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Aspen Group Project: Vineyard Cincinnati

At Vineyard Cincinnati, change has been the only constant over the past several years. In November 2013, the church’s founding pastor, Steve Sjogren, retired after 30 years of service, and a new senior pastor—Rob King—came on board. And as often happens during regime changes, shifts in leadership styles and dynamics naturally result in other organizational changes, including approximately 25 staff changes in the past 14 months at Vineyard Cincinnati.

Fresh Winds of Change

But change is what Vineyard thrives on. They regularly pray for the Holy Spirit to breathe fresh winds of change on their church, their leaders, and on the body of believers.

“Vineyard is all about the pursuit of the radical middle—not charismatic and not cessationist,” said Garry Shirk, executive pastor of operations. “It’s in that middle place where we’re open to the work of the Holy Spirit. We call it being naturally supernatural. Never forcing it, never manipulating it, but welcoming what God wants to do.”

It’s not unusual for a church to experience some contraction in attendance after a transition in senior leadership. Vineyard Cincinnati, though, saw no drop. In fact, the church experienced three to five percent attendance growth during its change in senior pastors, with financial giving also rising about four percent.

Because of this continued growth, Vineyard’s leadership team began to feel the need to enhance and improve its 30-year-old facility. And changes were needed.

New Spaces that Align with Unique Culture

Without any significant updates since the 1990s, Vineyard Cincinnati’s space no longer reflected the church’s vibrancy. Initially, church leaders wanted to invest in a larger connecting space leading into the auditorium. But Shirk helped encourage a different tack. They decided to focus on making entry points more welcoming and conducive for ministry, an investment that aligns with the church’s unique culture and calling.

Additionally, Vineyard Cincinnati wanted a quick turnaround on the project—three months—so they could be ready in time for the expected influx of visitors on Easter Sunday.

It was a tight deadline, but Aspen Group went to work right away, kicking off the work with a series of mini-programming sessions with key players from the church’s hospitality, welcome, facility, and children’s teams.

“Before we ever do any design, we hold Discovery meetings with each of our clients to help us better understand their unique DNA,” says Bob Gray, project developer at Aspen Group. “It’s the best part of our process because it creates a great team dynamic.”

Part of Vineyard Cincinnati’s DNA is to serve the local community. Founding pastor Steve Sjogren has even authored several books on the unique approaches the church took in caring for others, including “cleaning toilets for local businesses, giving away bottles of water at busy stoplights, and delivering hot dogs and hamburgers door-to-door.” It’s this approach that has made it so socioeconomically diverse, with its church membership consisting of a much lower average economic base per capita person than many other churches its size in the suburban area.

Accessible to All

Aspen Group needed to create spaces in which people from all economic backgrounds would feel comfortable when entering. To that end, Aspen’s architects and interior designers redesigned the church’s two lobby entrances and created new, manageable traffic flows by defining one entry for the children’s area and one for the main auditorium. No longer do the lobbies function like “cattle shoots”—as Shirk called them—but now allow people to linger and connect with ease. Each lobby includes digital signage, full coffee bars, new furniture, lighting, carpeting and paint colors. The children’s entrance—Discovery Land—also includes a more secure check-in process, as well as a remodeled family room and baby theater.

On the lower level, Aspen Group redesigned the west hall entrance, making it even easier for families to drop-off children with the addition of a handicap-accessible ramp, canopy covering, and secure storefront doorways. Aspen Group also added a fresh paint color in the main atrium area.

Additionally, all redesigned spaces include noticeable drop-off locations for Vineyard’s Healing Center—the church’s non-for-profit organization that aids the local community with emergency food and clothing, tutoring, financial coaching, and job searches.

Phased Approach

While more substantial changes will need to be made in the future, these renovations help make the church more accessible and inviting to all at a time when many new visitors are attending.

In the end, Aspen Group came in on time and under budget on the renovation project. They even returned unused contingency funds to the church. And now, Vineyard Cincinnati stands ready to continue serving the community it loves until the Holy Spirit moves them to take the next step to more fully upgrade its church facility.