How would you design a church building?

Many of us have attended church gatherings in different buildings with a variety of styles and philosophies behind them. Big ones, small ones, old ones and modern ones. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly! And I’m sure some of us felt our inner interior designer or architect emerge every now and then, where we’ve wished we could rearrange things a little. Or maybe you just have an inner elder-to-be and you’ve felt that church buildings don’t facilitate the best atmosphere for Christian communities to prosper. Either way, we’ve all felt some things distract or focus us, excite or frustrate us. Perhaps we have a pet hate for hard pews, or we once visited a church and loved their really cool coffee shop attached. Whatever the case, I’m sure we all agree that the church building influences our experience of the church service in some way.

So…

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If YOU were asked to design and build a new church building, and you wanted it to be a good influence on the congregation, how would you try to achieve that? What things would you do differently to the norm? What traditional elements would you keep?

I’d love to hear what your ideal church building would be like and why! πŸ™‚

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15 thoughts on “How would you design a church building?

  1. I would have:

    Stage lights
    Steeping pews
    Starbucks coffee
    Free wifi
    Big vaulted ceiling
    Hip logo
    Catchy mantra

    These would be essentials. πŸ˜‰

    • Smoke machines usually go well with stage lights – if you’re music system is huge enough πŸ™‚ take a closer look at picture, your list is way too short! What do you think about having tables where people can sit face to face instead of the whole stage and audience setup?

      • I think actually looking at the people we came to gather with would be a less than harmful idea. Novel, eh? πŸ˜‰

        Maybe we should drop the stage. Lose the band (at least being up front). Totally try to annihilate the “concert” feel and euphoria we try to in/evoke. Let God be our stimulant and not some manipulated experience.

  2. I think I would build a church like a home. There would be bedrooms for people who need a safe place to sleep, a kitchen(s), lounges for relaxing together, coffee dates and counselling, bathrooms, a study/office for admin and filing. I wouldn’t have a reception area, people would just walk straight into the lounge area. I would also have quiet rooms for prayer (or introverts who need some me-time ;)). There would also be closets/attics/ basements for storage. Lastly, I would build a 10 car garage type thing (sticking with the home idea) as a big hall where lots of Christians could meet if necessary. I would also make this space available to teens over weekends for teen stuff and to parents over the holidays with small children who need some down time. They could drop the kids off and just go shopping or dating (married dates obviously) or whatever they need. I would have the teens do a kind of holiday club thing because I think it’s so good for different age groups to mix. There’s so much we can learn from each other. And then lastly, I would add a bar ( I know, horror of all horrors!). Now, I know you’re thinking “The Wonky Donkey” or “Filthy McNasty’s” (yes, they actually exist) but no, not like that. I’m thinking of a home and so a simple bar with a polished wooden counter and elegant chandeliers would be great in my 10 car garage. Somewhere for the twenty somethings to mix and match, ya know πŸ™‚

    I just have one question: wouldn’t the money used for buying, building and maintaining all of this be better spent in other ways? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Just a thought.

  3. Hi Petaldear,

    I had such a smile reading your post. πŸ™‚

    I have a thought regarding the “better ways” thing…
    I don’t think that any one thing can always be “the better thing” – as in a fixed list of priorities to act by. I think that what needs financial attention changes with time and situation.

    It’s like our body; in our different stages of growing up our bodies and minds are always changing where what is being developed, otherwise we could never become adults, parents, and eventually grandpartents…

  4. It must be my colossal hatred of scatter cushions that makes me think twice πŸ˜‰ Tell me Finch, what type of mansion would you build?

  5. Hi Petal,

    What you’ve described sounds very welcoming. But I don’t know. I guess right now I don’t know what I would be looking for.

    I think the best meeting place would have to be some house or cave, somewhere where my attendance could cost my life. I think that that fellowship and fervor would be out of this world – quite literally.

    • I agree – great facilities don’t create great Christians. I have always found it strange that Paul seems to imply to Timothy that God desires us to live a peaceful and quiet life with dignity (1Tim2:2) i.e. not suffering persecution where it might cost me my life. It’s strange to me because – as you say – suffering does seem to do a better job creating quality fellowship than the perfect church facility. Or, for that matter, than the perfect doctrines\programs\leaders etc.

      But when there’s no persecution, what do you do? Maybe we need to ask God if we can’t make use of our prosperity and build petaldears all-encompassing bar-home, DVD home entertainment theater included! πŸ˜€

      • Hi JC,

        I don’t think the choice between a quiet life and suffering is really ours. It’s more like the two modes of Christianity, your context places you in one of the two.

        One challenge in trying to understand what we should be aiming at is that the entire new testament was written to minority Christians. We’re still emerging from a period when Christianity was basically the “mainstream”. I think the more we return to the minority, the more we will find the guides of scripture become applicable to us.

        This makes me think of a joke I heard yesterday, and maybe it would apply to us as well….

        “How did the Hipster drown? – He spent to much time in the mainstream…”

        • My lovely wife just told me another joke:

          “How much does a Hipster weigh? – About an instagram.” O wait, do ya’ll have that in Africa… πŸ˜‰

  6. I read an interesting article once about how the synagogues functioned in society during biblical times. Apparently, they weren’t specialized religious facilities. They were apparently actually more like a marketplace centre\ town-hall for the people to gather for a whole range of things relating to the community, including but not restricted to worship. In other words, the building facilitated and centralized the people’s so-called ‘secular’ day to day community life (sort of like Petaldear’s homey description)…

    Kris, I wonder how long the stage-type Christian events will last? Do you think they’re that damaging? It’s strange to think that there aren’t too many examples of these permanent pastor platforms in the bible, but I guess others would say its just being practical…

    • Re: Pastor-occupation. Haha. Good question.

      I’ve no idea for an answer though. In the early early church, we don’t really have that good of an idea on what gatherings looked likeβ€”just that groups gathered for mind renewal and encouragement through teachings, songs, and the gifts being exploited (in good sense). (Or do we have a better idea than this? Don’t tell anyone I tried to teach Church History before). πŸ˜‰

      As for your initial question: I do in fact think these concert worship settings are damaging. I think they, like many other things in our day, try to deliver an experienceβ€”and God’s not a product to be divvied out.

  7. Another thought might be – perhaps they whole idea of a centralized church isn’t something we should assume is right. Maybe the local church could be more like a web than a single church unit. Perhaps a church could be seen as a loose network of very regular house-meetings that only met all together once every few months or whatever for a ‘staged’ meeting. Maybe the house-groups could be so interconnected that people could flow between homes rather than gather in a big expensive building at once. I’m sure that would save money, as petaldear suggested.

    • Yes, I’ve thought about this before. It might be a natural way to extend a body as a home group/house church first starts but naturally grows larger.

      The free-flowing idea of members would be cool, but I think we all play favorites and clicks naturally form (for good or evil).

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