We released this press release April 19, 2012 to Regional Media
A Vision of Sustainability in Allendale Michigan
Life Stream Church converts Middle School to Church Center
A few years ago Life Stream Church, then called Allendale Wesleyan Church, started on a revitalized journey. They were renting the Allendale High School Fine Arts Auditorium for worship services, and for four years, faithfully set up “church” in that space. They gathered, on average, between 300 – 350 people every Sunday with active mid-week youth and adult programs.
Looking for more than a year at property to buy in order to build a church and expand their program in the Allendale area, they stopped their search after touring the vacant Allendale middle school.
“I recall first walking through the building and seeing a lot of potential for use as a church, but also being somewhat overwhelmed at the sheer size of the building, its 50+ years of additions and renovations, and its multiple construction types and mechanical systems,” remembers architect Steve Fridsma, of Elevate Studio. “I thought that a church of their size might be trying to grab a tiger by the tail, and even told them so.”
Hiring their own construction manager, Greg Zost, church member and experienced contractor, Life Stream moved forward undaunted by the challenges of the project and budget. Zost not only had to build to a specific design but used the help of thousands of hours of volunteer labor. “There are some things we just couldn’t have done if we weren’t committed to using people from our congregation. Not all of them were skilled or experienced so we had to adapt expectations as we moved along.”
“I have to confess” says Mary Witte, r.o.i. Design, design lead for the Life Stream remodel, “When they kept adding projected capacity to what they thought they needed for worship, I thought they were being very hopeful and we kept giving them options for a phased approach.”
This Easter Sunday, Life Stream worshiped with over 700 people in a completed project, and some said they heard many people gasp at the dramatic conversion of the old school to a space that included a youth center with gym, community room, café, children classrooms and nursery, adult class rooms, art gallery and mission displays. Some of the space is currently rented to Grand Valley State University for English Language Services (ELS)
“I knew it would be cool, but didn’t know it was going to be this cool” said Jim Mannes, Senior Pastor, to the congregation on the first Sunday they worshiped in the converted gym. Commenting on the growth of Life Stream Jim says “There are a lot of pieces in place that have helped us grow in the last year. The building was vital but there are many more elements than that. On average we have 600 people worshiping on Sunday.“
Life Stream Church was first founded over 160 years ago. They continue to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability: of their church’s historic ministry by supplying spaces for growing programs, of their community by activating “main street” Allendale and immediately sharing the space, and of the environment by re-purposing a school that had been slated for demolition.