What will make them better: Our building’s spaces and community feedback

March 30, 2023

By Rev. Rick King

We have a well-used building, and that’s been true for a long time. It’s matched by a public perception that Falcon Heights Church is open and welcoming to all kinds of groups, and has some great spaces that aren’t like the typical dark, musty church basement.

We already have three organizations that occupy office, storage and program space in our building on a regular basis: Highland Friendship Club, North Star Barbershop Chorus, and Outdoor Painters of Minnesota. But we were interested in what would make the spaces in our building more attractive and useful for community groups to use once, or as part of an ongoing partnership.

So last Saturday, March 25, we held what’s called a Charrette World Café. It combined two intensive, high-energy planning methods to engage 10 community/nonprofit representatives and eight FHC members for three hours, to tour and envision our community-use spaces differently, and share ideas at tables organized around activity needs: business needs, community gatherings, community services, performances, etc.

Our central question was: What would make these spaces better for certain activities and more desirable for rental?

Highland and North Star were represented, as well as the Girl Scouts that have met in our building for years, two different theater groups, the Lions Club, The ARC (a disability advocacy organization), and others. And FHCers Larry Schumacher, Bryan Seyfarth, Sue Gramith, Mark Miazga, Marianne Dietzel, facilitator Linda Kopecky, Katie Johnson and Rev. Rick King participated as congregants, table leaders, or hospitality people.
After a lunch at 11:45 catered by Nelson’s Cheese and Deli (thanks to the Fabyanskes for supplemental funding), we harvested all the ideas onto newsprint, stuck it to the sanctuary-side windows in the Gathering Room and then used stickers to vote for our favorites.

The most popular ideas?

  • A food shelf in a partitioned Fellowship Hall below the sanctuary
  • Dedicated entrances on the Holton St. and Garden Ave. sides of the building, and doors to separate the Court wing from the rest of the church
  • More flexible seating in the sanctuary for diverse uses such as performances, lectures, recitals, forums, and classes, with better lighting, flooring, and seating
  • Rental space for celebrations, and a safe play hangout for parents and small children in the Court
  • Technology such as better wireless internet, built-in LED projection/screen in the Gathering Room, and wireless-enabled monitors, smartboards, and low-tech whiteboards in meeting/gathering spaces.

Our next task is to identify the low-hanging fruit: what low-cost items can we implement soon that will improve these spaces’ attractiveness to renters, and create even more goodwill from wider community members?