This article is part of our Sacred Space series, which highlights churches that are creatively using architecture to reach their communities with the gospel.
We serve a strategic God. From fine-tuning the chemistry of our planet so it will perfectly support life to choosing the exact right moment in history for Jesus to be born, God works purposefully to accomplish his plans. As people made in God’s image, we are called to be strategic in our own work, and when Bayside Church in northern California had the opportunity to improve their original campus and start new sites, both their vision and their values required a master plan that would honor the Master by using every dollar well.
Led by Senior Pastor Ray Johnston and Worship Pastor Lincoln Brewster, Bayside has had an influence far beyond its walls as evidenced through conferences such as Thrive and Lincoln’s role in contemporary worship music. Lincoln moonlighted as the church’s chief creative officer and art director in this collaboration with Visioneering Studios.
The first step was a design intervention at their original campus in Granite Bay. What they had were some concrete block buildings designed to look like an educational facility; what they needed was a way to steward those facilities well for future ministry. In addition to re-creating their lobby and designing a café, we introduced the big idea of Jesus as our living water to theme their children’s ministry space. Kids now “dive in” to their faith journey at R.O.L.E., where they are “River of Life Explorers,” and this became the Bayside kids brand across all of their campuses.
At the same time, the church had acquired 100 acres of property in nearby Roseville with the potential for mixed-use construction including open community space, a hotel and extra room for a key anchor tenant. Top Golf, a new rock star in the retail world, was the strategic choice, combining great food and gathering places with a driving range and urban vibe. The Bayside site is one of Top Golf’s first West Coast locations.
Next door was an industrial warehouse space—and another opportunity to be deliberate with a development plan. Since Bayside leased this location, we needed to create a beautiful space on a modest budget. With a nod to Top Golf and tongue planted firmly in check, we thought, why not cover the lobby floors with AstroTurf and position it as an indoor/outdoor park? This “town commons” area includes fun lawn furniture and a welcoming atmosphere for every guest.
Bayside’s campus is unique, but the challenges they faced are not. With existing property that didn’t make sense to sell, new property needing development and yet another property being leased as an interim step, the church needed to manage its money while creating spaces that pointed to the Creator. Whether you’re a church of 100 or 10,000, Bayside’s approach can be an inspiration to your own planning—and a reminder that design solutions are also growth strategies that can honor God.
Mel McGowan, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is the co-founder and chief creative principal of PlainJoe Studios, a multidisciplinary design firm focused on storytelling from branding to building. Mel combined his background in film and urban design during a decade long stint at the Walt Disney Company. Post-Disney, Mel founded and served as the president of Visioneering Studios, where he developed and led a team that won several Solomon Awards for “Best Church Architect” and “Best Builder.” At Plain Joe Studios, Mel focuses on strategic branding, multimedia, and spatial storytelling/architecture for companies and causes around the world. Mel speaks extensively on the intersection of story and space and is the author of Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space. Mel also serves as an adjunct professor at CBU’s College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design.