Creating Environments That Connect People
Church environments can communicate so much more than you might realize. This article by Aubrey Garrison from LIVE Design talks about the importance of using your space to encourage a welcoming and comfortable environment that will impact people in a way you may not have thought of.
In today’s fast-paced world, where the average attention span is around 8 seconds, connection is more important than ever. Especially in worship, creating opportunities and environments for connection, whether that environment is physical, like a church café, or philosophical, like small groups, is key to creating community and fostering spiritual growth.
As architects and designers, we believe the church’s facility is a critical ministry tool. When done with excellence, it can facilitate, support, and even enhance your ministry experience; but when done poorly, it can destroy it. The types of environments in your church impact how you engage and connect those who experience it. The goal is to utilize your worship facility as a ministry asset to create connections, facilitate deep meaningful relationships and ultimately create community. Community is built from a strong sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging can connect people and lead to spiritual growth.
So, how can you facilitate this experience of belonging, connection, and spiritual growth? Through creating opportunities for connections to happen naturally. Meaningful interaction, where people meet and connect naturally and comfortably, is key. Environments that facilitate this type of interaction and connection, are a critical component of your worship facility and should be created intentionally to support your ministry’s goals.
Today, there are a wide range of worship facility types, and newer facilities have a greater opportunity to design with connection and community in mind. In older traditional church facilities, you typically enter into a small vestibule or foyer space which leads directly into the sanctuary. People enter and go straight to their seats, with no space to stop or converse along the way. These connection spaces, like hallways and foyers, are too small for gathering and not intended for lingering. Fellowship halls were primarily used for church dinners or special performances. Today, the larger common areas outside of the worship room or sanctuary allow, and even encourage, members and guests to stop and converse. Many also feature seating groups or “living room” spaces off the commons, cafes, and indoor playgrounds. Highly visible welcome centers begin the connection process as guests are greeted by volunteer’s with warmth and hospitality. Volunteer rooms or “Dream Team Central” spaces foster connection, build relationships, and honor those who give their time to creating a church that is friendly, warm, and approachable. All of these environments are designed to create opportunities for connection, fellowship, and deeper engagement among members and guests alike.
When creating these kinds of environments in your church, start by considering your congregations specific needs and the types of connections you intend to make. Is it primarily adult connection or youth as well? Regardless of who you’re trying to connect, these environments must give people a reason to go there and desire to use them. They must allow and encourage people to stay and linger. They must be comfortable, welcoming and easily accessible. Ask yourself, what does the space communicate to those who encounter it? Does it draw you in and encourage you to stay? Does it give people a reason to gather, connect, and engage?
There are many types of environments that connect people – from a climbing wall to engage the youth at First Baptist Mandeville in Louisiana, to a workshop space to teach practical skills to members of the community at New Life Baptist in Hillsboro, Oregon – we’ve seen it all. There’s no exact science or specific formula to follow, but whatever direction you choose to pursue, be sure these environments are authentic and reflect your ministry’s unique DNA.