Can Good Church Design Help Lower Anxiety? Blog Feature
Marian V. Liautaud

By: Marian V. Liautaud on March 09, 2021

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Can Good Church Design Help Lower Anxiety?

Church Design | interior design | Design Week

The prevalence of mental and emotional health issues is growing. According to Barna, people are experiencing extreme anxiety, and there is an epidemic of loneliness in our country, cutting across every age group. Nearly 60 percent of adults say at least one relational or emotional health issue affects their most important relationships. One-third indicated that loneliness impacts their closest relationships. We know people are struggling and the Church is a source of ever-present hope.

At Aspen Group, we believe good design can create culture and solve problems, including providing places for respite and personal connection. Aspen Architectural Designer Andrea Burks shares creative tips on how churches can work toward creating environments that support emotional and mental wellbeing.

Learn how to create space for emotional wellbeing.




1. Recognize the Opportunity

While there are many ways to address our congregations and communities' emotional wellbeing, sometimes the design is overlooked as one of the solutions. “As designers, we get to help the church with this opportunity to be a safe haven, a place where people go and feel secure, enveloped in so many positive emotions to offset the negative ones in this world. We have a big opportunity and a big task ahead,” says Andrea.

2. Make Creative Adaptations to Physical Spaces

As churches split their attention between their digital and physical spaces, we know that each serves an essential purpose within ministries. Physical space creates an opportunity for people to be together. The primary purpose of a church building is to serve as a place for relationship building, where people can connect with God and others. Here are a few ways to help create spaces that encourage connection, respite, and inspiration.

a. Translucency:

Andrea points out that adding an element of translucency can help provide a better welcoming experience for guests. “It could be as simple as adding the words ‘welcome’ to the exterior of the building or having translucency in the facade to allow people to see what's going on in the building.”




The idea of allowing people to get a preview of the inside space can help them know what to expect before entering the building, which encourages faster acclimation to new environments.


b. Biophilic Design

One of the design trends we see rising in popularity and value is the concept of introducing nature into the inside of buildings. Common in hospitals and long-term care facilities, bringing nature indoors is also an effective way for churches to introduce the beauty of God’s creation into the building. When added to various settings, natural elements can help people feel a sense of peace and comfort.




According to Andrea, biophilic design seeks to engage all of the senses and to give guests a sense of community and respite inside the church. She encourages churches to consider introducing elements like sounds that connect people to God or adding natural materials like wood and plants. Light is another powerful though often overlooked element that affects our sense of wellbeing.

“You can intentionally let daylight into the space, maybe even to highlight certain areas, continuing materials from the exterior into the interior. There are so many different ways to do it. And every church is unique. It’s an exciting opportunity as a designer to figure out what works best for each church.”


c. Maximizing Outdoor Spaces

As churches seek to create safe spaces that encourage emotional wellbeing amid our COVID reality, we have advised leaders to consider the resource of their entire property and how to make use of all of spaces, even those that are not within the walls of the building.




Andrea notes these creative outdoor spaces can serve as places where guests find a true sanctuary from the world–even if it just means adding small benches set off under a tree or in other tucked-away pockets of your campus.


d. Consider Various Personality Types

As people seek to interact in various buildings, we know it’s important to consider what resonates and creates inviting space for varying personality types. Introverts may especially appreciate great signage or more peripheral seating in worship spaces so they can navigate on their own and interact personally when they are ready.



“Some people get energy from big, open spaces with lots of people, lots of noise, but there are other styles of relating to consider. Some, when they first come in, may want to pause, take a look around, examine the situation, the environment, and then figure out where they need to go. That’s the balance as a designer–to try to figure out how to cater to everyone, including those with special needs. Everyone needs to feel welcome. You want to make sure there is an easy entrance and great signage.”

She also notes the value of a centralized lobby that serves as a hub from which people can find their way. This helps to get people into the environment quickly so they can adjust and feel safe, as though the space is already familiar, even though they've been there only a few minutes.


e. Design for Connection

Our team loves to design spaces that enhance everyday ministry. When it comes to creating a prime space for connection, Andrea says the lobby is key. “Having a centralized lobby where people can get familiar with the space and the functions that are happening helps a lot.



There can also be micro-environments within the lobby or offshoots like a cafe or little areas of seating. Some people like to sit at a larger table with lots of people–or maybe they have a big family. It's also important to have areas where you can have a one-on-one conversation with someone to really connect.”

During COVID, churches may have to adapt their lobby space to provide for safe fellowship.

3. Take Simple Next Steps

As you consider what is next for your church, consider the following questions and look at your campus with fresh eyes:

  1. What is your building saying to your community from the outside? Does it look more like a fortress or an inviting place for anyone to come?
  2. Once guests are inside your building, is your signage, whether directional or digital, visually prominent and accurate? How would its messages make guests feel? Welcomed? Encouraged? Confused?
  3. How can you create more of a welcoming vibe in your key areas? A place where guests can feel at home?

Our team is passionate about helping churches use their facilities to form connections with God and others. 

“Being able to combine my design career with my calling for churches has been so rewarding,” adds Andrea. “My favorite part about designing for churches is that moment when we're in a meeting, and the church says, ‘Yes, this is it! This is the plan that's going to increase our ministry. It's going to increase the kingdom and give glory to God.’ That is the most exciting part to me. There is nothing better.”

If you'd like a no-pressure conversation about how to adapt your space to better serve your people, please contact us. 


About Marian V. Liautaud

Marian is former Director of Marketing for Aspen Group.