education space after the opening activities. Two preschool rooms satisfy the youngest age groups. The Sanctuary was planned for flexibility with an emphasis placed on providing a space with great acoustics for music. The spoken word was equally important and is recognized as integral to the total worship experience. The sanctuary can be totally blacked out for performance events.

Communication between the Sanctuary and the Gathering area was important. Their idea of community included openness. The result of defining this transition between the two spaces is an opening 20’ wide and 10’ tall. Designing and building the doors to close this opening became a design challenge that required a lot of coordination. The model for developing these areas and how they relate is from their first home at the movie theater. The congregation had become accustomed to having generous space to move about and visit with other church members. The movie theater they called home for several years had lounge seating and a snack bar.

The side of the building away from the street is accessed from the large Gathering area and the sanctuary. The view is through large glass walls with openings into a generous covered porch with a large patio for setting up tables and chairs for fellowship events. This area will eventually access an amphitheater and future facilities. The Sanctuary includes large areas of windows with room darkening shades to view the patio and the forested site.

A paradigm shift is emerging in how churches will increase their attendance with the next generation. This thought centers around churches growing through the worship experience instead of growing through a typical Sunday morning Sunday School. Dayspring’s program reflects this idea with facilities that provide flexibility for various activities, yet projects a strong impact for visitors on Sunday in their fellowship and worship time. The open view into the Gathering spaces from outside is intended to be inviting for the community and hopefully reinforcing their ministry of reaching unchurched neighbors.

Dayspring’s sense of openness is communicated from the outside through large expanses of windows along their Gathering Areas. This idea reinforces their ministries to the community and efforts to touch the lives of unchurched neighbors. This openness continues throughout with generous openings between spaces.