Space mission: Create more room with adaptable partitions

Leaders can maintain multiple ministries by adding functional dividers to large rooms.

By Rich Maas

Because churches are often open to their communities, most usually have at least two large open rooms. The first is the sanctuary where the congregation worships and holds various ceremonies. The second open room in churches is often referred to as a fellowship hall, family life center or a multipurpose room.

These rooms are used for church-based events other than worship such as, large gatherings including Awana and Cub Scout meetings, dances and wedding receptions. These large rooms can also be made more functional if they are divided into several smaller rooms for Sunday school classes or other purposes.

Room dividers offer churches an opportunity to make better use of space with a variety of options. There are three types of room dividers commonly used in churches today.

  1. Portable room dividers on casters: These stackable, sound absorbing dividers easily roll into place, unfold accordion style and can be set up in any configuration as needed.
  2. Office-style cubical dividers: These can be dragged or carried from the storage closet and placed as desired within a room.
  3. Floor to ceiling dividers: These dividers are installed in tracks in the ceiling. When needed, they are pulled along the track to divide the room.

The most common use for room dividers are religious education classrooms (Sunday school classrooms). Room dividers are an easy way to eliminate visual distractions and decrease extraneous distracting noise by creating a division between the different classroom spaces. Dividers help cut down distractions and can result in increased concentration in religious education classes for any age group.

Recognize different spatial needs

More churches are offering child care and day care ministries. This is the second most common use of room dividers within a church. Oftentimes these programs minister to children ranging from infants to pre-school. While the range of age is only five years at a maximum, the difference in spatial needs at that young age is much different than a five-year span as adults.

An open room can be divided into three different sections: nursery, playroom/reading area and sleeping area. Obviously larger programs can have several rooms, or divisions, for each area. Many states have rules and regulations which help to ensure that the certified instructors in the child care areas can see the tasks being performed by non-certified instructors/helpers. The height of room dividers and whether or not they are equipped with windows is an important consideration. Maintaining a clear line of site between areas is also important when setting up dividers for child care.

A room with several dividers in use during the day may need to have the dividers taken down and put away quickly when the last children leave so that the room is available during the evening for a large meeting, congregation meal, or some other ministry. The ease and flexibility to transform a space makes room dividers valuable to churches maintaining multiple ministries.

Manage multiple uses

The third most common use for room dividers within churches is to help administrators manage the use of the multipurpose room. Sometimes multiple members or groups need to use a room at the same time, especially on weekends. Depending on the size of the room, dividers can easily be used to help ensure that groups can efficiently use the same room at the same time without interfering with each other.

Certainly a small group of a half dozen members who wish to discuss a book they all recently read do not need the same size room as a group having a wedding shower. The same is true for any number of ministries or users. The names of the user groups may change, but the concept is the same: Room dividers can help manage the spatial needs in a multipurpose room.

Manufacturers such as Screenflex offer room dividers that perform a myriad of other useful functions to churches. These dividers have been used as welcome/bulletin boards, backdrops for speakers or the church play and even to help guide traffic flow. One clever youth group in Little Rock, AR used their dividers to create a maze as part of their Haunted House during Halloween season. However, the three most common uses of room dividers remain to create Sunday school classrooms, divide open rooms into smaller rooms for a child care ministry and to set up various size rooms for other ministries as needed.

Church leaders that want to make the most of their facilities to extend ministries and more opportunities for their congregations should consider using versatile room dividers.

Rich Maas is vice president of Screenflex Portable Partitions Inc., Lake Zurich, IL, a company that designs and manufactures room dividers. []


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