As COVID-19 restrictions change in various states across the country and congregations start to regather in their church facilities, many churches are facing a new realization: their building isn’t designed with spaces to accommodate groups of 10 to 50, the range for church gathering sizes in many states.
The built environment is complex, changing, and needs fresh thinking to solve today’s challenges. The pandemic has created new problems to solve and accelerated the problems already occurring. Recent data from Barna highlights shifts in our culture and how they are—or soon will be—affecting the church.
Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.
Churches are working hard to determine when and how to reopen their facilities in the midst of ever-changing COVID-19 parameters. As you relaunch your church for this next season of ministry, I want to offer some basic principles about design and space. There are two basic roles of your ministry space:
It happens to most churches. You’ve been in the same church building for many years. It was great in the 70s and the 80s, but as your ministries have evolved, your building hasn’t. What worked well when you had adult Sunday School classes or when your children’s ministries didn’t include a large-group worship time, may now be misaligned space. Too often it's the physical space within a church building that defines the type of ministry that occurs. When we miss ministry opportunities because we have a facility misaligned with who we are as a church, it can become a serious stewardship issue.
In today’s world, we are constantly connected. Whether it’s Wi-Fi on planes and trains, or Bluetooth-enabled cars, or even waterproof devices that allow us to check e-mails in the shower, people are wired—and weary. Based on an Aspen/Barna study, the next generation is looking for a place to rest from their highly plugged in, fragmented lives. The church may be the perfect place for them to find it.
In 1963, Edward T. Hall coined the term “proxemics” to describe the perception of the physical space around us. When social scientists examine this perception of connecting space, they generally speak of four zones: Intimate (<2’) Personal (2-4’) Social (4-12’) Public (>12’) We need to design for connection across all four zones to foster healthy, dynamic social lives. Let’s take a look at each of these zones.
If you want to ignite a culture of strategic expansion, you have to build for one–literally. But buildings require time and capital. For some churches, especially those that are focused on reaching more people for Christ as quickly as possible, the thought of building new campuses or investing in permanent space seems at odds with a nimble, frugal approach to launching multiple congregations.
If you want to ignite a culture of strategic expansion, you have to build for one - literally. But buildings require time and capital. For some churches, especially those that are focused on reaching more people for Christ as quickly as possible, the thought of building new campuses or investing in permanent space seems at odds with a nimble, frugal approach to launching multiple congregations.
Church buildings are always a reflection of and a response to the culture in which they exist. For instance, when I design a church, I want it to reflect the DNA of that particular congregation. The building itself tells a story about who the church is. By its design, you can tell what the church values and what its mission is.
Perhaps the most powerfully symbolic icon of church past is the cathedral—a striking icon of a relationship between this world and the one above. The youngest generations (and the unchurched) still see the cathedral as the symbol of Christianity. Hollywood has depended on the steeple and gothic architecture to paint their own picture of church today, through TV, movies, and other media. And in our media-steeped, hyperconnected culture, people still long for places of contemplation and solitude.