4 Questions to Consider When Assessing Your Church’s Outdoor Space Blog Feature
Mark Underwood

By: Mark Underwood on March 11, 2022

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4 Questions to Consider When Assessing Your Church’s Outdoor Space

Church Design | emotional wellbeing | Great Outdoors

Spring is just around the corner, so it’s time to start thinking about your church’s site and outdoor space. In the world of church design and construction, we often stress the importance of interior connection spaces like church lobbies, cafés, and worship venues, but outdoor space is also a critical zone for building relationships and supporting ongoing ministry.

Being intentional about your landscape design can help play a part in the discipleship journey, in serving your community, and in creating restorative environments for wellbeing. Research shows that millennials, and people of all generations, appreciate and benefit from outdoor experiences.

Time spent in nature can benefit us physically and emotionally by:

      • reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
      • aiding in weight management
      • keeping blood pressure to a healthy level
      • helping to support the immune system
      • boosting creativity and problem-solving skills
      • sharpening mental focus, concentration, and memory


Aspen's Senior Landscape Architect, Mark Underwood, takes us into the world of church landscape design:




If you’re a pastor, ministry leader, or facility manager, it might be confusing to know where you should even start to assess your church’s outdoor space. Considering the following questions will help you get an idea for how your site reflects your values and DNA, supports your ongoing ministries, and creates spaces for relationships and individual growth. For a deeper dive into this topic, download the free PDF resource, The Great Outdoors–Church Site Assessment.


1. What first impressions does your site offer to newcomers?



Chapel Pointe, Hudsonville, Michigan


        • What is your natural landscape like?
        • Are there trees, lakes, and other natural elements on the site?
        • Are your gardens being maintained?
        • Does your site have enough lawn space?

2. Is your site appropriate for prayer, rest, and reflection?



Benet Academy, Lisle, Illinois


        • Does your site offer respite from a chaotic world?
        • Are there benches or other outdoor seating?
        • Are there paths and walkways where people can roam?
        • Does the site connect to God through nature?


3. Does your site have good interplay between indoors and outdoors?



Hickory Creek Church, Frankfort, Illinois



Chapel Pointe, Hudsonville, Michigan


        • Does your building bring in natural light and afford views of the surrounding landscape from the inside?
        • Have you utilized spaces between buildings as additional open-air outdoor spaces with seating?
        • What kinds of windows and doors does your building have connecting the indoors to the outdoors? Are there garage doors that can open to bring more of the outdoors in?
        • Do you have an outdoor café or multipurpose space?


3. How is your church's unique DNA being expressed through the site?



The Fields Church, Mattoon, Illinois


        • Does your outdoor space convey your message and mission?
        • What ministry opportunities does it create or support?
        • Are your outdoor spaces playing a role in the discipleship journey?


Take the Next Step

Now that you’ve thought through these questions, how do you take the next step toward maximizing your church’s outdoor space? This is an area where you’ll want to reach out to an expert. It’s best to start those conversations as early as possible, so your outdoor space can be addressed as part of the full vision for your site. We’d love to dream with you and help you make the most of your site so it can help support ministry, build relationships, and bring people closer to God.


About Mark Underwood

Mark Underwood joined Aspen Group as Senior Landscape Architect in 2019. In his role he does big picture planning, site development, and detailed design for the church projects we work on. This includes entries, parking lots, plazas, gathering spaces, prayer gardens, play spaces, and athletic courts and fields. Mark and his wife, Melissa, have five children and enjoy church and Sunday School, athletic events, yard and board games, camping, fishing, and hanging out around a bonfire.