Kennewick church seeks living-room feel

How do you give a gymnasium a living room feel?That is the question members from Living Room Church in Kennewick are working to answer as they convert a former school gymnasium into their new worship space.

The nondenominational church bought the former Bethlehem Lutheran School to accommodate its growing congregation of more than 700 worshippers, and is in the process of renovating and converting the school's three buildings for new uses by the church, said project manager Jim Aust.

An old residential building will become church offices and another building on the property will house small classrooms for youth groups and church activities.

The main gymnasium building will become the worship center -- with a bit of work, Aust said.

"It's quite intensive," he said. "We're doing a lot of acoustical work to make the worship center sound like a worship center and not a gymnasium."

Workers also will build a stage for the community programs and concerts the church sponsors, as well as a coffee area and small library, and they will be upgrading the bathrooms.

One area will be made just for teenagers, with no one over age 19 allowed in, Aust said.

The church has come a long way since it started with about 40 members who started meeting at Pasco High School to worship about four years ago.

From the high school, Living Room Church moved into space adjacent to Spare Time Lanes bowling alley on Vineyard Drive, but now has outgrown that space, Aust said.

The church took possession of the Bethlehem Lutheran property on South Garfield Street on Dec. 1, and hopes to have the offices and classrooms ready by March 1, and the worship space ready for services sometime in the summer of 2012, Aust said.

Bethlehem Lutheran School last month moved to its new location on 27th Avenue in Kennewick. The church moved there in 2009.

One benefit of the Bethlehem Lutheran property is that there is room for future expansion to include an outdoor concert space and ballfields, Aust said.

Through it all, church officials are striving to maintain the home-like atmosphere that Aust said has allowed the congregation to blossom.

"I think it's just the feeling of comfort, the feeling of family, the feeling of coming home," he said. "Hence the name -- the Living Room."

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com