The methodology regarding church buildings used to be simple – once you get bigger, build bigger.
There were a few options of how to design the space and pay it off as quickly as you can. Not anymore. So much change is happening around us and the thought process around church buildings is also changing.
In recent years, I have read studies, talked with architects, met with other pastors, heard from churchgoers of all generations, and I wanted to summarize some surprising church building trends for you. Many of these have seen a significant shift in recent years.
- Turn the Lights On – If the goal is to have a dynamic presentation on stage, then it makes sense why so many churches built their spaces with little to no outside light which made them feel like a theatrical production space. More designers are now incorporating windows and bright lights again. When the house lights are brighter, the focus can be on the congregation more than just those on stage.
- Make the Space Sacred [Again] – A popular trend in recent decades was to make the church campus feel as modern and trendy as the hippest building in town. The pushback people are starting to notice from many generations is the desire to gather in a place that doesn’t feel like everything else they have been a part of all week. While the trend was to make more secular-like auditoriums, I am noticing a revival in younger generations longing for more sacred-like sanctuaries.
- Don’t Build Too Big – The larger the building, the more difficult it is to fill it. And if it isn’t full, it feels like something is wrong. The other dynamic is a troubling stewardship of spending a lot of money on a building that might get used once a week. With the slowing of the megachurch model and the increase of the multisite model, many churches are opting to build smaller and fill more often.
- Less Is More – The more design and decorations go up, the less the message can get across. Instead of busy and cluttered design, sharp minimalism seems to be taking root. With the rise of communicating through projectors and TVs, a blank canvas on the wall allows for graphics and colored-lighting to completely change the feel of a room with a couple of mouse clicks.
- Make Clear Directions – The longer you have been at your church, the more unaware you have become of how clear your campus navigates. While most churches desire to have hospitable and helpful greeter teams, there is also a goal to have uniform and clear signage to provide clear directions if no one was actually there to help guide the way.
- Prioritize Flexibility – Instead of building numerous buildings for every different type of age-based or specific ministry, what if you built spaces that were flexible? Instead of being used occasionally, a well-planned, flexible space can be used numerous times during the week. There is a growing trend in not building spaces that are time-dated or of solitary usefulness.
- Open Office Spaces – During the week, the church office is typically the busiest area of the church campus. Out of a desire to be more accessible or collaborative, some churches are diminishing the need for physical office spaces on campus altogether or at least reinventing them into a more open concept which keeps staff accessible to the congregation and open to one another rather than the expected isolated offices or office cubby system. Designers are beginning to notice that employees desire to leave the corner office and go to a coffee shop.
- Intentional Gathering Space – Nowadays, the lobby is not an afterthought in the building. In many cases, it is more intentional and sometimes even more spacious than the worship area due to a desire to have a welcoming first few minutes on campus and encouraging people to connect with others. If a church isn’t rushing out to the parking lot, that is a good sign!
- Vacant and Available – Churches build for Sundays and yet so much of the spaces sit during the rest of the week. Many churches are attempting to open up their doors for groups gathering at the campus during the week – and they don’t even have to be connected to the church’s ministry. Some are renting space to help with building costs and others are just happy that people use them and they don’t turn into museums.
Those are just some of the recent and surprising church building trends. As soon as these take root, I’m sure there will be some new ones. Yet with all these trends, these are interesting and exciting days!