3rd Place: The Importance of Spaces for Connection

March 12, 2024

Church Design
Interior Design

The Third Place, a space for connection and community, but a space that is often overlooked in an ever-changing, digital community. Coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, the third place refers to spaces that are not work or home. From the coffee shop on a Tuesday morning, the pub on a Friday night, or church on a Sunday morning, humans have always gathered in spaces where they can build community. Traditionally, if we think about third place, our minds think of Starbucks given that is the largest third place offering in the world. What if the Church became a more well-known third place throughout the nation?

In the West, or more specifically the United States, our lifestyles have become increasingly digital. We work from home now more than ever, kids are finding online communities rather than playing with their neighbors down the street, and Gen Z feels the strain on isolation that, in turn, impacts their mental health. Our human tendency to find community has begun to dissipate as we can now do church from home, communicate with one another through social media, mobile order our coffee to our doorstep, and get advice from others via online forums. Our need for community, connection, and in person experience has shifted and the Church can help change this narrative.

Making Disciples and Designing Spaces for Them

If our collective goal of the church is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20), then designing spaces that bring people together becomes a tool for ministry to help accomplish that mission. For instance, when people gather as a corporate body, they form community that reflects the nature of what God intended, and are sent out to reach others, then disciples are made. But first, we need spaces that bring people together. Two ways to design for reaching those outside the church and younger generations would be by creating spaces for 5 Minute Hot Spots and 50 Minute Perches.

Defined by Aspen Group’s President, Derek DeGroot, 5 Minute Hotspots are where people sporadically gather to share thoughts, fellowship, and then leave to go to their next destination. The flow that these spaces dictate allows for connection and community while ensuring people get to their desired destination. Creating specific flow in a space helps people maintain relationships and create new ones in a public setting where pressure to connect is low.


Making Spaces to Linger Longer

Similarly, like 5 Minute Hotspots, 50 Minute Perches are designed for people to hangout in. Whether these hangouts look like doing work, reading, or meeting with friends, people will want to hangout for a prolonged period. On average, people will spend time in these spaces for 50 minutes. Taking notice of your local coffee shop will help you gather an idea of what this means. Like a coffee shop, a 50 Minute Hotspot in your church should offer different vantage points for people to decide on how they want to participate in these spaces.

Using your ministry space as a tool to reach the lost, especially those who have grown up or are growing up in the digital age, can be pivotal for your church’s mission. The idea of 3rd Places is not just one for society to ponder but is one that could significantly impact the trajectory of your church if done correctly. At Aspen, our expertise and experience give us the ability to partner with you in making this happen. The lobby, cafés, and meeting rooms in your space have a distinct purpose in building community and connecting with one another. Let’s partner together to craft spaces that build faith!

Group of elderly folks in an indoor-outdoor space

Making Space for Inspiration

Explore Vol. 1 of a three part series on Why Church Design Matters in Ministry

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