By Jennifer Wise
Churches today are actively seeking to add relevance and functional space for both their youth and children’s ministry areas.
For growing ministries, youth and children’s spaces can become a pressure point. Millennials — and the new Gen Z-ers — walk through the door looking to see if the church values them.
If there’s no theming in your children’s and youth spaces, and the walls are painted white, guests won’t believe you place a high priority on young people. You only have one chance to make a powerful first impression. What potential visitors see as they drive by or walk through the door can lead them in or cause them to pass by your ministry.
For many churches that are renovating or expanding existing children’s and youth space, this means that walls are coming down to create more open, interactive areas. Glass walls are being used to create views to the exterior, and also on the interior so that there’s a glimpse of what’s inside. But, even open spaces require zones to support high-energy activity, as well as intimate conversation.
A lack of space for children and youth can constrain the growth of a church, since decisions about attendance are often made based on opportunities for the younger members of the family. If your church is experiencing these growing pains and is considering expansion or upgrades, here are some cutting-edge, youth-friendly design trends to consider:
Multipurpose or “third place” space
An investment in multipurpose — or what has been modernly termed “third place” — spaces can be a good way to get the most bang for your buck. These spaces become a place where people want to come all week, not just on Sundays. Churches want to be a hub for the community to find fellowship and help when needed. The open-concept gaming, café and lounge area creates a wide-open space, allowing the youth facility to function as a multipurpose space.
The outdoor patio
Outdoor patios are another element being used for small group breakout sessions during weekly services, for fellowship before and after worship, and as a dining area for events where food is served.
Some of the best spaces bring the outdoors inside.
There’s a lot to be said for children and students having outdoor activity space — whether that’s a playground, sandlot volleyball, or just a big porch where people can hang out.
Technology takes center stage
For church facility designers, one major challenge is to achieve youth space with technology in mind, allowing for easy adaptation as new technology becomes available — all on a budget the church can afford. Even when our firm works on nursery space, we’re always conscious of how quickly technology changes.
A good example is how every teenager seems to have a smartphone and can access just about anything with a push of a button. This kind of technology is pushing churches to become more cutting-edge. Now, they want to incorporate the same type of technology and level of excellence to reach the young people as major corporations do.
Energy-efficient elements, Wi-Fi, high-definition projectors, and top-of-the-line audio equipment are all being incorporated in to children’s and youth spaces. Technology is becoming an all-encompassing, seamless component of the children’s and student ministry experience. It enhances worship. It aids in education, communication, interaction and recreation.
Theming trends to watch
Theming has been a big trend in children’s spaces for decades. Children’s spaces are unique in that they’re highly creative. And while creativity is vitally important and rightly emphasized, the designs that we find to be the most effective are those which are tailored to the unique needs and mission of the church.
There’s no better way to create an incredible children’s space than adding a treehouse or other interactive scenery that tells a story.
While unique and creative structures are fun for the kids, they also add to the overall theme of a room. Depending on the location, they can either be used as playgrounds or function as integrated features in the stages of your children’s areas.
A little time and imagination can create beautiful, effective, themed children’s space. And in the process, your church might become a more compelling destination for young families with children.
Jennifer Wise serves as director of marketing & public relations for Churches by Daniels Construction in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. With an extensive background in accounting and business management, her current role has also earned Wise a wealth of knowledge about effective church design and construction.