Church Facility Projects to Tackle During COVID (and Ones You Shouldn't)
Throughout COVID-19, we’ve implored churches to look with fresh eyes at their facilities and ask, “In what ways is your church building creating space for ministry impact, and how is it creating a barrier to effective ministry?”
With many churches still closed for in-person gatherings—or only open on a limited basis—there may still be a window of time for you to refresh specific areas of your building so that you’re ready to relaunch church for a new season of ministry. But which projects should you tackle on your own, and which ones are better left to the experts?
Aspen Group Senior Interior Designer Lynn Pickard and Interior Designer Kristen Freeman share professional tips and important questions for church leaders to consider as you contemplate design projects to tackle during COVID.
Do-It-Yourself Church Facility Fixes
Signage and Wayfinding
People who come to your church will rely on signage to determine how to navigate your church facility. Job one is helping them locate your main entrance! Once they're in the building, the three areas people are searching for are where to go for worship, where to bring the kids, and where to find the restrooms.
Church signage and wayfinding is one area your church may be able to tackle on your own. Before you start tearing down your existing signs and wayfinding graphics, such as arrows and other visual cues to help people navigate your church building, we recommend that you review your current signage and wayfinding:
- Is your signage accurate?
- Is your signage visible and easy to follow?
- Does it reinforce your brand and/or brand colors in some way? If so, how?
- Does it complement your facility, creating a cohesive experience?
Many churches have communications departments and graphic design teams. If this is true for your church, invite your communications and graphics team into the process. They can make recommendations on how to incorporate your brand into signage and wayfinding. Utilize the people you have on your staff/volunteer teams to help enhance your building environments.
One caveat: "Because you know your facility so well, you may have blindspots to the challenges people experience when they navigate your building for the first time," says Lynn. And when you reopen your building during COVID, your congregation will need to learn new ways of moving around the building to accommodate for social distancing and traffic flow.
"At Aspen, we often work alongside communications teams to help develop effective signage and wayfinding. If you need fresh eyes or ideas on how to create effective traffic patterns and visual cues for how to navigate your church facility, an outside perspective can be helpful," Lynn says.
Wake Up Your Walls with Paint
Ready to freshen your facility with paint? It’s tempting to take your brand color palette straight to the store and start comparing paint chips. Resist the urge.
"Typically, we don't recommend that you paint your walls in exactly the same colors as your brand palette,” says Lynn. “Branding colors tend to be bold and likely are meant for digital and print. They don’t translate to walls necessarily. Instead, select more neutral colors for your walls, then add branding to it as a graphic, sign, or whatever will help your brand pop,” she advises.
A color that looks great in print or on screen may not look great on your wall. Look for other ways to express your brand throughout your space, beyond the wall colors. You can also add visual interest to your walls by using art and other graphics that convey your church's mission, vision and values.
Design Tips for Social Distancing
Create Visual Cues with Flooring
Flooring can be a subtle but surprisingly effective way of communicating traffic flow. A change in flooring materials or patterns can give cues on where to walk and where to stand.
"As we design areas, we are intentional about flooring, using it to help people move through a space and to provide visual cues about where to stand out of traffic flow and still maintain social distancing," says Lynn. "It's about guiding people to understand the area without having to ask questions or really even think about it."
Give guests nonverbal guides related to what's happening and where they should go next.
Church Design Hack: Calculate Social Distancing with Ceiling Tiles or Carpet Squares
When it comes to creating the right amount of social distancing, your facility can help you do the math. “We often use ceiling tiles to tell us how big a room is,” says Lynn. “The ceiling tiles are two by two, generally. So, if you are marking on the floors, it can give you an idea of a six-foot distance.
“Similarly, carpet squares are usually a two-foot square—not always, but it can help. We've done that in worship spaces with flat floors. If they have a stack of chairs, we'll create certain patterns to let them know where the first row goes, so they don't have to measure it or guess,” says Lynn.
Of course, a tape measure works too.
Kristen notes, “Often, churches have gathering spaces with multiple seats. Right now, it’s important to take a look at new furniture groupings. Consider how groupings can be spread out but still provide places where people can sit down and have a conversation, possibly with someone in their family."
Aspen’s new guide, “10 Ways to Adapt Your Church Lobby for COVID,” offers simple ideas for regrouping furniture.
Home vs Church Interior Design
Churches will often use a do-it-yourself approach for interior design. “Sometimes, people think that because someone did their home and it looks great, they can do the same thing in a church space," says Lynn. "I would caution against this because the scale of the two spaces is so drastically different. Things that work in a home aren't necessarily going to work in a corporate or commercial area."
Professional interior designers are trained to apply the principles and theories of design for whatever setting they're creating. Furnishing and finishing ministry space is different from decorating one's home. Residential and church interior design are two different environments. The finishes, furnishings, and equipment you'd select for your home are very different from the ones you'll need at your church. Don't underestimate the value of hiring a professional interior designer to help make your ministry space sing.
Though there are some projects that are better suited for churches to do on their own, there’s much to be gained by leaning on experts. As professional interior designers specializing in church facilities, Lynn and Kristen help connect with the DNA of the church, including its branding and colors, as they’re creating interior design packages for churches.