Designing for Millennials Blog Feature
Derek DeGroot

By: Derek DeGroot on May 14, 2013

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Designing for Millennials

Church Design | Millennials

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?

Millennials' expectations of church are different too, and our church facilities are starting to reflect this. As designers, researchers, and churches dig more into what exactly this means for the future, some trends are starting to emerge.

Time Over Money

Millennials put a premium on speed and efficiency, valuing fast-casual restaurants (Noodles & Company, Chipotle, etc.), short lines, and quick turnarounds. If they value their time that much, how can we respect that with our churches and building designs? For one, we can make it clear to them who we are and what our vision is—aligning our facility to our brand and our communications. Simple things matter most, such as matching the feeling people get at the front entry on Sunday morning to the one they got visiting the website the night before. Millennials are opposed to spending copious amounts of time deciding if there's a fit. The fit should be apparent and natural.

Experience Over Necessities

To this generation, some of the time-honored necessities, such as buying a car or accumulating “stuff," are being challenged. The age of owning everything we use is facing extinction, as availability increases through technological advancements. Instead, Millennials as a whole are valuing experiences (think Target, not Wal-Mart), such as weekends away or a night out in a unique environment. To create these meaningful experiences in our church spaces, it starts with creating great community space. Relational spaces help engage in story and conversation, so they can tell others about their experiences and connect to others. Ironically, business brands are finding that this is part of the new norm on why people buy things. It’s no longer about pure functionality or luxury, but about what we can tell others about it or what it says about us.

Diversity Over Status Quo

Naturally and obviously more diverse than previous generations, Millennials comprise many distinct segments.  They are not a homogenous group, made up of polarizing viewpoints and nuanced groups. They may be a more tolerant people as a whole, but they are increasingly forming a divide in opinion. To connect to such a diverse group, bold designs are key to churches moving forward. The days of being able to create bland multipurpose spaces are waning, as spaces are now incredibly intentional. This boldness will attract some, and push others away. However, the aligned fit will be obvious, and your ministries will be able to do more with these individuals who will be fully bought into the church as a whole.

Changing Over Staying

In what is being dubbed "The Rise of the Nones," a recent surge of people claiming no faith is concerning the church as a whole. Denominations, churches, and even individuals in the faith are becoming more concerned of a mass exodus of our youth away from faith to culture's great pull. In fact, according to David Kinnaman's research at the Barna Group, 43 percent of once-active Millennials drop out of regular church attendance between high school and age 30. This much is clear—how we do church, what church looks like, and the facilities we worship in will have to change to recapture this lost generation.

More of the Barna Group's research on Millennials can be found here: http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/621-three-spiritual-journeys-of-millennials.

 

 

About Derek DeGroot

Derek DeGroot is Vice President of Design and Integrated Services for 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.