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 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.
Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.
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.
It's encouraging and curious to see how open the next generation is to connecting with older generations. Much like they view issues of race, sexuality, and gender equality, Millennials are equally open to the idea of relationships with those much older than they are.
Churches grow, or add people, by casting a wide net to attract new people to Sunday service and by members inviting their own family and friends. Growth spurs multiplication. As the number of attendees grows beyond the capacity of the space to hold everyone, then multiplication can occur, and a new church can be born.
Ever get the sense that spaces are pushing you through, like you’re being herded like sheep? It’s because you probably are. Design is a powerful tool used to control our movement and guide our natural intentions. And yet, if we can move people through space in short order, then we can surely do the opposite. We can invite guests to stay in a space longer.
When people speak of connection, they often reference the “Third Place,” a term credited to sociologist Ray Oldenberg to describe a non-domestic, non-productive space in which a third realm of experience occurs. Think Starbucks and Panera, two businesses that have mastered the concept of cultivating community by providing inviting physical spaces for people to sit and stay a while, away from work or home.