Multi-use: Parish and Fellowship Halls

by Michael Raia

St. William Youth Ministry meets with over 400 high school teens in the new Banquet Hall of the Parish Evangelization Center designed by JGA.

St. William Youth Ministry meets with over 400 high school teens in the new Banquet Hall of the Parish Evangelization Center designed by JGA.

Many of the spaces we are tasked with designing have to wear many hats. Among them, one of the most versatile and in-demand is a multi-use parish or church fellowship hall. Generally speaking, many of these rooms require the same set of questions to be addressed: Will the room primary be for assembly, food service, activity and athletics, or some combination of these? How many people should the room accommodate for assemblies and for dining? Will there be a permanent or temporary stage? Is there a catering or full commercial kitchen? How much storage is needed? All of these considerations help shape the room that results, along with the elements inside of it.

Assembly use might include high-impact ministry presentations or simultaneous video-broadcast or overflow worship services. A room to house such events requires a well-designed area for event production: a stage, possibly a tech console or booth, potentially a green room, good acoustic and quality audio-visual systems, and appropriate house and theatrical lighting. A room designed for food service may need to accommodate people at rectangular or round tables; each has a different layout and capacity, as well as considerations for serving lines and tables for other items at special events like gift tables for wedding receptions.  

JGA recently completed a room of this type. The Banquet Hall in the new Parish Evangelization Center at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, one of the largest parish / fellowship halls we have been involved with as a firm. While the hall initially had the charge of simply providing a larger version of what was built as the multi-use Parish Hall in 2009, the initial requirements for the room were also driven in large part by the youth ministries, Triumph (Jr High) and SWYM (Sr High). With over 400 teens in weekly attendance on Sunday evenings, SWYM needed a facility that could accommodate dinner service at round 8-top tables, assembly, and break-outs for small groups in adjacent spaces. Triumph needed the ability to have activity space and assembly seating under the same roof. Through a careful balancing of the elements that make the room a great place for food service and audio-visual presentations, the room is able to function well in both roles, many times for the same events like SWYM and the annual Fall Gala.

While the hall has plenty of natural and architectural lighting, motorized blackout shades on the windows make it possible to control the natural light, while versatile architectural lighting can be set to allow the theatrical lighting to emphasize activity on stage. Roughly two-thirds of the room has a higher ceiling, while the back third of the room has a lower ceiling with operable partitions, allowing these areas to serve as an accessory area to the hall or standalone meeting space. A generous lobby and corridors were planned for use – comfortable grouped seating helps people cross paths more frequently, and makes it possible to have small groups and to generally build fellowship and community before and after events.

JGA is proud to serve clients like St. William and the many others who present us with the challenge of providing excellent space for ministry. If you have an existing room that needs help in performing better, or have dreams about an altogether new facility, we’d love to meet with you and discuss how we can help.