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Solomon Awards 2019 – Relevant Community Church (Church Design – Gathering and Community Spaces)

Envisioned as a catalyst to transform lives, the facility does not look like a typical church. The building’s form steps out of the surrounding hillside in layers, and light emanates from the interior and the façade itself.

Located in Elkhorn, Nebraska, on the edge of Omaha, the conceptual narrative of this facility was generated directly from language used to describe the origin of congregation itself.

While living in Birmingham, Alabama, Lead Pastor Ronnie Rothe felt a conviction to return to his home state, with a mission to “plant” a church in the Omaha metro area. This idea can be thought of as a seed to what would eventually become Relevant Church. As this seed was planted, it germinated into a congregation that was observably growing. As the sprout became more present in the community, it manifested itself with the development of this new facility not as a place for the church, but as an instrument to transform lives; to literally plant new seeds. This ideology is a fundamental shift where the building is the church and the community is the congregation.

Essentially, The Relevant Center will serve as a center for all people of the community at large, acting as host for various events, influencing and supporting growth of the church in and beyond its walls.

The master plan provided 27,000-square feet of what would become a 56,000-square foot multiphase campus. It is a simple set of boxes constructed from a combination of steel frame and load bearing CMU walls, with simple exposed steel roof trusses for low pitched roofs. The building is clad with a concealed metal panel system, storefront, and an etched glass curtain wall installed as an illuminated backlit rainscreen. The spaces within are easily transformed to serve those using the space. This is reminiscent of the church’s fledgling days, when gatherings took place at a golf course clubhouse, transforming the space weekly and sharing it back again.

At the core of the design, with the help of RDG Planning & Design, was the idea to “unchurch” the building, to serve the needs of the community at large, by offering flexible spaces to accommodate many types of events, from 20 to 800 people: corporate, civic, educational, and more. By doing this, The Relevant Center hopes to leave a permanent mark affecting lives by bringing people together to connect with God and each other.

The building is transformed into a gathering place for the church on Sundays. Adding to this, there is no branding inside the building on purpose. The purpose behind this is to give ownership of the space to whomever is in it.

Digital screens around the space invite engagement and share information about the community, events, and happenings. Only Relevant’s red “R” stands on the building, showing it’s a place for everyone, and not just a church.

In testimony to this approach, this past spring, The Relevant Center partnered with other area churches to help with flood relief efforts. This building allowed the communities to come together by offering storage/dropoff for supplies, prayer gatherings, and fundraising events.

The Relevant Center, located at the edge of the flooding area, became a beacon of hope to those who desperately needed support. The entire purpose of the building is that it will truly be a blessing to the community, not just those who call it their “church.”

As Lead Pastor Rothe put it, the church isn’t a building. It isn’t a Sunday morning event. It’s the people.

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