Discipleship is a journey. It begins with bringing people into a community, building them up, and eventually sending them out again. At Aspen Group, we believe that church facilities can shape and accelerate the disciple-making journey. Built space guides people to behave in specific ways. When churches are intentional about their building’s layout and design, they can lead people on a journey, moving them from a first-time visitor to a fully devoted Christ-follower. However, it can be hard to identify priorities or know where to start. In this article, I’ll give you some ideas and examples to help you apply the concept of designing for discipleship.
A year ago, churches were struggling to process the reality that their building would be closed for Easter. This year, while we’re still pondering COVID-related questions, we see more churches shifting into phases of reopening. Will your church reopen in a more significant way this Easter season, or are you anticipating a larger crowd than you’re currently hosting for services? Either way, if your building is open, you’ll likely have people who are new to your church and some who have decided to return in-person during Easter. Now is an excellent time to assess your facility and consider how to create an environment that is safe, welcoming and puts guests at ease so they can focus on connecting with God and others.
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While churches and schools often have similar facility-related challenges, like adapting to meet the next generation's needs, each one has unique goals, challenges, and a story to tell.
When COVID-19 hit the U.S., church leaders faced the unexpected and overwhelming challenge of closing their doors. You may have had to quickly figure out how to stream services and move ministry activities online. Now, you’re likely grappling with the daunting details of how to reopen your facilities for in-person worship and other ministries. You and your church leadership team are wrestling myriad questions and concerns about how to relaunch church in COVID-safe ways. At the same time, as a leader, you need to lift your eyes, look out at the horizon, and ask, “What have we learned about our church in this crisis that can help us prepare for a new season of ministry?”
Creating space for ministry impact extends beyond church buildings, especially as we consider what it means to disciple the next generation. Shaping the future leaders of the church means that we need to create space for forming people in the midst of rapidly changing culture.
St. Timothy Community Church in Gary, Indiana, stands at the corner of 25th and Grant, a beacon of hope and light in a neighborhood that’s marred by economic hardship and gang violence. Though the church’s exterior design and location creates an inviting presence in the community, church leaders wanted the building’s interior to convey this same sense of welcome for all ages—especially for youth.
Churches are in the midst of a huge transition. They’re prioritizing both the physical experience of people gathering in person for church, as well as the digital experience of people connecting online for worship, fellowship, and learning. Welcome to the world of “phygital” church—the blending of the physical and digital to maximize how churches connect with people and help them draw closer to God and others. My Aspen colleague, Rob Gordon, and I met on Facebook Live for a conversation about phygital church. Rob and others on Aspen's design team are continually asking, How can we use principles of architecture and design to create a phygital experience at church?
The Coronavirus pandemic has stretched every church to find new ways to fulfill its mission to be the Body of Christ. The church never was the building. It is and always has been people who make up the church. During this season of social distancing, congregations are learning anew what it means to be the Church.
Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine, Indiana, exists to inspire people to become wholehearted followers of Jesus. They place a special emphasis on reaching men because they've found that when husbands and fathers feel more comfortable in the space, they are more likely to return to church and bring their family. The leaders at Brookville Road have cued into a reality that Barna uncovered in a recent study on men in America titled, Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men. The study, in partnership with BetterMan, a resource for men’s ministries, was conducted to find out how both churchgoing Christians and men overall are navigating 21st-century waters.
Since COVID-19 hit and churches were forced to leave their buildings, Aspen Group has been working to help churches prepare to relaunch. "Some of the key church spaces Aspen focuses on, like worship and gathering spaces, have been empty as Americans have stayed safe at home," says Aspen Group Project Architect Craig Dobyns. "My design attention shifted from how we gather and fellowship as a church body in our buildings, to how our buildings can serve the community that is staying at home. Our buildings are still ministry tools, and churches are in a unique position to reimagine their space, even if temporarily."