Below, you will find answers to a number of frequently asked questions about our proposed building project. We hope this information helps you understand the project as fully as possible. We also hope that this information helps you get as excited about the project as our FLC staff and leadership are!

If you have further questions or need clarification on any of the items below please email our building task force at

Bookmark this page and keep an eye on it – we will add questions and update information as necessary.

Why is FLC planning a building renovation project?

In December 2018, First Lutheran Church discovered serious structural concerns with our 140+ year old sanctuary roof.

The congregation vacated the sanctuary for about six months while work could be done to stabilize the sanctuary roof and walls in order to make it safe to occupy once again. This work involved installing columns from the rafters all the way down through the sanctuary floor, down through the fellowship hall, and into the bedrock below. This work also involved installing tension cables to stabilize the plaster and brick walls.

These stabilizations are indefinitely secure, but they are not a “fix” for the roofing structure. From the beginning of the stabilization work, we have been planning for a much larger repair/rebuilding work.

This crisis moment for our building took place while we were already having serious conversations about building renovations to improve accessibility and hospitality.

Crisis and opportunity have come together to lead us into this exciting time as we plan a building renovation project that will rebuild and renew our building for our future in ministry!

What is the scope of the project?

We are proud to be partnering with Kueny Architects for this building project. The proposed renovation includes a rebuild of the internal sanctuary roofing structure, an accompanying sanctuary redesign, a complete remodel of the education/office wing of the budiling, and an addition to the building that will include a large narthex on the main floor and a new wing off the lower (fellowship hall) level of the building.

Roof & Walls
The proposed design preserves the landmark Broadway and Mill Street exterior, including the sloped roof, steeple, red doors, and most of the stained-glass windows. A flat sanctuary ceiling hides the steel girders providing roof and wall stability for generations. The narthex just outside the sanctuary features an upside-down-boat vaulted ceiling. The education and office wing will be remodeled, preserving the existing exterior walls.

Welcome, Hospitality & Accessibility
The proposed plan takes our seven-level building and condenses it into three levels, all accessible, with an elevator that reaches all floors. There will two main entrances: one off Broadway that leads directly into the narthex, and one off the existing parking lot that leads to the church offices. The plan calls for new, accessible bathrooms located in easily accessed locations, including outside the sanctuary, in the nursery, in the youth area (upper level) and social ministry area (lower level).  The narthex plan includes a kitchenette and the fellowship hall kitchen will be refreshed.

Worship and Music
The sanctuary will be reoriented to face east, and the narthex will provide direct access to the back of the sanctuary. The current balcony will be removed and a new balcony constructed over the new back of the sanctuary. The organ will move to the floor of the sanctuary as part of a music area within the worship space that includes space for the piano and a choir loft. The existing library and nursery will be remodeled into dedicated music rehearsal and storage space. The narthex will be wired for sound and video, so that worship can be seen and heard in that space. The narthex will also serve as overflow space for large worship gatherings.

Youth and Family
The remodeled upper level includes classrooms and gathering spaces for children’s ministry, with easily-accessible restrooms. The new wing in the lower level includes youth ministry gathering spaces. The main floor of the building includes a nursery space off the narthex.

Outreach and Social Ministry
The entire building project refreshes our space and adds new spaces, which will allow our building to be utilized even better by community organizations. The building project adds a wing of dedicated social ministry space on the lower level, which is accessible by elevator and able to be self-contained and secured from the rest of the building. The space is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of current and future ministries.

Offices and Meeting Spaces
The new main entrance off the existing parking lot will lead you to an office/administrative suite where you can be clearly and easily welcomed by our Ministry Support Coordinator. A remodeled fireside room and new church library will provide additional meeting and lounge spaces, in addition to the narthex, fellowship hall, and youth ministry spaces. These are ideal spaces for education events, community meetings, and other gatherings.

What is the cost of the project?

The proposed project will cost $5 million, which includes around $700,000 contingency.

As of November 2020, lead and advance donors have already made giving intentions of $3.2 million dollars, which amounts to nearly 70% of the total cost.

Pending final congregational approval of the building plans, the public phase of the capital campaign will kick off in early 2021.

What is the timeline of the project?

Between now and the end of 2020, the building task force will offer continued opportunities for congregation members to view and discuss the proposed building plans.

A congregational meeting will be held in mid-January to vote on the building project and accompanying capital campaign.

Pending a positive congregational vote, the public phase of the capital campaign will kick off in February 2021.

The building project will begin in spring/summer 2021, and is anticipated to take 10-14 months.

Why a whole-building renovation and not just a roof repair?

Even before the condition of the roof came into play, our congregation had been discussing ministry priorities that seek to widen our welcome and deepen our relationships.

We discussed making our building more accessible, updating bathroom facilities, replacing the elevator, having a centralized narthex or welcoming area, and finding space for the increasing needs of our education ministries.

Our building is not merely an historic establishment in the Decorah community. It is a vehicle for ministry. The necessary repair and rebuilding of the sanctuary roof has offered church leadership the opportunity, at this critical time in our congregation’s life, to imagine and pursue a building that can reflect the welcome and vision of this congregation and all who seek to worship and grow in this place.

From a practical standpoint, the necessary repairs to the roof are more easily accomplished as part of a whole-building renovation. Furthermore, any significant remodel of the roof will necessitate a number of whole-building updates to remain in compliance with building codes and ADA.

What will the sanctuary look like?

The sanctuary will be reoriented 90 degrees, to face the east wall instead of the north wall. This allows people to enter the worship space from the narthex at the back of the space instead of from the side.

The existing balcony will be removed. A new balcony will be constructed over the back of the reoriented sanctuary, and will include dedicated sound and video tech space.

The organ will move to the main level of the sanctuary, into the space where the current altar stands. The piano and choir loft will be arranged in proximity to the organ, creating a permanent and dedicated music space.

To repair the sanctuary roof, the existing ceiling will need to be removed. The new ceiling in the space will be of sufficient height to maintain good acoustics for the organ. We are still in conversation with our architects regarding ceiling shape and final determinations on height. There are many decisions left to be made about the liturgical and interior design of the sanctuary. We are continuing to discern and discuss decisions that need be made regarding: a) the altar, pulpit, and other historic liturgical furnishings; b) pews and/or other seating; c) interior design elements such as painting and color scheme; d) music and acoustical concerns.

Please know that we intend to prayerfully and thoughtfully engage these questions, giving heed to the history of the existing space, the logistical necessities of the refreshed space, theological implications of the design, and overall aesthetic considerations.

What will be the environmental impact of this building project?

We are thrilled to have developed a plan with our architects that preserves the bulk of the existing outer brick walls of the building. This keeps an enormous amount of brick from being discarded! This is good stewardship of materials and also good stewardship of the history and spirit of our budiling.

The proposed addition to the education/office wing will increase the amount of roofing appropriate for a solar array, and so we are already making plans to expand our existing array.

The internal remodeling of the building will allow us to improve the energy efficiency of our building.

We are grateful to be working with architects who care about and excel at energy efficiency work. Recently, one of their buildings was listed among the top ten energy efficient buildings in Iowa.

How can I learn more about the project or ask further questions?

Follow this link to view floorplans and renderings provided by our architects.

Poster-sized versions of these images are on display in the fellowship hall and fireside room. You are welcome to stop by church during office hours to view them at your leisure.

Follow this link to watch a video of the building revonation presentation from November 8, 2020. In this video, taskforce members Troy Whitehill and Adrian Walter, as well as architect Jon Wellencamp, walk you through the images and proposed plans.

You can stay up to date on all building-related news by visiting our Building Updates page here on the church website.

Watch your mail/email for information about more opportunities to view and discuss building plans prior to a congregation meeting to vote on the project in mid-December.

For other questions, you can email our building task force or contact any of its members: Troy Whitehill, Adrian Walter, Kendra VanSloten, Greg McGohan, Paul Berland, Janice Kraabel, Mary Hart, and Carrie Nimrod.