Church Design Through a Mother's Eyes
When I first started working on architecture projects for churches, I began to see ministry space with a more critical eye. I became aware of traffic flow, aesthetics, and details of how church buildings were laid out. But it wasn’t until my first child was born that I began to see ministry space through a new lens—a mother’s eyes.
When my husband, Travis, and I picked our church, we weren’t parents yet. I wasn’t as concerned about details relating to parents with kids. But now as a mom, I’ve become aware of a lot of important details about the way my own church is designed. For instance, with our baby daughter in tow, I quickly became aware of how long it took to get from our car to the nursery.
It’s ideal when churches can provide up-close parking for single parents with multiple kids. The easier it is for a mom or dad to drop their kids off before the service and pick them up on the way out, the better. For example, West Side Christian Church in Springfield incorporated a canopy at the main entrance of their building. This brought the entry point closer to the parking lot, which greatly helps parents who are trying to get their kids from the parking lot into the building, especially in inclement weather.
There's another big design concern for parents...safety related to the children’s area. For many parents, dropping their child at the nursery or children’s area may be the first time they’ve ever done this. Churches need to lay out their children’s space with safety in mind. Here are some questions to consider:
- How easy is the check-in/check-out process?
- How safe is the children’s area for ensuring outsiders don’t have access to the children after they’re checked in?
- How smoothly and safely does the check-out process go when it’s time to retrieve your child after the service?
These are the features parents notice, and how well a church tends to these details speaks volumes about the value they place on the safety of their children’s ministry.
Restrooms for Kids
For toddlers through school age kids, we try to design children’s ministry space with restrooms that are within this secured area. That way kids don’t have to leave the large group area or classrooms to use the bathroom. Churches can’t always afford bathrooms in every classroom, but at the very least, we try to include restrooms inside the large room space so children don’t have to leave this secure area.
Security is one of the most critical feature for children’s space. Even just a pair of doors that separates everyone from children who have been checked into the children’s space provides security for kids and peace of mind for parents.
The check-in desk for the children’s ministry area is usually outside security doors. Once a child is checked in, they go through security doors that are not accessible to other adults. This helps parents know that outsiders will not have access to children. For the nursery, parents appreciate a lot of windows. In the nursery, it's important to have viewing access of the changing table and be able to observe their children. With an option of one-way windows, parents can see into the children’s ministry area without their child catching a glimpse of them. Again, this gives parents the freedom to see how their kids are being cared for.
The check-out process can be chaotic. Having space for the transitional check-in/check-out time—including larger corridors for less congestion and easy traffic flow—goes a long way toward serving the needs of parents with young children.
More Features for Mom
Inside the lobby, it’s helpful if churches lay out furniture in such a way that allows for good traffic flow, especially for parents who may be making their way through the church with a stroller.
Good signage also helps provide visual clarity, especially to first-time visitors who may not know the layout of the church.
Family restrooms are a great idea, especially for parents who have kids in diapers and need a changing table, and for children who are potty training.
Mom rooms, or cry rooms, are essential for nursing moms, or for kids who are fussing during a service. It should have a rocking chair and a monitor so the mom can have a live feed of what’s happening in the main service. My daughter was a crier, so I was grateful when I could leave the main sanctuary and be with her and still listen to the service.
Another important feature for parents, especially if they’re new to your church, is to provide a section of the sanctuary that’s designated for family worship. Some churches want the worship service to be quiet and less distracting, but there are a lot of first-time visitors who might not be ready to drop their kids off in the children’s area. These families need an easy place to worship with the congregation, and yet be able to make a quick exit if needed.
Finally, what mom doesn't want--no, make that need--a cup of coffee when she's at church? Coffee stations and even full-fledged cafes are becoming "must haves" in the churches we're working with. Along with providing a Third Place space for visitors and regular attenders to mingle between services, they also offer a much-needed benefit to harried moms who long for a warm cup of comfort. I, for one, am glad to see this trend taking hold in more churches!
It’s fun to be able to bring my perspective as a mom to the church projects we’re working on at Aspen Group. What design features do you think the mothers in your church appreciate most?
You can check out more of Rosie's work on Aspen's Portfolio.