What IKEA Can Teach Us About Church Design Blog Feature
Derek DeGroot

By: Derek DeGroot on July 26, 2021

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What IKEA Can Teach Us About Church Design

Church Design | Church Construction

As a designer, I think a lot about how the spaces we occupy inherently provoke responses. Our physical body and our mind are often driven to an action based on the physical environment we’re in. 

If you’ve ever been to an IKEA, you know this to be true. The massive furniture store that originated in Sweden and has now taken over the United States has turned ordinary people into furniture super-shoppers.

IKEA does this by creating mini immersive environments throughout the store. As you enter the shopping experience, you follow a pre-marked path that leads you into small rooms. And everything is for sale.




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Church design can’t turn ordinary people into super-Christians—only the power of Jesus can accomplish that feat—but church design can help you and your congregation achieve specific goals. Through some of the primary functions of your space, the church can ask the question: How can design help accomplish our mission and calling?

How Do We Enter?

Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois recognized the opportunity to use art and design to create an environment that advanced their mission, demonstrating that a creative expression can provoke a spiritual response.




The church designed these doors so that each time people entered worship, they would be reminded that “we are a people formed by the Word of God.” Coupled with an intentional direction from church leaders, these doors did more than provide access to a space. They helped develop a culture of people with prepared hearts.



Christ The Rock Community Church in Menasha, Wisconsin created a welcoming environment with warm lighting and wood accents, giving the space a comfortable, homey feel. Music plays quietly in the background, and a nearby fireplace and café invite you to relax and stay awhile.

How Do We Leave?

Spaces are designed for leaving all the time:






Train Stations 


The goal is not to enter an airport or train station. It is to leave going a different direction than you came in. Churches, too, can be designed so that leaving is an intentional part of the experience.

Entering a church space can be a step toward forming people, but so can exiting. Sending people out into the world also helps form them to engage in the mission of Jesus. These action centers reinforce the truth that you don’t stop living for Christ as you leave the building.



The River Church, Marion, Indiana



Edgewood Baptist Church, Rock Island, Illinois

Transcendent Spaces

Beautiful things help draw people closer to their Creator. Transcendent spaces are simply beautiful things on a much larger scale.

The example most people think of would be a gorgeous cathedral. But building a cathedral is not practical, let alone affordable, for the vast majority of churches. But we can achieve transcendence in other ways. Ceiling elements. Details that grab our attention. Design elements that aren’t necessarily there for a practical purpose but to call attention to the beauty of our world.

One simple way to create beauty in your space is by inviting artists to participate in the design process. Talent in the arts is a gift from God, and many artists love to use their art as an act of worship.

One simple way to create beauty in your space is by inviting artists to participate in the design process.

Simple, meaningful art has changed countless environments throughout history. Artists in your community—or even your congregation—can lend beauty to the physical space of your church in new and exciting ways.

One way you could experiment with aesthetics to provoke desired actions and affections would be to put up a temporary outdoor art installation with big banners of fabric that show off the invisible presence of the Holy Spirit, or a colonnade of young trees to remind them that we are passing on our faith for future generations.

How Can Design Help Accomplish Our Mission and Calling?

It might not seem like an obvious question, but a great place to start in creating strategic design is simply to ask “what actions and attitudes do we want to encourage our congregation to adopt as disciples of Jesus?” Then imagine, “what kind of space would encourage, reinforce, or make that behavior feel second-nature?” Think of these kinds of possibilities:

      • Create a missional “exit experience” by putting up a prayer walk out to the parking lot with ways to pray for the community posted along the sidewalk.
      • Bring the youth ministry space closer to the main worship area to encourage the formation of intergenerational relationships.

IKEA’s goal is to sell furniture. The design of their physical space helps them accomplish that goal. Your church has goals too. What goals can the Aspen team help you accomplish through intentional design? Reach out to us so we can help you dream up ways to bring intentional design to your church facility.


About Derek DeGroot

Derek DeGroot is President of 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.