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.
Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.
It is both 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. Often it happens 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.
Henry Ford once famously said, “If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Of course, Ford introduced people to the automobile and the rest is history.
At our annual Alignment Conference this past October, I was asked an interesting question in my session on designing spaces in our churches that connect, inspire, and equip people.
So often it gets lost on us that everyone who enters our buildings—whether it's their very first time or their hundredth—has an experience that is either enhanced or diminished by their surroundings. Buildings aren't neutral; their alignment with your DNA (or lack thereof) impacts that experience.
As more and more brands calculate what the Millennial Generation, a generation that's growing in numbers and influence, means to their businesses, churches have started digging into the same questions. How does this 18-29 age group interact with the church? How do they interact with our brand? How do they give? Or even, where do they eat and shop?