Church Design

Aspen Group Blog

Knowledge to navigate the intersection of church culture, leadership, ministry, and facilities.

Derek DeGroot

Derek DeGroot is Vice President of Design and Integrated Services for Aspen Group. After graduating from University of Illinois-Chicago’s architecture program, Derek began his career in residential design. At the same time, his church was embarking on a building project. Derek quickly realized that churches needed to find a better way to build. Soon after, he discovered and joined Aspen Group in 2007.

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Church Design | Church Culture | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Barna’s “Making Space” Podcast Series Recap

By: Derek DeGroot
November 30, 2021

We’ve been enjoying the last six weeks of Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly podcast series, “Making Space,” leading up to some great new research we’re partnering with Barna on called, Making Space for Formation. Aspen’s VP of Design & Integrated Services, Derek DeGroot, spent some time reflecting on each episode in his blog series, “From the Church Architect’s Desk.” In case you missed any of the posts, here's a quick recap from Derek.

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Church Design | Church Culture | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Navigating Diverse Cultural Differences—From the Church Architect’s Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
November 18, 2021

Aaron and Michelle Reyes sat down with Carey Nieuwhof this week on Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly, to talk about making space for difficult conversations as church planters of a multiethnic church. They discussed how they navigate racial and political differences within their congregation, what they have done to meet their community’s needs, and future innovations they dream of for their physical gathering space.

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Making Space for Millennials Executive Summary

Making Space for Millennials Executive Summary

Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.

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Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Loneliness, the Digital Age, and Church Design–From the Church Architect's Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
November 11, 2021

Recent data shows that the Gen Z generation (people born roughly between 1997 to 2010) spends an average of seven hours a day on their phone, but 79% of Gen Z people say they’re lonely. In a reality that’s become increasingly digital, there is still a strong need for physical community.

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Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Fostering Meaningful Relationships in a Digital Age and the Role Physical Space Plays–From the Church Architect's Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
November 04, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, the digital experience has been a lifeline for our relationships, but is technology a replacement for interpersonal connection? Jo Saxton, author, speaker, podcast host, and leadership coach, shared on Barna ChurchPulse Weekly how physical space still plays a huge role in building meaningful relationships, and supporting the discipleship journey.

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Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

The Theology of Physical Space–From the Church Architect’s Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
October 28, 2021

We went pretty deep on the theology of space with Skye Jethani and Kimberly Deckel on this week's ChurchPulse podcast, "The Strengths and Weaknesses of American Church Traditions, Worship and Physical Gatherings." It’s a challenge to broach a topic as controversial and personal as theology when you’re talking to such a broad audience, but I think a lot of what Skye and Kimberly had to say is really important for all churches to think about: if theology is about our understanding of God, what is the theological importance of physical church spaces?

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Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Derwin Gray on How Physical Space Impacts Prayer–From the Church Architect’s Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
October 21, 2021

Derwin Gray, former NFL player and founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, discusses cultivating a life of prayer and intimacy with God in this week’s ChurchPulse Weekly podcast, "Derwin Gray on How the Lord's Prayer Has Reshaped How He Views Intimacy with God and His Beliefs About the Importance of Physical Space."

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Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

Kicking off the Barna podcast series "Making Space"—From the Church Architect's Desk

By: Derek DeGroot
October 14, 2021

For six weeks in October and November 2021, Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly will feature a series— "Making Space." As part of Aspen and Barna’s partnership on new research, Making Space for Formation, the podcast will help start a new conversation among church leaders about the role of physical space in spiritual development and the theology of space. Each week, Derek DeGroot, Aspen VP of Design and Integrated Services, will reflect on the podcast from his seat at the Church Architect’s Desk.

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Church Design | Design Week | emotional wellbeing

Designing for Emotional Wellbeing: The Power of Both/And

By: Derek DeGroot
August 25, 2021

This post is part two of a two part series in which we explore how design can shape our culture and result in emotionally and mentally supportive environments. One goal of good design is to incorporate a sense of ease and emotional well-being into a space. We move beyond the purpose of simple function to create a more personal interaction and meaningful experience for the user. As we look to design spaces that help churches address needs for things like respite and personal connection, the interplay between the indoors and the outdoors and art and architecture can offer creative and unique solutions.

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Church Design | Design Week | emotional wellbeing

Two Ways Design Can Impact Emotional Wellbeing

By: Derek DeGroot
August 23, 2021

This post is part one of a two part series in which we explore how design can shape our culture and result in emotionally and mentally supportive environments. Can you imagine that the design of your lobby, sanctuary, and gathering spaces in your church could actually help address the emotional and mental health needs of our culture today? Recent data from Barna underscores a need for churches to bring real solutions to bear on our culture's growing mental health crisis—and the spaces we provide to our congregations and communities can be a powerful tool to help people navigate their anxiety, grief, and depression in order to more deeply connect with others.

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Church Design | Church Construction

What IKEA Can Teach Us About Church Design

By: Derek DeGroot
July 26, 2021

As a designer, I think a lot about how the spaces we occupy inherently provoke responses. Our physical body and our mind are often driven to an action based on the physical environment we’re in.  If you’ve ever been to an IKEA, you know this to be true. The massive furniture store that originated in Sweden and has now taken over the United States has turned ordinary people into furniture super-shoppers.

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