As I heard a pastor friend asking another pastor who had just completed a building program, it was with regret that the first pastor asked the “how big is…” question. He immediately followed up with the comment, “Boy, I wish we had that kind of space. People seem to want to stop and talk more than ever before.”

Community, Authenticity, Transparency are huge words in today’s church.  These concepts are not restricted to post modern churches either.  Churches of all backgrounds, generations, styles and traditions are becoming more tuned in to developing community  – the idea where lives genuinely intersect and share honestly about their faith journey as Christ followers.  The idea of community being more than just a ‘fellowship’ of 5 minutes in the worship service or a time via a meal after a Sunday service, Community is now deemed something more than a pot-luck dinner!

This idea has profound implications to church design – whether it’s first time build, remodeling existing space or constructing an addition.  A common request that WL Perry receives in our pre-design Ministry Driven Design process is: “We’d like a narthex almost as large as our worship space.”  We receive tons of requests for specific “coffee” space akin to a Starbucks, as well.  What’s behind this thinking?  After all, this was virtually unheard of 10-15 years ago.  The usual design was a smaller narthex/lobby area that was more of a funnel to other spaces in the church or to/from exterior entry points.  Of course, in the old design folks might stop and talk, which would cause an immediate bottle-neck.  Or, the usual, they wouldn’t stop to talk because it might cause a bottle-neck!  As a result, people would come and go out of service and quickly pick up their kids without a lot of conversation – or save the conversation for the pot-luck!  “Call you later, it’s too crowded in here right now…”

Now, the whole concept of Community is so much bigger than just physical church space.  We could talk all day about small groups, spiritual formation, accountability, interactivity etc.  However, for this post I want to focus on how church design impacts and can facilitate community.  Let’s look at design concepts for the facilities churches invest and build.

Key Design Concepts for :

  • Allowing now for 7-10 SF (square feet) @ person in design rather than traditional 3-5 SF@ person.
  • Creating wider corridors for better circulation between ministry spaces.  Well lit and fully integrated with information technologies.
  • Building Multiple entry points to specific ministry spaces.  ie. Children’s Ministry, Recreation, Administrative, Youth, Recovery and other kinds of support ministries.
  • Crafting Dedicated Conversation spaces for groupings.
  • Creating pleasing aesthetic Interior Design for an open and naturally lit spaciousness.
  • Using Acoustical Design to allow for intimate conversations.
  • Designing narthexes for multiple uses such as a small group meeting space or limited luncheons/banquets.

Each of these design concepts/criteria have the effect of allowing people to interact in more meaningful ways.  A couple can sit or stand and share what is going on in their life with friends and not feel rushed or that they are standing in someone else’s way.  The ease of movement between ministry “zones” allows for a more relaxed atmosphere rather than the “rush hour on the expressway” feeling!  The ability to use a larger narthex/lobby for a meal and presentation with folks from a specific ministry becomes a real asset.  Now, a nice meal for 25-50 people can be accomodated.  A fellowship hall designed for 500 doesn’t have to be set up or heated and cooled.

We worked with a church that asked for a large narthex for these kinds of purposes.  Part way through design development they began to wonder if this new space was too big – that they might save some money by reducing its size.  Once they were in the new space, though, they found so many uses for this space.  The church says, “Now people stay long after services conversing, making plans… it’s just amazing. We never had that before.”  This church is now in the process of designing an addition that will include another large narthex to a specific education space.  The pastor has remarked over and over how glad he is that they opted for and invested in that extra square footage.

One of the great challenges is to design this kind of space when adding on to an existing building.  It is one thing to design a large narthex in a brand new building.  It is quite another thing to design something that will work with an existing structure that my have some engineering limitations.  That is where an experienced church architect can help.  Understanding ministry and churches is critical to helping a church get the best possible facility that is aligned with their vision and mission.  That’s what Ministry Driven Design is all about!

So, how big is your narthex?!




Church Building Boot Camp

Strategies for Successful Church Design Construction and Financing

Someone once said, “Knowledge is king.” We also know that, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory (safety KJV).” Church Building Boot Camp is for any church members interested in the many options and methods available to you when building, expanding or renovating your worship facilities. It is a perfect place to start the process. This will be a comprehensive “How To” seminar for those planning to build, renovate and fund all types of construction projects. Bring all your leadership team and all your questions! This day is set aside to equip you with knowledge, wisdom and counsel so that your church can experience a successful program that provides the kind of facilities that will genuinely meet your ministry Vision and needs. Through our strategic partnerships, we will present strategies that will help you to keep moving forward with the plans and vision you feel the Lord has given your church. Take a look below!

Don’t Miss This Important Event:

March 12, 2009     9:30AM – 3PM @ Southside Church, Chesterfield (Richmond) VA.
March 14, 2009     9:30AM – 3PM @ Grace Chapel Ministries, Sanford, NC

Who Should Attend:
• Pastors,
• Building Committee Members,
• Board Members,
• Deacons,
• Ministry Leaders and anyone involved in the Process.

Educational Presentations Covering Topics:
• The Importance of Master Planning
• Construction Methods/Processes
• Long Term Financing and Fund Raising/Stewardship Campaigns – especially in this economy!
• Designing & Integrating Audio/Visual/Lighting/Data in facilities

Cost: $25 first attendee, $15 for each additional attendee. PASTORS ATTEND FREE with one paid attendee.     




Cost includes:
A deluxe 3-ring Binder full of knowledge, presentation notes and tips.
Refreshments on arrival, and a buffet lunch

9:00 – 9:30AM   Registration and Refreshments – Exhibitors Displays
9:30 – 9:40AM   Introductory Comments
9:40 – 10:30AM   Session 1 – Planning and Design by Bill Steere, W.L. Perry Associates
10:30 – 11:15AM   Session 2 – Construction Process and Methods by Charlie Daniels, Daniels and Daniels
11:15 –  11:45AM   Break
11:45 – 12:30   Session 3 – Design & Integration of A/V/L/D by Donnie Haulk, Audio Ethics
12:30 – 1:30PM   Lunch/Q & A and Cluster Conversations (time for your team to interact)
1:30 – 2:15PM   Session 4 – Financing and Fund Raising by Dwaine Unruh, Commonwealth Church Finance

2:15 – 3:00PM   Visit with Partners and Exhibitors                                        REGISTER HERE

WL Perry Associates: A Full-Service Architectural and Engineering Firm with involvement in over 1200 churches in 35 States in the past 35+ years. From Large to Small projects, whether remodel, relocation or new build, WL Perry has the breadth and depth of experience to partner with a church. Our Ministry Services Division has pioneered the Ministry Driven Design concept to match Vision and Mission to effective design and church budgets.
Presenter: Bill Steere.

Daniels and Daniels: An award winning Construction firm with broad experience in building churches in several different States. From worship facilities with multi-thousand seat auditoriums to growing smaller churches through phased construction, Daniels and Daniels is known for their craftsmanship and helping a church their project in on time and on budget.

Commonwealth Church Finance: America’s Premier Church Lender. For over 27 years, Commonwealth has helped thousands of non-profit organizations and churches obtain millions of loan dollars to finance construction driven by growth, expansion, relocation and re-financing needs. With locations in several major cities across the nation, CCF consultants will guide you through the 7 Steps to Successfully Navigate the Church Financing Maze.

Audio Ethics: Audio Ethics, Inc. is the fastest growing professional technology dealer in the US. For over 18 years, Audio Ethics has provided innovative and dedicated service in Worship Technologies. As pioneers in variable acoustics with the first live 7.1 surround worship auditoriums, the latest in automated lighting and video integrated systems; Audio Ethics is dedicated to creating worship environments free of distractions and the restrictions of technology limitations.

Bring Your Questions to our Expert Partners!
Bring Your Team and Build Unity, Faith and Wisdom for your Project!
Don’t Miss this Opportunity for Your Church to Fulfill Your Vision!