THE WORSHIP FACILITY of the future is being defined by a number of new trends that church architects and designers are working with in 2018.
“Churches are beginning to take their God-ordained place in the area of creation care, employing strategies ranging from up-cycling materials to changing out their lighting to LED fixtures,” says Bob Bergmann, managing principal at Visioneering Studios, Irvine, California.
Aubrey Garrison, III, principal for LIVE Design Group, Birmingham, Alabama, says recent trends he has noticed include smaller worship spaces in the 800- to 1,500-seat range, churches desiring concept graphics ahead of construction and even purchasing property to engage their congregations with the future vision of the church, and more renovations of existing, and in many cases, abandoned buildings.
Some of other big trends center around: security; creating relational/flex areas that can be used as weekly community spaces; adding more use of natural light in non-worship environments; utilizing sustainable and low maintenance materials and developing consistency of branding from the facilities’ interior/exterior to the church’s website.
In April of this year, Studio Four Design in Knoxville, Tennessee completed a new worship center for Foothills Church in Maryville, Tennessee, which had many of these trends in play.
“The church was designed to have a large spacious lobby with natural light and featured the use of wood and stone in an industrial building setting to create a uniquely modern aesthetic,” says Stacy Cox, principal and director of business development for the company. “This lobby space, which includes a café and other gathering spaces, is planned to be available through the week for the community to use for meetings and gathering space.”
The new building was also designed with security in mind in creating one main central point of access and a new circulation spine with key intersections that can be easily monitored to help the church remain open and accessible while also being able to control the key points of access to the main worship area and kids’ ministry spaces.
“The shooting at the church in Texas in 2017 brought security to a head for many congregations. How to keep people safe in the worship environment is at the forefront of all churches and has an impact on renovations and new construction projects,” Cox says. “While the church desires to remain open and accessible and inviting to people, it must also be responsible for protecting the safety and security of those who are in the building.”
Design can assist in making it easier to monitor access points to the building, provide alternate exits, and create opportunities to lock down access to specific areas of
Impactful trends include using reclaimed materials, facility-wide LED lighting, security driven design, an abundant use of natural light and more renovations of existing and even abandoned buildings.
However, design can only go so far. The church must also have strategic plans, security protocols and trained security personnel to go along with a well-organized building plan.
David Gay, president of 3D Project Management, Canton Georgia, notes the company has been been designing spaces specific to security concerns of children’s spaces for years.
“Check-in locations, secure doors with view windows, welcome desks and room locations near the Sanctuary drive the secure areas for kids,” he says. “During the off-hours and weekdays, door access control devices allow the buildings to be locked and create secure zones with access being recorded with entry. Security is a tough situation for churches and is a constant balancing act to create a welcoming environment that is also a safe area for everyone.”
RISE OF RECLAIMED MATERIALS
The use of reclaimed materials in worship spaces has been a popular trend and continues in momentum.
For example, the Grace Student Ministry building at Grace Baptist in Knoxville, completed last year, used reclaimed wood to accent the café space and connection centers. Gay notes that 3D Project Management has used reclaimed wood and metal panels for both exterior and interior use, as decorations and eye-catching designs in the church’s lobbies, check in areas and entrances.
Another green example is seen in this creative, community-minded gesture when Visioneering Studios took donated license plates and shingled the exterior wall of a church with them in Spring, Texas, helping the church feel more personal to the community.
“Another church that we worked with in Livermore, California, repurposed an abandoned dairy farm into a thriving new church campus and community event center,” Bergmann says. “Condemned bridges were harvested to create new site architecture. Materials from the old barns were used to clad new buildings and for fencing as well as signs. They even use a concrete cattle trough as an open air baptismal/ fountain feature.”
By taking advantage of unused spaces that are coming available in the retail and industrial real estate inventory, more churches are being repurposed out of existing spaces.
“It is usually much cheaper to get into facilities like this that already have sound structures, parking and other building infrastructure,” Cox says. “A church can help to revitalize an underdeveloped commercial area by bringing people onto campus more frequently.”
As far as the repurposing of these type of structures is concerned, a minimalist approach to finishing the spaces creates contemporary environments that are attractive and appealing especially to millennials and the previous Gen Xers.
Garrison says the trend is finding economical, abandoned buildings that can be reasonably acquired and typically have the needed supporting parking. For example, the LIVE Design Group has one project under construction where it is transforming an abandoned grocery store into a church, and recently renovated an abandoned bowling alley into a video venue with approximately 300 seats complete with enhanced commons space, café, flexible volunteer room, indoor playground and children’s space.
Bergmann says Visioneering Studios is currently working with The Sound Church to revive a 1921 YMCA building in downtown Santa Ana, that has been boarded up for 20 years.
“The mission of The Sound Church is to reimagine what a church can be, by becoming a community center that serves as an incubator for unique ideas and creative solutions that reach and enrich the local community,” he explains. “The facility will be revived and restored to create start-ups and co-labs that allow the church community to share the gospel through a variety of community interactions, such as, physical therapy, doggy daycare, culinary arts, music and drama, sports and recreational therapy, a live recording studio, community gardens and more.”
KEEPING THE COMMUNITY IN MIND
Certainly, every church wants to be a great neighbor but Garrison shares it’s equally important to project the vision, ministry and personality of the church.
“Churches building new on acquired property typically have more freedom depending on the size of the property and surrounding neighborhood,” he notes. “With most renovated industrial style buildings, the churches typically want to preserve the industrial look but create a focal entry point consistent with the church’s image.”
According to Cox, it’s important that a worship property respect the community that it’s located in, but doesn’t necessarily have to blend with it. It’s more important that the church design reflect the brand, culture and style of the experience it offers.
“Church facilities are part of the first impression to what the ministry is like and should reflect the values and culture of the church,” he shares. “On the other hand, church buildings should also respect the context of the built environment where they are located and should take cues from those elements to create an architecture that is not only unique to the ministry it is serving but also compliments its neighborhood with a facility that is appropriate in scale and use of materiality.”