Kicking off the Barna podcast series "Making Space"—From the Church Architect's Desk
For six weeks in October and November 2021, Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly will feature a series— "Making Space." As part of Aspen and Barna’s partnership on new research, Making Space for Formation, the podcast will help start a new conversation among church leaders about the role of physical space in spiritual development and the theology of space. Each week, Derek DeGroot, Aspen VP of Design and Integrated Services, will reflect on the podcast from his seat at the Church Architect’s Desk.
If you haven’t listened to the podcast, "Making Space for Rest, Healthy Rhythms and High Productivity" yet, you can do so here:
Make sure to also download the free discussion guide so you can go deeper!
Recording my first episode of Barna’s ChurchPulse Weekly, "Making Space for Rest, Healthy Rhythms and High Productivity," with Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman, was exciting for sure. The opportunity to join these two leaders on a large platform, the chance to hone my own podcasting game, the visibility this can bring to a topic that matters deeply to me—all big wins. The bigger win? To be once again involved in a research project with Barna Group with the aim to bring to light new learnings for the Church and for our team at Aspen! We developed Making Space for Millennials over five years ago and we continue to see the impact. It’s still one of Barna’s most popular resources to date and it reverberated through church leadership teams and helped them respond to a changing culture.
In this week’s ChurchPulse Weekly podcast, David points to why the Millennials research was so impactful. Of churches, he said, “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.”
David and Carey’s whole conversation, centering on leadership development, supported that concept—you invest in what you value. Carey’s investment in his home office for the purpose of “deep work,” investment in their backyard for the purpose of providing hospitality for relationship building, and even investment in a boat as a tool for creating experiences that become relationship-defining—these are all material investments for the purpose of developing something that lasts beyond the physical world.
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For a Christian, so much of our investment in the world is for something deeper than what appears at the surface:
- Carey doesn’t carve out time for focused work just so he can say, “I do deep work,” but so that he can write a meaningful sermon and pay attention to what God is doing in his own life.
- We don’t go to church just to say, “I went to church,” but to worship God and be part of a church community.
- We don’t steward our resources so we can say, like the “wicked” servant in the parable of the talents, “I didn’t lose anything you gave me,” but instead to create value and advance the work of the kingdom.
As a church architect, I pray we don’t build churches just for the sake of adding more square footage of church property—but rather, to point to the beauty of God and promote the mission of the local and global body of Christ. There is rich meaning to the spaces we inhabit, even if that’s not the first thing we think of. We’re not just looking at spaces as a place to perform ministry programs, but as a way to encourage a life of discipleship.
In the podcast, Carey asked me “How do you think it would be helpful for church leaders to re-think space as the future arrives?” I shared, 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.
Carey’s new book, At Your Best, is about how to get time, energy, and priorities working in your favor, that maximizes your impact. At Aspen, we’re committed to creating space that maximizes the impact of the church. There are many facets to that—space for multicultural ministry, space for prayer and spiritual disciplines, a whole theological vision for space, and more—and I’m excited to hear the guests on the next five episodes of ChurchPulse Weekly contribute to that vision.
At the beginning of the episode David referenced an old Winston Churchill quote. In talking about the Commons Chamber and how its physical shape promoted the two-party system of parliament, Churchill said, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” In a time of history when spiritual formation and discipleship couldn’t be more critical for the trajectory of the church in America, Aspen is committed to helping church leaders think about how to invest in physical space in a way that shapes your congregation to follow Jesus.
The answer is different for every single church. We need many different inputs as we think through what can sometimes be very expensive decisions. My hope is that the "Making Space" series will inspire you to imagine the deep spiritual transformation God could do through your church, and that you’ll reconsider what Making Space for Formation might mean for you.
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.