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Saddleback Church

Worship Center


Lake Forest, CA


To overhaul the main worship center at Saddleback Church Lake Forest, where Pastor Rick Warren and his leadership team envisioned a gathering space that would be appropriate for large crowds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With worship services shut down for countless churches across the nation, the team wanted to find innovative ways to gather safely as a congregation.

The Big Idea became “Church Without Walls.”


The PlainJoe team set out on a mission to transform the existing 3,000-seat worship center at the Saddleback Lake Forest campus into an indoor-outdoor venue that would both better steward the Southern California climate, and allow for church members to worship safely all year long. We came alongside Saddleback Church to envision a Big Idea that encompassed both what this church has embodied throughout its lifetime, as well as the values it intends to carry into the future. That Big Idea became “Church Without Walls.” As a church that had amassed over 20,000 members before ever establishing a permanent location, this concept was both ideal and fitting. It was an idea that was not only appropriate for the church’s history and present, but for the vision its leaders have going forward.


Saddleback’s leadership team opted to open up four of the large, floor-to-ceiling windows in the main worship center, replacing them with large airplane hangar doors. This transformation allows the room to be completely opened up as an indoor-outdoor space. Existing metal stadium seats were converted into theater and terraced platform seating in the back of the worship center. The North and South patios are covered with an operable canopy. In addition, the North patio was redesigned to flow inside out, and vice versa.

“Welcome portals” help worshipers begin their journey from the moment they enter the parking lot, transitioning them from the outside world into Saddleback’s space on arrival. The result is a connected journey into the welcome center, which flows into the new covered outdoor setting, and finally into the revamped, open lobbyspace.


Phases 1A and 1B (of three total phases) of the Saddleback Worship Center opened on the weekend of November 13, 2021. This phase included an overhaul of the main worship space, as well as the baptistry. Phase 1C, which includes a large wood deck which expands the area over the canyon, was set to be completed by the end of 2021.Eventually the campus-wide makeover will shift Saddleback’s full capacity for both worship and events into year-round outdoor space.