Doan: Community trendsetting is the process of leveraging a church
facility to serve as an attractive community gathering area. Walking into
a church on Sunday morning might feel intimidating, but stopping by a
community center on a Friday afternoon for a cup of coffee has a much
lower barrier to entry.
These facilities can also serve as places for support groups to meet,
students to study, and families to unwind and reconnect. Effective
facilities can foster engagement and attendance growth, and provide a
revenue source. Engaging outdoor areas and multipurpose spaces can
fill the community center void, offering something for everyone, and
prioritizing hospitality can help foster modern community.
James: Space that ministers to families with special needs children —
safe, controlled, comfortable environments for their care and safety — are
on the rise.
Design beyond Sunday is another momentous change, and I’m a huge
proponent. Church is more than a weekend experience; it’s a Monday-
through-Saturday lifestyle of meeting needs, ministering to others, and
connecting with one another and the community.
Finally, design for connection. The current generation loves to
download a message or learn on their commute, but they also need to
connect with others. We must offer spaces for that, all week — and for
young people, well into the night hours.
Likewise, are there design trends that are likely to fall off, popularity-
Strickland: Large reception desks. Instead of a greeter standing
behind a kiosk, he or she can be more proactive in meeting guests in a
space designed for seating and gathering. This makes the entrance feel less
transactional, and guests can feel like part of the group right away.
Allen: Since I need to say something about “design trends,” we’ve seen
the church café design trend being eliminated by churches for a variety
of reasons. The two primary ones are time (specialty brew addicts might
miss the worship) and money (more ministry, less comfort).
Other trends that we think might change include sanctuary stadium
seating (the negative can be that it gives people a place to escape from
the community) and the elimination of sports fields and other site
amenities (communities already provide them, and eliminating them
frees up additional funding for ministry and promotes more community
interaction/participation outside the church’s walls.
I will mention here that we don’t consider haze-and-light shows “design
trends.” Rather, we consider them to be vital elements in certain types of
churches for which the mission is to be seeker-intense.
Doan: Single-focus spaces, to serve only congregants, will continue
to decline in popularity. We’re now seeing worship spaces double as
concert venues and Sunday school classrooms being used by community
organizations all week.
James: Large, multi-venue campuses are being replaced with
multiple single-building locations that reach and connect with people in
geographically centered locations.
Jones: A few years ago, it was common to see 3 -D images with cars,
rollercoasters and other objects coming through walls. While theming
is still very popular, the types of theming seem to be more subtle, using
architectural components, shapes, colors and video.
Also, worship room seating sizes are getting smaller. While some are
still being built, we’re seeing fewer rooms in the 3,000 -plus-seats range.
Churches are opting for smaller spaces (around 1,500 seats) and then going
multi-campus to accommodate growth.
CHURCH EXECUTIVE • C H U R C H D E S I G N T R E N D S
Let’s talk about church design trends you see on the horizon related to
specific, critical ministry groups:
Strickland: While our shared goal is always to provide secure
environments children are excited about, the trend is to make these
spaces more customized and larger-than-life. Children thrive in special
places they intrinsically know are just for them. Plus, if kids look forward
to going there, it’s easier on the parents.
Allen: More security — every church is unique in how it handles
security; the solutions vary from total lockdown to complete freedom of
access to all. We believe (like most everyone) that the safety of children is
job No. 1 and that each church, with our help, defines its solution. Due to
the direction our culture is going, we expect security will increase over
the next few years at all churches.
Less theming — I’m not attempting to discourage wonderfully themed
children’s areas; however, I believe what the children hear and feel in
their hearts is far more important than what they see with their eyes. I
believe we’re sometimes creating incredibly themed children’s spaces for
the adults, not the children. Have you noticed that a child will often play
more with the box the gift came in than the gift?
Doan: Consider a nursery that can be used throughout the week, an
outdoor playground and lawn, and technology-enabled classrooms for
various age groups. Beyond traditional uses, these can be enjoyed by a
variety of community groups, including Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, school
clubs, and sports teams.
James: Creating space for ministry, not just childcare, is critical — for
worship, play, teaching and fun. Moms love available children’s space
during the week, and it provides connection with other mothers.
And of course, safety and security are always priorities.
Jones: Reaching young families with school-aged children living at
home is a priority, and it requires a secure, dynamic children’s ministry
area and program.
In our culture, it’s important to understand that children take their
parents to church. They’re attracted to facilities that don’t look like their
school buildings. So, areas with modern theming and video components
are very common.
Additionally, parents must feel like their children are in a secure
McCormack: Children love to explore and tinker. And it’s the little
things in life that bring the greatest joy. Imagine arriving the first time
to see a “magic” button that allows Grandma and Grampa, or other family
members, to walk through a door that opens by itself. The next week,
brothers and sisters are running to be first at the button!
Doan: Youth want independence. Provide them with an exclusive space,
away from their parents and separate from a dedicated children’s space.
Incorporate areas with large-screen televisions for youth to play games,
on a variety of systems.
Also, integrate unique presentation tools that allow anyone
attending church events to follow along and interact with by using
their electronic devices.
James: The right youth space feels like “their own church.” It’s a place
to hang out, connect, go all week, worship and learn. Creating a vibe that
students feel “fits” makes them want to bring others along.