Don't do it yet. But after reading this first paragraph, close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a stressful time in your recent past. If you could escape anywhere in the world to help reduce your anxiety, where would you go?
Ok, now open your eyes. What kind of place did you envision? More importantly, was it indoors or outside in nature?
The U.S. furniture manufacturer Herman Miller asked this same question of designers in their study, "Nature-Based Design: The New Green." Ninety-five percent of respondents said they envisioned being in an outdoor space. Wow, nearly 100 percent prefer the outdoors. Makes sense, I guess. After all, we were created to be in a garden!
There's a word for this love of nature: Biophilia. It's a "love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life forms." It's the idea that playing off nature allows us to feel better and think more clearly. We're less stressed and healthier. And according to BiophilicCities.org, we even tend to be more generous when we're in nature.
How amazing would it be if we could bring some of these healing properties into our church buildings? What if our lobbies, classrooms, and worship spaces could help reduce stress? And how great would it be if people were encouraged to become more generous through the design of our churches?
Additionally, an Aspen/Barna study—Making Space for Millennials—revealed that Millennials (those born between 1984-2002) connect best with God when they're in nature.
Bringing the Outdoors In
So how do you incorporate nature into your church facility? Here are seven high-impact ways to bring the outside in:
1. Windows: This might be the most obvious way, but it's still worth mentioning. Allowing natural light into lobbies and sanctuaries gives us a sense of setting—we're part of the larger world around us.
2. Live Plants: While they can be a bit harder to maintain, they can also go a long way in reproducing the outdoor feeling.
3. Sounds: Adding elements like water and fire can bring in the beautiful sounds of nature.
4. Natural Shapes: Incorporate the curve of a rock or stature of a flower into your ceiling design.
5. Colors: Capture the colors of a sunrise on your walls, or the green of the grass on your floors.
6. Textures: Selecting furniture made with natural fibers and fabrics, such as the wool of a sheep, can help tune us into the natural world.
7. Reflections: Have a little fun by placing mirrors in strategic places to remind people of reflections they might see in water.
The possibilities are endless. Go outside and get inspired! And yes, even the cold of winter can be inspiring.