10 Ways to Maximize Your Church Lobby
The primary purpose of a church building is to provide a place for two things to happen: an opportunity for people to encounter God, and the chance to build meaningful relationships with others. These two needs for reverent space and relational space can be met through the physical layout and design of the building. In this post, we'll look at how to maximize your lobby to create relational space.
The lobby is the most critical space for creating relational space for a congregation. It is the primary place where people congregate to connect with others. Lobbies are mission critical for churches. They give people permission, space, and comfort to foster relationships with each other, which is an essential aspect of growing together as the Body of Christ. Good lobby design should increase the time people spend together at church.
Here are several things to consider when designing, building, or evaluating your church lobby.
Create Third Place spaces in your church where people can connect and deepen their relationships with God and each other.
1. The Hub
The lobby is the main hub of your church. Similar to the homepage of a website, the lobby should be the landing spot that provides easy access to any kind of information and entry points to other physical spaces within the church building, such as classrooms, the sanctuary, or restrooms.
The lobby should be designed to serve as "communication central" for the church. Not only should people be able to get information, but it's where newcomers can learn what the church is about and, if desired, find further information.
Every lobby should have some kind of visitor desk or kiosk that can be seen immediately upon entering the lobby or front doors. This location provides key information to a visitor so they don’t have to search the building or feel lost. It answers any and every question: Where are the restrooms? How do I get into worship? Where do I check in my kids? Where can I get a cup of coffee?
Clear signage and an obvious welcome desk in the lobby will help first-time visitors feel welcome and comfortable in your church.
2. Multipurpose Space
The lobby is more than a hub for people to connect and congregate in. It is the new multipurpose space for the church, replacing the need for a designated fellowship hall. Many churches host events like showers, funeral dinners, and more in their lobbies.
What's the best size for a lobby? Ideally it should be one-to-one with the worship space. This may sound like an aggressive use of space, but if the lobby is the same square footage as the worship space, it will be large enough to handle the flow of people in and out of the sanctuary.
What people experience on a Sunday morning should not solely be programmed into the worship time. The lobby can be designed as intentionally as the sanctuary to help people grow in their faith.
3. Appearance Standards
The lobby provides a portal into what guests can expect when they come to your church. Glass windows on the exterior walls of your lobby give people a way to see what's happening inside the church. Giving people a way to see into the church building creates a welcoming feel that invites community and showcases activities happening inside your walls.
Once inside the lobby, glass doors and windows that look into the sanctuary will give people a glimpse into what to expect for worship at your church. It can be intimidating, especially for a new guest or visitor, to approach an area with an opaque exterior or doors with no view to the inside.
4. Visual Clarity
Glass doors and windows allow for a sense of visual clarity within a space—guests know where to go and what to do when they enter a new space rather than being intimidated and unsure of what lies behind a closed door. Visual clarity also speaks to the idea of conveying what your church's mission and values are. By selecting specific interior design elements—for example, finishes, furnishings, and flooring—you'll create a sense of who you are as a church, and what matters most to you as a faith community.
Returning to the metaphor of the homepage of a website, visual clarity in the design of your lobby will both grab people's attention and assist in making them feel comfortable. People should be able to identify what your church is about right from within the lobby space.
5. Natural Light
The more natural light, the better. Natural light is an asset that should be maximized, especially in the lobby. Rarely is the light controlled in the lobby, unless the direction the church is facing is an absolute must. This will not be light that requires controlling; it will simply pour in.
As noted earlier, it's important to both see into the building and out of it. Natural light shows signs of life and allows visual access to outer connection spaces. Artificial light cannot replace natural light. We feel a sense of comfort and a connection to creation when we can see outdoors, whether on a bright, sunny day or a beautiful, snowy day. Incorporating natural light by using glass doors and windows will help bring the outdoors in.
6. Signage/ Branding
Even though glass doors and windows allow you to see and understand the layout of a space before you enter it, there should still be obvious signage indicating what the room’s purpose is. While the locations of the restrooms, nursery, sanctuary, and other key spaces may be obvious to members, they are not to a guest or visitor who has just entered the church building for the first time. Signage and branding are critical to a good guest/visitor experience.
Think of airport wayfinding: each sign is above people’s heads where they can look up and see how to navigate a space or how to get to a different space. Wayfinding signage should be designed using fonts, colors, and a style that's consistent with your church's brand guide. It should accent and support your church's interior design and help people navigate how to get to every space in your building.
Signage and branding are created primarily for guests and new people, and are therefore vital to a visitor’s sense of comfort, especially during their first time in the church.
Every door should be labeled. Wayfinding signage within the lobby will point to all the significant spaces. Signage should remain consistent throughout the church. Whether it’s the sanctuary, restrooms, or utility/mechanical rooms, signage should be consistent throughout the whole building.
7. Monitoring Information
Every church lobby should have a hospitality desk or welcome desk. At the hospitality desk, there might be coffee brewing and serving equipment, a water dispenser, or hot tea options. These are things that can be decided upon or changed based on your church. Lobbies may also feature display monitors.
Monitors are helpful for displaying information, events, announcements, missions, and other activities happening in the church. They should not be used in the lobby to broadcast what's happening in the sanctuary during worship. Churches that try to have the service play in the lobby compete with people who are using the lobby space to connect with others. Those who want quiet don't get quiet, and those who want to talk are shushed.
There needs to be a separation between your reverent space and relational space. The purpose of the monitors is to provide another way to tell the story of your church, to engage individuals, and to share information digitally.
Similar to monitors, if you have speakers in the lobby, they shouldn't be used to pipe the worship service into the lobby. Use lobby monitors and speakers to enhance people's experience of being in your church and to expand on the story of who you are as a church.
Restrooms should always be highly visible and found in or close to the lobby. By code, restrooms should be 1 stall per 50 seats. For example, take a 600 seat room and divide it by 2 for males and females. That means 300 seats for women and 300 seats for men. One stall per 50 seats means that each restroom contains 6 stalls.
Additional restrooms can be found in other sections of the church, such as the nursery, children's ministry, or backstage, but the main core of bathrooms should be in the lobby. The signage should stay consistent among multiple bathrooms if relevant.
9. Connection Space
The ideal third place connection space allows for on-the-way conversation, so flooring, ceiling, and lighting should help define traffic flow and move people along higher trafficked routes. In addition, there should be soft landing spots off of those edges where the on-the-way conversations can happen. This may occur along columns, walls, or corners of the building where shelves or small counters can be used in order for standing-height conversations to happen along the way.
A large relationship and connecting space component of the hub could be a "family room" type space where lengthier conversations can occur if individuals wanted to stop for longer than just an on-the-way conversation. The family room is designed for that intentional stop to have a conversation. Groups may be two persons large or grow to ten and larger. The purpose is to have a more intimate space out of the traffic zone.
Lowering the ceilings often provides a sense of closeness. Higher volumes do not always work well for intimate conversation. This could hold true in the family room, hospitality area, welcome area, visitor check-in desks, or a cafe. Conversation is easier and flows better when the volumes are lower. On the other hand, where traffic is heavier and movement is required, higher volumes will be used to open up the space and direct the crowd’s movement.
10. Action Center
Perhaps this is called something different in your church, but the action center is where someone will go specifically to take the next steps in their faith. Here is where ministry opportunities, small group opportunities, and missional opportunities will be displayed. Action centers are created to both give people information and an opportunity to engage.
There is often, or should be, a call to action in worship where people are challenged to consider doing something. An example would be “joining a small group.” The action center will be the designated space in the lobby where these people can identify just how to “take action” or take the next step in signing up to join a small group.
The church does intentional programming on a Sunday morning to prepare time for people to encounter God through worship, sacrifice through stewardship and offerings, a celebration of communion, and a sermon that speaks to their heart, encourages, challenges, and convicts. The congregation is almost always called to do something after a worship service. They are called to take a step closer to Jesus.
The action center is where an individual can go before they get into their car—before Monday morning—to take the next step. It provides a vehicle to respond once a person has encountered God and feels convicted, inspired, or encouraged. The church should provide those opportunities for people at the time and place they are thinking about it; they cannot depend on the fact that individuals will do it later in the week. Action centers provide churchgoers a place to immediately take a next step in their faith journey.
The location should be easy and convenient to see and access before an individual leaves the church lobby. It may be manned or unmanned. Done right, and for effectiveness, action centers should have a combination of digital paper options and live-person interactions. It should be located in the lobby for easy access and visibility after worship.
What are some other ways you've discovered to maximize your church lobby so that it draws people together and encourages relationships within the church?
About Greg Snider
Greg Snider joined Aspen Group, a design/build/furnish firm for churches, in 1999. Since that time, he has worked with a wide range of churches throughout the past two decades, including many large, innovative, multisite congregations. His mission is to help churches discover how to maximize their facilities and create space for ministry impact. He has written and presented on the power of connecting space, growth engines and barriers, and how to build churches for community impact.