Barna’s “Making Space” Podcast Series Recap Blog Feature
Derek DeGroot

By: Derek DeGroot on November 30, 2021

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Barna’s “Making Space” Podcast Series Recap

Church Design | Physical Space | Barna Podcast

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.

EPISODE 1: "Making Space for Rest, Healthy Rhythms and High Productivity"




David Kinnaman and Carey Nieuwhof kicked off the podcast series with a conversation centering on leadership development and the concept, “You invest in what you value.” Carey’s investment in his home office for the purpose of “deep work,” and investment in their backyard for the purpose of providing hospitality are tools for creating experiences that become relationship-defining.

Of churches, David pointed out that, “You’re communicating through the way you design your church, what you value, and how you value people. And that’s really, really important for church leaders.”

I was honored to join this episode briefly to cast the vision for the future Making Space for Formation research. In the podcast I shared that church leaders have a great opportunity right now to reconsider how we want to encourage people to engage in community and discipleship, and then make decisions for our physical spaces in a way that endorses that vision. Read More >


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EPISODE 2: "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"




I was really excited to hear that Barna had lined up Derwin Gray for the second podcast in the “Making Space” series. Pastor Gray’s book The Good Life really impacted me last year after frustration and discouragement had set in with the uncertainty of COVID.

Derwin touched on something in the episode that resonates deeply with me—both in the sense of what “the good life” is, as well as the conversation about what kind of space connects us with God in prayer. He said, “people have a hunger for beauty.” I think Derwin’s observation is correct: People come to the church looking for transcendence, something better than the news, something bigger than their own overwhelming lives, something beautiful to draw them out of themselves. He said, “God uses spaces and places to draw us to the magnificence of his love and his care and his presence.” Read More >

EPISODE 3: "Skye Jethani and Kimberly Deckel on the Strengths and Weaknesses of American Church Traditions, Worship and Physical Gatherings"




A big question that was explored in this episode was what non-churchgoers experience when they walk into a church building. Skye Jethani addressed this with this question: Is there congruence with how your church feels and what your church preaches? We talk about this a lot at Aspen in terms of a building language. What does your church communicate to people when they enter the building? Do you feature beautiful artwork to remind people that God is a generous Creator who cares about our physical work and bodies?

Kimberly Deckel’s denomination uses physical objects and actions in the course of worship. She talked about shaping the structure of the service so that our congregation is “steeped in the word and the sacrament,” so that people are not dependent on a pastor to spiritually feed them. How can you use your church building to point to Christ as the center of the service, rather than a worship team or pastor? How is your church space and worship structured to invite participation, rather than spectatorship? Read More >

EPISODE 4: "Jo Saxton on Fostering Meaningful Relationships in a Digital Age, Understanding the Gaps in Digital Discipleship, and the Incredible Statistics on How Women Have Been Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic"




In this episode, Jo Saxton shared that relationships have suffered in the past couple years and digital connection has, at best, allowed us to maintain relationships. But only in a few cases has technology really improved our relationships, especially in the church.

Carey shared, “There is no richer shared experience for Christians than worshipping, serving, and eating and drinking together. The physicality is an integral part of our spirituality—there’s something distinct and unique about what you do when you’re in the same place.”

As an architect, I think often about creating space for relationships. Often that happens in lobbies, in the children’s wing, and in the outdoor landscape of the church. But it also happens in worship. Listening to a sermon with others we might not know, singing, being silent in prayer together, and seeing others worship with us serve as reminders that none of our differences are as powerful as the salvation and the Savior we have in common. Read More >

EPISODE 5: "Loneliness, Community, and Discipleship Online Versus In-Person with Ben Windle and Jay Kim"




This episode continued the conversation about the unique value physical space brings in a world where digital church content is easy to create and distribute. How do churches establish a sense of rootedness and define community in the digital age?

Ben Windle said that our pandemic foray into exclusively digital church “has amplified a deep need for real community and friendship.” He said that the Gen Z generation spends over seven hours a day on their devices, but they’re still lonely, which is to say, online communities aren’t meeting deep relational needs. Jay Kim, author of Analog Church, added, "One of the great benefits of digital is that it’s given the church a uniquely broad front door, but the reality is, the front door is an entry into more intimate and meaningful spaces."

There are many ways to innovate to make both digital and physical connection more fruitful for discipleship. I’ve been playing with the word “interplay” lately, as a concept to push creativity in church design. We don't win ground for the kingdom when we pit digital against physical, or preaching against community engagement, or serving the church against serving our neighbors. We win when we bring those things together in the spirit of unity that Jesus embodies in John 17. Read More >

EPISODE 6: "Aaron and Michelle Reyes on Navigating Diverse Cultural Differences During a Pandemic"




On this week’s episode, Aaron and Michelle Reyes talked 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.

Aaron also talked about how the supposed convenience of digital worship services actually “eliminates the ability to participate” for poor and marginalized communities—that’s pretty stark language pointing out that we sometimes unintentionally exclude the very groups that Jesus so often sought out to serve! Likewise, Michelle mentioned single people are dependent on the community of the church for a sense of family and connectedness. Read More >

Over the course of the coming months, we’ll be diving into the topic of the theology of space through a joint research project with Barna Group, Making Space for Formation. Make sure to stay up to date by signing up to receive updates on this project!


About Derek DeGroot

Derek DeGroot is President of 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.