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Do You Know the Health of Your Church Facility?

July 28, 2017 — by Tim Cool


church facility

How often do you get a physical? For the past 20+ years, I have gotten one every year. The poking, the prodding, the blood work… you know the drill. There is critical bench-marking done during this annual ritual including comparisons from the previous procedures, as well as discussions about “best practices” for a person my age, height, and family history. I learn things I need to work on for the upcoming year and behaviors I need to improve, add, or terminate (like weight… sodium…fatty food). This is all meant for my good and longevity — none of the suggested changes are done to hurt me or shorten my life span, but rather to extend my life and productivity. Besides, we are the temple of God, right?

So, what about a “physical” for our ministry facilities (the other temple)? Are you:

  • Spending too much on utilities?
  • Investing enough to keep up with the natural rate of deterioration?
  • Properly staffing for your facility needs?

If  you cannot answer these definitively, then you need more information. At Cool Solutions Group, we’ve developed a Church Facility Evaluator that we’d like to offer to you for FREE. This simple tool will provide you with a snapshot of some key indicators associated with facility operational costs.  This 2-3 minute evaluation will give you some real-time data based on national averages as to whether you are GOOD TO GO, or in need of some help.

Don’t wait… get started HERE!


Tim Cool is founder of Cool Solutions Group, but more importantly, the husband to Lisa and father to 20 year old triplets. His passion is serving churches to be intentional with their facilities… and he loves hiking in the NC Mountains.


Behind the Build: Centerpoint Church

June 16, 2017 — by Gino Beltran

LOCATION: Murrieta, CA
SERVICES: Master Planning, Architecture, Interior Design, & Construction

Centerpoint Church


Last year we were honored to receive the Solomon Award in Best Church Design for Youth and Children’s Spaces with the second phase of construction with Centerpoint Church in Murrieta, California.  Pastor John Hansen and his team invited us to envision a property where families, high schoolers, and junior high schoolers could gather and have a sense of belonging, as a tribe of their own.

The result was a state-of-the-art, 750-seat worship center, and a 15,000 square foot youth and administration venue, housing youth activities, after-school programs, and an indoor/outdoor cafe. We were able to take Pastor John’s concept for the space, and bring it to the next level of purpose, all while working within Centerpoint’s budget.


We have a place now that we are able to use for a dynamic explosion of ministry that’s fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

–Pastor John Hansen

At Visioneering Studios, we can’t wait to see how Centerpoint’s campus continues to evolve into a safe and welcoming place for families in the Temescal Valley. Take a further look below Behind the Build of Centerpoint Church:




A Container for Community – A Building’s Purpose

June 8, 2017 — by Drew Tilton


When does a building become more than a pretty facade?

a building's purpose

Note from the editor:  Drew is the new Youth Pastor at my church, Mountain View Church, in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  When I read this from him this past weekend, I felt that it needed to be shared beyond our church’s email list.  His heart for the new facility is exactly the reason why Visioneering Studios does what it does.  It is not just about the building — it’s about what Jesus is doing inside the building, in the community, and in the lives of the people who attend a service or an event.  Although we may not be doing the work for this new facility, we are fans and celebrate the work being done by MVC.  These are the types of servant leaders we love to work with.


What is impressive about a cup? It’s a cylinder with the top-end open and the bottom closed. Sure, one can be styled to look ornate, perhaps even to attract some praise. But no matter how beautiful it is, a bottomless one is of little value — a cup exists to hold something. A house is the same. There are certainly incredible mansions and beautiful dwellings, but if one sits empty, is it truly meeting its intended potential? Its purpose, first and foremost, is to serve as a container for what is inside. When a cup is best fulfilling its purpose, it is an afterthought to what it contains.


At one time, I was part of a church with a beautiful campus (that’s right, not a building — a campus). In fact, I am not sure I’ve seen one more incredible. Often people visiting would comment, “Oh, what we could do with a campus like this!” or, “If we could just have a building like this one…” I wasn’t always sure why, but often these comments would rub me the wrong way. It wasn’t that they were completely off-base. It was an incredible space that I often took for granted, but somehow, I knew that they were missing it.


What was special about that place had never been its outside shell (as incredible as it was). Rather, it was the space it created. Space where people walked me through the best and worst moments of my life (and everything inbetween). Space that fostered a community that produced my best friends, my pastors, my mentors, and my wife. Space where we all worshiped Jesus together. Space that allowed me to cry with, shout at, and be transformed by Him. It was a space where I grew, ministered, experienced breakthrough, experienced freedom, was baptized, was married, where my brother and I baptized my dad, and mourned the loss of my dad. I know that those buildings were made most beautiful by the stories played out inside of them.


The Purpose Of Our New Container
As I thought about our new building and the kind of space I desire it to be, I reached a realization.


A building that finds its greatest honor in itself, is an empty cup searching for purpose.


It is a house that has never been a home. Instead, a building, like all other containers, is meant to find fulfillment in what it holds. Don’t hear me wrong — this building and its design are of the utmost importance. We need a place that is designed with community in mind and Christ at the heart. A space that communicates God’s embrace of the wandering and the weary. A container to hold a community of people striving to love God and love others well. We want it to be a place where we feel comfortable to laugh with friends, cry with family, pray for the hurting, welcome the lost, and worship the Lord our God.


I pray that this container is God’s pouring-out-point for his Spirit on every kind of person. A place where our sons and daughters will prophesy, our young people will see visions, our elderly will dream dreams. May it be a cup that does its job so well that it is merely the backdrop to the incredible work that God will do in it. Not just on Sundays, but every day, in new and creative ways.


And like no other cup, the contents of this container are intended to overflow. We pray that God will send the love incubated here out across all of our cities. That the freedom found here be sent like shockwaves throughout our lives and the lives of those we encounter. And that His kingdom come and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.


A Beautiful Humble Purpose
My hope in communicating the humble purpose of our new space is not to devalue it at all! Rather, I hope that in this we can value it all the more. That we would see beyond the external beauty that it will undoubtedly have, and look more to the internal beauty that it will undoubtedly hold.


So as we approach the excitement of our new building, I hope this will shape our enthusiasm and vision for the future. I envision a space that will be the stage for Jesus to declare good news to the poor, deliverance for the captive, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.  I pray for a cup that overflows with the beauty of God’s Church. It is in this that we will find that our new house has become our home.


Drew Tilton is the Youth Pastor at Mountain View Church in South Orange County, CA. Drew has his Masters degree from Talbot School of Theology and has many years experience in youth ministry. He and his wife Marissa enjoy hanging with good friends, sports, and street dance battles. Get in touch with him at


Behind the Build: The Father’s House

April 19, 2017 — by Gino Beltran

Location: Vacaville, CA
Divisions: Envision, Design, Build
Services: Master Planning, Architecture, Interior Design, Construction

the father's house

In January of 2016, The Father’s House in Northern California celebrated the Grand Opening of Phase 1 of our partnership, which included a brand new auditorium and children’s building. Over the last 19 years, this powerful community has grown from just a few people in a living room to now three campuses, including Napa, East Bay, and the newest — Vacaville.

Pastor Dave Patterson had a vision for the Vacaville location to take people on a mindful journey of God’s presence, no matter where they went on campus. “When we started this project, we had a verse in Exodus 33 that says, ‘God don’t lead us up from here without Your presence.’ Visioneering took that verse from Exodus and created a storyboard that took us from the Wilderness, right into the Promised Land, through the Red Sea with a Cloud of Glory — all of which was represented architecturally. It was quite enjoyable watching that process come to fruition.”

From the flaming “Pillars of Light” to the Children’s Ministry area called “The Passage,” every detail incorporated into the design and architecture of The Father’s House helps tell the story of God leading His people out of Egypt from a life of slavery to a life of freedom. It’s Pastor Dave’s desire that every person stepping on campus would feel the same hope of God’s chosen people in that story of Exodus.

Additionally, for the first time ever in TFH’s 19-year history they have a campus that’s publicly exposed — allowing them not only to thrive and grow in the area, but further their vision of reaching more people who are far from God.

“Since we’ve been in this new auditorium, we’ve seen close to 1,000 people added to this location. We’ve had people come who have never attended church, and we’ve been able to do some nights of worship and events at a brand new level.”

At Visioneering, we can’t wait to continue our partnership with Pastor Dave’s team into Phase 2 of the Vacaville campus, and keep revealing the God-story their community has to offer. Take a further look below Behind the Build of The Father’s House:



Never Say Thank You

March 31, 2017 — by Dave Milam


What if I told you that a leader should never say thank you to his team? You probably wouldn’t believe me, would you?

thank you

Even if you grew up with deadbeat parents, you were probably taught to parrot the words “thank you” every time somebody did something nice for you. Every kind word and every Christmas gift required a gracious “thank you” as payment for services rendered. After a while, those words become a part of our regular, mindless vernacular.

But have you ever stopped to think about what the words “thank you” imply? Think about it. In the most subtle way, “thank you” suggests that I appreciate what you just did for me. “Thank you” infers that you just did me a favor.

So, I guess “thanks” is perfect if you someone gift-wraps a new sweater for you. But if you’re a church leader, do you really want your team to believe that they’re doing you a favor by volunteering– that their service was for you? Wouldn’t you rather have your team serving God and be driven by the mission of the church than helping you do your stuff?

Look how Paul shows his appreciation for his team in Romans 1:8 when he says:

“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you.”

In other words, “God has done me a favor by putting you in my life.” Or maybe, “I am so grateful that God has put you on my team; I’m so blessed to be serving with you.” Paul’s language is so inclusive.

So next time, instead of saying “thanks,” use language that conveys gratitude for the gift of serving or working beside exceptional people. Your volunteers are not doing you a favor. And they’re not serving you.


Get Your Fields Ready

March 3, 2017 — by Chad Stafford


Blog written by Chad Stafford, Lead Pastor of Coastal Church in Daphne, AL.

Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.
Proverbs 24:27 (NIV)

I spent 2 years of my life traveling and interviewing the top churches in the country about what kind of building we should build. We finally designed it, had an architect draw it, and created our master plan for all of our property. The only thing was, I never felt a peace about building this thing.

My wife and I planted Coastal Church in Daphne, Alabama 4 years earlier and it had taken off like a rocket. We had three Sunday services running over 1000 people every weekend, and looking to add a fourth service to handle the growth. Everything in my head said that a building was the next thing, but I just couldn’t get it in my heart. I prayed and fasted for 2 years for direction, but I had no clear direction from the Holy Spirit to proceed.

Then one day, while sitting in my recliner, a thought entered my mind: “What if we built all of our toys first?” What if we build something that celebrates the beautiful Gulf Coast and invites the community to come and do life together with us? When I said that, the direction from God that I sought for 2 years came and creativity began to flow. My wife loved the idea (always ask your wife — she will tell you if your idea is idiotic). Our trustees loved it, and our lenders actually said to me, “Chad, if you guys do this, it will change the way people build churches everywhere.”

As Pastors, we are taught in seminary and Bible college to build our sanctuary first. It went against all of my training to build a mile-long walking trail, a baseball field, 2 basketball courts, 2 playgrounds, a 5,800 square foot coffee house, and a splash pad first! Before I presented this to everyone, I asked for a scripture that I could stand on and God, who is rich in mercy, provided.

get your fields ready

“Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that build your house” (Proverbs 24:27). Upon reading this, I laughed and whispered through my tears, “Yes sir, Jesus!”

Not only were we able to build all of this by God’s grace, we now have 5 campuses with over 2,000 people attending each weekend. We are still packed and adding services again very soon, but the same God who led us here will show us the next step to take, and the next seed to sow for our future. In the meantime, we are having the time of our lives!


4 Rules to Curating An Intuitive Guest Experience

February 24, 2017 — by Dave Milam


Even if your church building may need a complete overhaul, here are 4 ways you can begin to curate a better guest experience now.

What would it look like if this coming Sunday morning, your church’s entire Guest Services Ministry Team didn’t show? Imagine no neon-vested minions directing traffic or overcaffeinated greeters guiding guests. I wonder if the scene might border on apocalyptic, with panicked pastors pacing the hallways, pandemonium in the parking lot and zombie-eyed parents with kids in tow left to fend for themselves?


What if you were forced to rely solely upon your facility’s design to guide each guest?


Think about it: could every visitor flawlessly navigate an entire Sunday morning experience intuitively or would the self-guided experience result in a blundered debacle? And what happens to those people, often first-timers, who want to navigate your building on their own and manage to skillfully evade your welcome team each week? You know it happens.


Here’s the cold hard truth: if newcomers are unable to intuitively navigate your facility, it indicates you’ve got a huge design problem on your hands. Because good design always makes usability more intuitive. And intuitive environments empower great guest experiences.


Often, churches use their guest services ministry as a duct tape to patch the holes of defective design. It’s true– your building may need a complete overhaul. But maybe you could begin to curate a better guest experience now by making your building a little more intuitive.


Here are four of the most basic rules to curating a more intuitive guest experience:
1. Point the Way

Thoughtful “way-finding” and quality signage is absolutely the best way to curate a more intuitive experience. Clear and strategic directional signs that guide and move people through ministry environments will empower guests to take control of their own spiritual experience from day one.

Guest Experience
Eastside Christian Church – Anaheim, CA

Keep in mind that “way-finding” doesn’t always demand a huge ugly directional sign mounted to the wall. Sometimes, the best label is a strong branded space that intuitively directs your guests. For example, your main entry door should be unmistakable – no sign required. Four-year-olds should intuitively know where they belong and be naturally drawn to your kids’ environment.

Guest Experience
Eastside Christian Church – Anaheim, CA


2. Simplify The Options

Some of the best apps on your phone only contain 2-4 buttons on your screen at a time. The app may organize the library of a billion songs, yet there are still only 2-4 choices available. Simplicity is what makes complexity usable.


The parking lot is a great place to begin thinking about simplifying the user’s options. Add a dozen orange cones to reduce a driver’s turn choices and forge a unified traffic flow (and for the record, the need of traffic cones could indicates poor parking design).

Guest Experience
Calvary Baptist Church – St College, PA


3. Develop Ministry Districts

Another way to simplify complexity is to consolidate what you have. Think about it, grocery stores group all of the dairy, meat and bread into their own individual districts. It’s what makes finding hamburger so intuitive. Home improvement stores have both plumbing and painting districts. It’s even likely that your socks and jeans don’t live in the same dresser drawer but have their own “districts.”


If you want to make your building more intuitive, then your ministries should also be grouped into similar districts throughout your building. For example, children should all be together in their own secure district that is visually differentiated from all the other parts of the building. Additionally, there should be a youth district, worship district, admin district and connecting space.

Guest Experience
Calvary Baptist Church – St College, PA
4. Favor Clarity Over Creativity

Guests crave simplicity and clarity. So, for heaven’s sake, make sure the names of your environments actually describe what they are. As a guest, I just want to know where the coffee is and where to drop off my kids. So when you use the greek word for “coffee” to name coffee corner or some creative nonsensical jib jab to brand your kids check-in, it’s not helpful (even though it may be super creative).

Guest Experience
Bayside Church – Roseville, CA

Know where to get creative and where to use common sense design patterns. And when it comes to creating intuitive spaces, always favor clarity over creativity.


10 Ways to Exegete Your City

February 10, 2017 — by Sean Benesh


The built environment of our cities are not simply neutral containers in which people live. They communicate much. How do you exegete your city to find out?

exegete your city
Many of us have been mystified by the observational prowess of Sherlock Holmes. We all have our favorite actors who played this legendary character, from Robert Downey Jr. in the movies to Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC television series. What is it that captivates us about Sherlock Holmes? It is his innate ability to deduce and unpack so much meaning by simply observing.

exegete your cityAt the beginning of every semester, I tell students in my classes that studying and understanding cities is “first of all a visual sport,” as urban historian Sam Bass Warner notes in American Urban Form. Whether we’re talking about the Pre-Columbian city of Cahokia, or walking along the heavily gentrified neighborhood abutting North Williams Avenue in Portland, we can learn to apply our Sherlock Holmes powers of observation. You see, everything around us is communicating a value system. We simply need to pause, take a mental note, and discern not only what values are being communicated, but what they mean.

Throughout the semester, we map different neighborhoods as well station ourselves at various intersections, counting not only how many people we see on bicycles or pedestrians, but other things like ethnicity, gender, if they’re wearing helmets or not, and so on. We then debrief the data. What does this mean? What does it communicate about this neighborhood?
exegete your city
In their book, Planning to Stay, Morrish and Brown note, “Physical features are the tangible resources that expresses a neighborhood identity
influence its values, and shape its social and economic structures.” In other words, neighborhoods are not neutral in their communication of values — what one observes reveals much.

Listed below are 10 easy ways for you to exegete your city (or neighborhood), guided by questions:

  1. What value system does the built environment communicate? Are the buildings deteriorating? Mixed-use? Set back from the road? Do the buildings cater towards a specific demographic, socio-economic grouping, or ethnicity?
  2. How does the built environment shape the way people live in the neighborhood? Cities are the containers that influence the life and culture of the people, and shape the urban experience.
  3. How old are the buildings? When was the neighborhood built? One can learn to discern communities built before the car, during the streetcar era, or with cars in mind.
  4. Walk into a few of the stores and businesses. Who are they marketing their products to? For example, what does the presence of a Whole Foods communicate when it is placed in a gentrifying neighborhood, where before it was classified as a “food desert”?exegete your city
  5. Who do you see out walking? What is the observable demographic breakdown? If you were to return in the evening, is it the same or different? This is often more helpful than formal demographic reports.
  6. How are people getting around? On foot? Cars? Bicycles? Public transit? This could reveal the innate walkability of a neighborhood or its car-dependency.
  7. Where do people cluster together? What draws them there? Can you identify a natural gathering place, whether a park, plaza, business, or street?
  8. What drew people to this neighborhood? This moves beyond simply observing, but is discovered through conversations with homeowners, business owners, and renters. Often times, people move into neighborhoods based on cultural affinity, shared values, and even political affiliation.
  9. Where do you observe hope? Conversely, where do you observe brokenness? How are those revealed in urban form? Like a fever is a symptom of an internal illness, what we see can reveal what is both helpful or hurting in a community. This could be a new community center in a low-income neighborhood, or a burned-out and neglected building that attracts criminal activity.
  10. Where does the church need to get involved? This could range from a tactical urbanism intervention project, a church opening up their parking lot to host food carts, planting an urban garden to provide fresh vegetables for the neighborhood, advocating safe routes to school so children can bike and walk safely, and much more.

exegete your cityThe point of these questions is to (a) learn to be even more observant of your neighborhood, and (b) to ultimately spur you into some kind of action. The rest is up to you.




Sean Benesh is a church planting strategist for TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission). For further reading, you can pick up Sean’s book, Exegeting the City: What You Need to Know About Church Planting in the City Today.




An Apple TV for Every Church Lobby

January 20, 2017 — by Dave Milam


apple tv

Okay, here’s the problem: the men’s Backyard UFC Ministry (B.U.M. for short) wants to create an announcement slide to advertise their upcoming Backyard Brawl. Seriously, have you ever noticed that every ministry wants a slide for their deal? Maybe it’s because everybody knows that announcement slides and videos are always the best and only way to recruit and get the word out, second only to emails and Evite. (I hope you caught the sarcasm there)

Anyway, back to my fun little antidote: the BUMs eventually create this really sweet announcement slide and email it to your church’s tech guy who then adds it to PowerPoint or ProPresenter for worship…but WHAT ABOUT THE LOBBY? Everybody knows that you must have announcements in the lobby!

If your church has a building…no big deal. Just have your resident community college computer nerd permanently install cat cable in the walls, buy a VGA converter, video amp and hub computer and you’re  golden. But what about if you’re portable? Your landlord is not likely to smile upon the prospect of fishing wire through their drywall for a solid week.

The solution: Apple TV and Flickr!

Apple TV has a great built-in feature that allows you to create a repeating slideshow from a Flickr photo set. (this is more amazing than you could know for us portable-church types) Translation: during the week, your tech guy (or anybody with your Flickr password) can upload an announcement slide to the appropriate Flickr photoset and instantly your lobby’s announcement rotation is created and ready to go. AMAZING!

If you want, you could even have different photosets for different TV’s in the lobby. We have one Apple TV for our Next Step booth and one for our Small Group Connection. Each Apple TV is accessing a different Flickr photoset.

apple tv

Here’s the other big win: the folks in the lobby do not have to have their masters degree in computer science to run your announcements. They simply turn on the Apple TV and select the appropriate Flickr account…DONE. Also, the Apple TV menu functions just like that of an iPod. It couldn’t be easier.

The only trick is to make sure your announcement slides are designed to match the specifications of your lobby’s tvs. (that may take a little experiementing on the front end)

Here’s one of our announcement slides as well as a link to our Flickr Photostream:

apple tv


2016 Solomon Award: Best Church Design for Youth and Children’s Spaces

November 28, 2016 — by Gino Beltran


We’re thrilled to receive this year’s Solomon Award in Best Church Design for Youth and Children’s Spaces through a special project with Centerpoint Church in Murrieta, California. 

Six years ago, we were privileged to develop Centerpoint’s state-of-the-art worship center to fulfill Phase 1 of the project. Our Envision.Design.Build team built the 750-seat auditorium, while working closely with Centerpoint to ensure maximum value under a limited budget.

A 15,000 square foot youth and administration building followed this year, combining twin venues that junior high and high school ministries use. This seamless integration of space houses youth activities and after school programs, and includes an indoor/outdoor cafe. Above the combined youth building sits the new administrative offices, creating an interesting angle of three intersecting porches. 

church design

Playgrounds, courtyards, and lounge seating surround the new cafe, filling out a pavilion that will eventually also include prayer trails and gardens. This welcoming space can be seen while driving by on Washington Avenue, just southwest of the campus, inviting all in the community to come visit, relax, and enjoy one another.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with Pastor John Hansen, Pastor Kim Seebach, and Centerpoint in fulfilling their vision to provide a place of safety and refuge to the city of Murrieta.

You can read more on this project and our partnership with Centerpoint here.