build trends

7 Church Building Design Trends for 2018

You won't see the typical trendy, fly-by-night fads that you often see in lists like these. Instead, you'll see an enduring change that will shape the foundation of church building design.

The beginning of every new year ushers in a parade of predictions from the experts and 2018 is no exception. But this year, you won’t see the typical trendy, fly-by-night fads that you often see in lists like these. Instead, you’ll see an enduring change that will shape the foundation of church building design.

So, whether you are a designer or a church leader, these seven trends will help you navigate the challenge of serving the church in a Post-Christian world.

1. Incarnational Design

I work for a company who carved out her reputation in the marketplace as the church design firm started by designers with “theme-park experience.” I’ll admit, for years our team leveraged the “attractional model” of evangelism to create a niche in the market. And though we still have designers who have worked on projects for Disney, Warner Brothers, and Universal Studios, I’ve noticed that church leaders are not geeking out over architectural evangelism anymore. Instead, leaders want to intentionally maximize their facility to serve their neighborhood and break down barriers in their community.

It’s been a gradual transition, but in 2018, you’ll begin to see a significant shift in the overall philosophy of design. The theme park “attractional model” is dead, and “incarnational design” has become the predominant thinking among church leaders. Churches don’t want to amuse people. They want to see them transformed. So, instead of trying to “wow” their community, churches hope to serve.

Church lobbies are beginning to feel more like co-working environments that are available for locals to pop open their laptop, sip a chai latte and draft a few emails. Fewer frills and more service. You’ll even notice the subtle shift in children’s ministry environments. Most are becoming less “themed” and are taking a more sophisticated form.

In 2018, we won’t build churches, but we’ll help Christ-followers become the church.

2. Expanded Connection Space

In the mid to late 1990’s, lobbies serviced as functional spaces intended to greet guests and herd people through the worship assembly-line as quickly and efficiently as possible. It was almost as if the church was saying, “We’re glad you came, but we need your seat and your parking spot, so please leave…in Jesus name.” As a result, lobbies were designed to be tiny conveyors for quickly moving people in and out (except for that imposing welcome desk built as beacons for first-time guests).

The ministry model has evolved and “community space” has become one of the more pressing needs of the modern church. Leaders realize that it’s easier to get people engaged in a community once they have had the opportunity to connect between services.

So in 2018, you’ll see more churches expand their lobbies and create more space for human connection and interaction. Lobbies will even begin to sprawl outside the walls of the building onto the lawns and porches. Churches will invest in outdoor environments that invite families to sit, lean in, and build relationships.

3. Open Office Design

In 2018, churches across the nation will continue to experience culture shock as we witness baby boomers handing the reins of leadership to the millennial generation. That transition will not only mark a drastic change in leadership style, but it will represent a significant turning point in church design.

These days, you can often gauge the church’s leadership culture by how they arrange the office. In most cases, the workspace preferences of the boomer generation are incongruent with the natural habitat of the millennial leader. Millenials tend to crave collaborative environments. As long as they have a comfy couch, fast WiFi and a cup of coffee, they are set. No cubicle or corner office needed.

As a result, this year, you’ll see an avalanche of open office design with generous collaborative space.

4. Stage Set Design

Over the past decade, many creative teams have blown the budget and burned the midnight oil to create fresh mainstage environments for every new series. It’s been an unusual phenomenon to see what a group of creatives can do with an old pallet, a sheet of coroplast and some bubble wrap. MacGyver would be proud. But now that we’ve all seen ten thousand ways to stretch white fabric and shape foam cutouts, the “set design” craze is beginning to stabilize.

In 2018, LED technology and environment projection will replace homespun backdrops. And you’ll begin to see a more consistent mainstage look with authentic, less gimmicky accessories to support monthly series launches.

Praise the Lord.

5. Sophisticated Design

In 2018, churches will begin moving away from the rustic/reclaimed dark materials to a lighter, brighter modern feel while still focusing on natural materials. Wood looking flooring will always be popular, but trends are moving away from darker colors and more towards lighter floors in white, taupes, and grays.

Expect to see simple, clean branding, and graphics with sophisticated, bold text combined with single powerful images. Messaging will be highly graphic and abstract less literal.

Kids environments will also begin to have a sophisticated clean, flexible, look and feel as opposed to highly dimensional static theming. There will be more emphasis on lighting, projection, and interactive pieces and bold and brighter color palettes

6. Natural Light

Today, most church auditoriums are dark black box theater style environments. It’s a style that made sense at the launch of the video projector revolution. In those days, even high dollar projectors struggled to overpower the light from a single window. But in 2018, LED screen technology has changed the game and made natural light more doable.

Besides, production teams have utilized almost every kind of light filament to enhance the Sunday morning experience, except natural light. But, in 2018, you’ll begin to notice churches harnessing the power of natural light in worship environments. Though SmartGlass technology, windows can become opaque or transparent with the touch of a button. The ban on natural light in the worship venue is over.

7. Next Level Security

At one time “security” was reserved just for the kid’s area. But after the devastating church shootings in Texas and Tennessee this past year, church leaders, more than ever, want to design buildings and create policies that incorporate defensive strategies in the event of an active shooter. In 2018 church designers will lead the charge in developing new standards to protect church staff, worship teams, pastors and members.

Though this list is far from complete, church leaders and designers alike will experience 2018 as the year that launches a deep-rooted shift in the way we experience church building design.

Dave Milam is Vice President of Strategic Design at Visioneering Studios, a team of nationally licensed Architects and General Contractors that grew out of the desire for the Church to regain a leadership position in culture. Initially its design services were offered to churches to help them transform from Sunday spaces to 7-day-a-week spaces.

Since its inception in 2002, Visioneering has grown into the only national faith-based design-build firm offering its suite of services to churches, nonprofits, and commercial businesses alike. Visioneering is a multi-disciplinary design firm that values creating sustainable environments to engage the community. Its goal of journeying with a client from the dream stage all the way through the dedication of the building has attracted design and development principals and associates from some of the world's leading firms.

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