It is true that buildings are basically what we call brick and mortar, however we must also recognize that they have character and thus communicate a message about the inhabitants and often facilitate very specific activities.
Church attendance is often driven by our desire as humans to connect.
We primarily go to church to connect with God, but there is also a huge element of human/social connection that brings people thru the doors.
For a church one of the activities that a building should facilitate is creating a sense of community.
So how can brick and mortar help create a sense of community?
Church Seating Areas
When you show up early or stay later after a service you may want to have an extended conversation with someone you haven't seen lately, or perhaps with someone who is personally struggling with a loss or tough situation in their life.
To connect on such a deep and personal level can be difficult if you are standing in a crowded lobby. In that lobby setting there are fears of being overheard and also the constant distraction and interruptions as people walk by and wave or stop and say hi.
There is something about a seating area that is off to the side that communicates, do not interrupt.
It's almost like you put up a do not disturb sign. In reality these areas often are where deep ministry takes place. People are more open if they feel safe from being overheard or interrupted.
Community is about Gathering Space
There is something exciting about a crowd.
The noise, the closeness and sometimes what feels like chaos gives off a strong energy of "something is happening here". A lobby is great place to be seen and to see people and make a quick connection.
The connection might be a reminder about dinner plans later in the week. It could be an embrace with a friend you haven't seen in weeks. I could be a simple smile and nod of the head.
I think that community is expressed in the lobby. Expressed as people smile, laugh, embrace and share the lighter moment of life.
If it needs to be more serious people can head to a secluded area, like the seating area mentioned above
Connecting Points for Guests and Church Members
I have added table tops to the lobby at my church to encourage people to gather together.
The table tops are standing height, about 2'x2' in size and do not have chairs. They really serve as a connecting point.
It is a place where you can set down your coffee, bible, purse or electronics and connect with and individual or a few people.
According to studies about 83 percent of adult's drink coffee.
That said most of the congregation is going to hit the coffee or café area. This area should be set up so that people can quickly get in, get what they need and then get out.
There should be plenty of coffee containers available and I suggest spreading them out. Create small coffee carts or stations that are placed in different areas, preferably out of the way areas in the lobby area. This will help alleviate the traffic jam that can occur and also help traffic flow
Church Facility Traffic flow
To get traffic flow working well takes a bit of social engineering and creativity.
I have found that by placing furniture, plants or other visual cues in targeted spots can help to keep a traffic jam occurring.
This might be as simple as doing some of the above. Moving or creating new coffee stations, creating seating areas, adding tabletops can all give clues to where people should go and connect with each other.
Another way to help in traffic flow is to have key people that set an example or politely encourage people to move to s specific location.
If someone is lingering in front of the coffee station having an extend conversation blocking the area often someone simply coming up and saying excuse me as they walk towards the coffee station with give a social cue that the people in conversation need to move.
Your facility can most definitely facilitate community.
Your challenge is to do the work and figure out what you can do to help make this happen.