(De)signs of the times

5 church design trends I’ve observed — and what’s driving them

Bruce Woody
President & CEO
HH Architects

#1: Hospitality / gathering

One of the key discussion points our team has with house-of-worship clients is focused on hospitality and gathering spaces. This conversation is taking place because so many churches don’t have enough of this type of space. 

While the main purposes of these areas are for people to engage with one another, we often consider several factors, such as the flexibility of the space, small gathering meetings and community group spaces. These areas could include some classrooms for use by community groups throughout the week. 

Design for the hospitality and gathering space should be attractive to all age groups. Instead of a dedicated preschool / children’s building, or a dedicated youth facility, or a dedicated worship area, these can be designed to be places where entire families can come together.

#2: Outside + indoor/outdoor (transitional) fellowship

When COVID struck and mandatory social distancing requirements were implemented, the idea of using outdoor spaces for church events really took off — for teaching, hospitality and recreation. Outdoor video venues gained traction, as did pavilions, amphitheaters, terraces, and patios. This trend continues.

Many churches are opting for a hybrid approach, meaning an indoor/outdoor transitional space. These spaces often open into large courtyards or outdoor plazas as extensions of the interior spaces. To ensure they are transitional, we’ve used retractable glass walls/doors.

#3: Multi-campus venues

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Church campuses are expanding with multisite campus venues. 

These buildings can be reflective of the home church’s ministry but also uniquely designed to suit their communities. Understanding the difference between what might be fitting, design-wise, in one part of town might not be suitable in another, is key. Ultimately, the campus will be designed functionally to achieve the church’s identifiable ministries.

#4: “Refreshing” the spaces you’ve already got

Recently, we’ve completed quite a few renovations of existing spaces and campus “refresh” projects. 

After COVID hit — and once people started coming back to church in person — there has been an almost unspoken desire for a cleaner, more sanitary, “fresh” look on church campuses. Often, the only way to do this is by a total rework / upgrade of finishes, making existing spaces look and feel newer, plus cleaner. 

#5: Building with better safety in mind 

Recent headlines have heralded the need for enhanced safety in houses of worship. Accordingly, many churches are now building this concept into their designs. 

It’s no longer unusual for a church to consider implementing security measures throughout the facility. Lots of light and transparency into classrooms is a must now, as well. Overall, there’s more mindfulness — in the design phase — about how quickly a building can go into lockdown.

There’s a balance to strike here. Churches still desire to ensure a sense of hospitality and openness. Clear sightlines and wayfinding / navigation of the campus are priorities in design. Technology aids in achieving the safety objective. Examples of technology used might include surveillance cameras positioned throughout the campus to monitor activity. 


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