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What Is An Immersive Live Process for Church Design?

Church and its buildings have certainly changed, so why hasn't the church design process?

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, reminded us in a recent message that Jesus started the Christian church as a small group, meeting in houses. The disciples then spread this model, of small churches meeting in houses, into all of the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Today, churches are large, small and everywhere in between. They are highly diverse in worship style, educational philosophy, ministry implementation, and even building types.

History has given us a wide range of church building designs.

Cathedrals were constructed as"works of art" with a strong sense of reverence, but with little connection to the people in attendance. In today’s culture church facilities emphasize connectivity and community and are an important tool to support the ministry's vision. 

Church has changed considerably since the days of the disciples yet, while the church has evolved, the process to design the church's facilities has remained relatively unchanged. 

In a traditional design approach, a church team shares their vision and project goals with the design team. 

Then a long, and often tedious, process is initiated, typically involving a series of back-and-forth meetings where the design team presents their design concepts.  After multiple meetings and many revisions, the concept reaches a point close to the church's initial goal. Because the original facility concept was developed by the design team, without the churches active involvement, the project's vision is often lost in the process and never fully achieved.  Today, worship emphasizes connectivity, community, and being a part of something bigger. 

As Jesus conveyed, being connected to the vine produces fruit.  So, why should the architectural process that creates these church facilities be any different?  Why design a worship facility in isolation, away from the church and those who know and understand the unique DNA of their ministry?

When the facility concept is based on the designer's ideas, perspectives, and preferences, instead of those of the pastor, worship leaders, or other church leaders, the concept is disconnected from the vine. 


Why not include the church team in developing the design/concept? With the church team as an integral part of the design process, the design will reflects the values and vision of the church, not the design team.

Combining the design team's experience and expertise, from multiple church projects, with the vision and DNA of the church would create incredible synergy, leading to a design that reflects and enhances the church's ministry. A highly immersive, interactive approach could change the way architecture is created and delivered.

Designing LIVE, with the real-time input and involvement of the church team throughout the design process, allows for the level of connectivity and collaboration that we value today. When the church is involved in exploring multiple design concepts and testing of ideas, multiple solutions are explored until the goals of the church are achieved. Experienced architects will confirm that the initial decisions of a project establish the design direction and the framework for future decisions. Each decision creates multiple options for future decisions, all leading the design in a definitive direction.  As decisions are made, they get more complex, impacting additional complex decisions. When decisions are made without the church and are based on assumptions by the design team, the entire project can go off-course. Designing with the church team providing real time input, allows their ideas to be developed, evaluated and agreed upon before moving forward.

Churches who have utilized this innovative LIVE Design approach are able to experience the efficiency and benefit of designing this way.

Many have said, "We came to this process not knowing what we wanted, but we are leaving with exactly what we need."While this approach may seem like the obvious solution, unfortunately there are many architects and designer professionals who prefer the traditional back-and-forth approach. In too many instances, the "mystique" of the design process and the protection of the "art", leaves the church's ideas and input out of the process.The design of a church should belong to the church, not the design team.

The design and facility should reflect and enhance their unique ministry and personality.With the diversity of today's church, there is a unique niche for each one. While some will prefer a facility where the reverence and power of God are expressed through the building, others will prefer participation, connectivity and a facility that connects to the heart of the believer. Which one reflects your ministry? 

Aubrey Garrison III, architect / principal with LIVE Design Group, an architecture and interior design firm, specializing in Worship facilities. Our innovative LIVE Design Process invites you to participate in the creation of the design concept in real time. Unique in the design world, this immersive and highly interactive experience combines our church design expertise with your unique DNA to achieve your vision, LIVE.

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