Paynesville Lutheran remodels church building-
Open House - Sunday, March 25 - 2-4 p.m.

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/21/01.

Roof | More rooms | Smaller spaces | More offices | Other improvements
Contractors and volunteers | The result | History

Outside and bell tower The current Paynesville Lutheran Church was built 15 years ago, and one of the reasons for doing the remodeling project was to fix some failings in the original structure.

"Any time you have a building and 800 to 1,000 people using it, you're bound to have repairs and maintenance," said Wayne Hansen, the chairman of PLC's building committee.

Another impetus was the growth of the church and the need for more physical space to meet.

The $1 million project consisted of adding 3,200 sq. ft. to the building - mainly in the education and administration wings - and doing renovation in virtually every room of the building. The sanctuary was the only room not significantly touched by the renovation.

Fixing the roof
"Our biggest problem was that none of the ducts in the attic were wrapped up, so heat was getting up there and creating ice dams," explained Hansen.

The heat in the attic would melt snow during the day, but it would freeze again at night. "Ice would build up and drip," said Hansen.

To fix the problem, another layer of insulation was added, all the vents were insulated, vapor barriers were installed, and the entire building was reroofed.

So far, the results are good: no leaks. "If we're going to find leaks, it'll be this year," said Hansen hopefully.

Adding more room
Paynesville Lutheran has grown by nearly a third in the past decade. In 1990, the church's membership was 752; in 2000, it was 993, an increase of 241 people.

A similar, though slightly smaller, growth has occurred in the Sunday school classes. In 1990, the church had 166 kids in Sunday school, compared with 200 in 2000, a 20 percent gain.

Most of the new space in the church went to Sunday school classrooms, other meeting rooms, and to the administrative offices.

The Sunday school wing got four new rooms, its existing rooms enlarged, wider halls, an expanded work room, and its own entrance. The church library is also larger..

The growth in the Sunday school population means larger classes. Leenay Doll, a co-superintendent of Sunday school, said a majority of classes have between 18 and 24 kids.

"We now have rooms that are large enough for our classes," explained Doll. "They're more functional classrooms."

They also have four more, which means classes no longer have to meet in the fellowship hall.

Since the beginning, four Sunday school classrooms were located in the fellowship hall, behind flimsy dividers that blocked sight lines but not much sound. These temporary classrooms were less than ideal for classes, and also limited the use of the fellowship hall during the Sunday school hour.

Now all the classes are in the Sunday school wing, except for the seventh grade, which meets in a part of the new multipurpose room.

This room - part of the addition to the administration wing - includes the old offices. It has temporary dividers that can make it three separate spaces. Right now, a third of the room is used for Sunday school and two-thirds for adult education.

Smaller spaces
Fireside room The multipurpose room is a prime example of the flexible, smaller spaces created in the remodeling project.

"Lutheran churches don't meet on a whole as 800 people, but they meet in smaller groups," said Hansen. "To do that, you need more rooms."

The multipurpose room is one. Freeing the fellowship hall for use between services is another. Plus, there's a casual gathering room with couches and a fire place, a larger choir room (used exclusively for music), and more offices.

For example, the fireside room (pictured at right) - as the small, cozy room with a gas fireplace has been dubbed - can be a comfortable place to sit and either wait or chat on Sundays. Or it can be used by church committees as a meeting place. The church staff already holds their staff meetings there.

"I think it's a smart way to use space these days," said Pastor David Nelson, who joined the congregation as the project was winding down. "Look at what you have invested in a building like this. You can't afford to have buildings like this sit empty during the week."

"It's fun to come in after the fact," added Nelson. "We've (just) got to pay for it now."

More offices
When the church was built 15 years ago, the congregation was used to having an 8 by 10 foot office, so the new office space seemed huge. Since then, though, the increase in staff and equipment has outgrown that space.

"In the 15 years since, we've added all sorts of technology: copiers, fax machines, computers, and more phones. All that stuff takes room," said Peter Jacobson, who served as the congregation president in 2000.

The church staff has expanded from one pastor and a secretary to two secretaries, two pastors, and a part-time youth coordinator.

In addition to the extra space, the office has been broken into pieces. For years, Louann Rossler, a church secretary, has found coffee cups littering her desk on Monday morning, and her things in disarray. The creation of a workroom provides access for the congregation members to the copier and paper on Sunday morning, but keeps the individual offices off limits.

Other improvements
Another result of the added technology in the past 15 years has been an increased power demand. "We didn't have enough power coming into the church, so we upgraded that," said Hansen.

The project also included new entrances on the west and to the north. Both entrances are closer to the parking lots, so church members have a shorter walk from their cars to the church.

A new parking lot was built in the front of the church. It has room for 30 cars, and links to a new frontage road that provides another route to the church.

The bathrooms were updated and made handicap accessible.

Thirteen new furnaces were installed in the church, and the entire building is now air conditioned. Just the offices had window units before.

In the kitchen, the fan above the stove was moved to the dishwasher, and a new fan was installed above the stove. These fans exhaust the steam and heat, which should keep the kitchen cooler and an easier place to work.

"Much easier," said Rosella Williams, who is active in the PLC Church Women and has been a member of the congregation for 54 years. "We haven't tried it yet because we haven't had a big supper yet." The first test of the kitchen will be the church's meatball supper in April.

Some work remains, like a little decorating and finishing. Also, an unattached garage will be built to provide the church with some cold storage.

Contractors and volunteers
The success of the building project at Paynesville Lutheran Church is due to the contractors and the numerous volunteers that helped get it done, according to Wayne Hansen, the building committee chairman who also served as the de facto construction manager.

The project was bid in smaller parts in order to give local contractors as much chance as possible to compete for the work. Many local contractors did get bids, from the roofing to the electrical work.

The result, Hansen said, was a better project. "In doing that," he explained, "there was a lot of personal pride in working on the project."

"We had some really good local contractors," agreed Peter Jacobson, who served as the congregation president in 2000.

Along with the contractors, members of the church volunteered to do all sorts of tasks to help the project along.

Using volunteer labor wherever possible reduced the cost of the project considerably. Originally, the project was estimated to cost $1.4 million, but certain aspects of the project were prioritized to save money and any tasks that could be done by congregation members were done by volunteers.

This reduced the final cost to $1 million.

Volunteers built cabinets, helped the church offices to move, salvaged material from the old structure, cleaned up each week, decorated the new interiors, and helped in all kinds of ways.

In order to build a new administration wing, the existing church offices were moved from the building after Easter a year ago. For six months, the church had its offices in the former Activities Alive building on Highway 124 on the other side of town. They didn't move back to their new spaces in the remodeled church until October.

"I never want to move a church again," said secretary Lou Ann Rossler, who moved her desk four times during the project. The moving was made easier with the help of dozens of volunteers.

Dozens more helped clean the church each week. The sanctuary was used for services each Sunday. Plus, five funerals and 13 weddings were held at the church during the construction. "The church was constantly being used at the same time the construction was going on," said Hansen.

Every Friday, work would cease at 3 p.m., and a 20- to 25-member clean-up crew would come and mop, sweep, dust, and vacuum the church to have it ready for a wedding on Saturday and then Sunday services.

Hansen and Jacobson spent considerable time overseeing the project as well. "Wayne was there just about everyday," said Jacobson. "What we and the congregation did was a labor of love for our church."

The result
Much of the renovation of the church is hard to notice. Things like added insulation, new shingles, firewalls in the attic, and another layer of sheetrock are hard to see in the finished product.

What is noticeable is the look of the new church, the brighter rooms, and the new layout. "I think the congregation did a wonderful job," said Pastor David Nelson. "It's got some wonderful spaces."

"In all, I think it's a good addition," agreed Rosella Williams, a 50-year member of the church. "I really like the little lounge they put in."

A five-person committee was in charge of decorating the remodeled church. "I like it so far, but there are still some things that need to be done," said Deb Heitke, who served on the committee. "It just takes time and money."

One of the decorations in the church is a series of drawings that depict the stained glass windows in the sanctuary. The drawings include descriptions that explain the symbolic meaning of the images.

Decorating committee member Pat Hansen found these drawings, and the committee had them framed, allowing the congregation to view them. "They were just tucked away in a closet, so a lot of people hadn't seen them before," explained Heitke. "They're so pretty."

"The group that's been decorating has done a wonderful job of adding color, making it less institutional, and making it inviting," said Nelson.

The exterior walls of the church were originally bermed to make the building energy efficient, but the drawback is that the church only had small windows at the top of rooms. In the remodeling project, the walls were exposed and larger windows were installed.

"We have so many windows," said Lou Ann Rossler, a church secretary. "It brings in so much light."

"In the new rooms there are big windows and more lighting, which I think helps the students," said Leenay Doll, a co-superintendent for Sunday school.

"It was so light that our decorating committee had to put up shades," said Peter Jacobson, who served as the congregation president in 2000.

History of the church
Paynesville Lutheran Church will be celebrating its 70th anniversary as a congregation this June. The church started in 1931, but didn't have a permanent home for more than a decade.

In its early years, the congregation met in the homes of the parishioners and then the congregation rented the Holiness Methodist Church on Augusta Avenue for services, according to Bertha Zniewski, a 50-year member of PLC who is writing a history of the church for the anniversary.

In 1945, the lutheran congregation bought the Christian Science Church. This little brick church stood on the corner of Hudson Street and Highway 23, where the Johnson Funeral Home now stands. This church was bought for $1,800, of which the church had a loan for $1,300.

In 1953, a new church building was constructed on this lot at a cost of $38,000. At the time, the church had 66 families and 254 baptized members. A narthex was added to this building - which is now the funeral home - in 1976 at a cost of $33,000.

The present site of the church was acquired 30 years ago. The church purchased a half block on Maple Street in 1970 for $10,000.

The present building was built in 1984 at a total cost of $725,000. The church borrowed $350,000 in order to build it.

The 2000 addition and remodeling project cost $1 million, of which $800,000 was borrowed. Adult membership in 2000 reached 993.

Church Growth
Year    Membership    Gain (%)
1960             451                 -
1970             481                7%
1980             691               44%
1985             728               5%
1990             752                3%
1995             858               14%
2000             993                16%

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