By: Marian V. Liautaud on January 26, 2021
4 Ways to Reimagine Large Gathering Spaces for Smaller Groups
Since COVID-19 hit and churches were forced to leave their buildings, Aspen Group has been working to help churches prepare to relaunch.
"Some of the key church spaces Aspen focuses on, like worship and gathering spaces, have been empty as Americans have stayed safe at home," says Aspen Group Project Architect Craig Dobyns. "My design attention shifted from how we gather and fellowship as a church body in our buildings, to how our buildings can serve the community that is staying at home. Our buildings are still ministry tools, and churches are in a unique position to reimagine their space, even if temporarily."
Your church is preparing to return to your building.
We want you to be ready.
As states start to ease stay-at-home restrictions, church leaders are facing a new challenge—how to adapt large gathering spaces for smaller-sized groups in order to maintain social distancing.
Craig shares design inspiration for churches that are transitioning back into their ministry facilities. Here are four ways churches can rearrange seating layouts to adapt large gathering spaces into safer spaces for smaller groups*:
1. Table Worship Groups
Tables are a great way to gather in groups at safe distances. These tables could accommodate a family or small group. The floor around the tables could be marked with a circle of tape to provide a “zone” or visual cue for keeping at a safe space, as well as creating traffic patterns for navigating the room. This idea could also be a strategy for connecting newcomers who have never been to your church building.
2. Worship In the Round
In this layout, the speaker is positioned in the center of the room. The chairs are arranged around the speaker in several segmented zones to allow for smaller audience sections and maintain safe distances. The number of chairs can be increased or decreased according to regulations set by churches' local municipalities.
As gathering and distancing standards change, the number of chairs in each zone could increase. This “in the round” idea will require some temporary changes to amplified sound systems and possibly lighting of the space.
3. Maximizing Comfort vs Capacity
Usually when we are providing seating in a worship space, we are trying to maximize comfort and capacity. In our current season, comfort is the main consideration. Creating different seating options within the same space will allow people to choose an option they feel most comfortable with. You can experiment with different layouts based on your specific needs.
Throughout different phases of reopening, you can play around with different seating configurations, while maintaining a sensible level of comfort.
4. Stage Seating for Medium-Sized Groups
Stages usually can accommodate medium-sized groups and provide much more space than our typical classrooms. Consider temporarily converting the stage in your worship auditorium or sanctuary to host a small gathering where people can have ample space and not feel cramped.
We hope these design ideas will be of inspiration to you as you reimagine your larger gathering worship spaces for smaller groups. Visit relaunch.church for more articles and resources to help your church team think through how your spaces might be temporarily adapted as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and contact us if you need more help transitioning your church spaces.
*The number of chairs shown in each example are for visual illustration purposes only. Seats should be increased or decreased according to regulations set by churches' local municipalities. These ideas are for design inspiration and may not apply in every church setting.