August 8, 2015

Reaching Millennials Through Church Building Designs


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Recently, we shared insights on Designing Spaces for Millennials based on recent research from The Barna Group. As we continued exploring this topic, we caught up with our friend Steven Chaparro, Project Executive for Visioneering Studios. Steven and his team have done extensive work helping churches of all sizes design new buildings or redesign their current facilities. We were excited to hear Steven’s thoughts and think you will find them valuable…

RYAN: What trends have you seen in church building design that focus on reaching millennials?

STEVEN: More than anything, there is a trend for churches to see themselves as more than just a ‘temple’ or as a place where only sacred things happen. We have seen many churches take the approach of becoming what we call a “post-modern Jacob’s well.” Just as the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the well, or the center of the community, churches are offering members of their community reasons to intersect within their natural rhythms of life. Many invite people to come and connect, grab a cup of coffee, play a game of basketball, or collaborate in a workspace. Churches that are doing this are offering more reasons for millennials to come that are already part of their natural rhythms.

RYAN: In your opinion, what do millennials care most about in a church building?

STEVEN: Community. I am not even sure that it’s about the lights, technology, or even music. There are a lot of places that can offer that. In fact, it’s been said many times that millennials are the most technologically connected, yet the most lonely. Any church that offers spaces for community through lounges, outdoor gathering spaces, collaborative workspaces, etc. will be an attractive place for millennials.

RYAN: How can churches best serve young families through their buildings?

STEVEN: One practical step is to develop a good way-finding system. When a parent can’t find their way around a building, their anxiety level can be high. There should also be a “wow” factor that causes children to want to drag their parents back week after week.

A great team exercise is to script the experience of a young family from the time they first visit the church’s website all the way to the point when they arrive on the campus, are greeted, check their kids in, and experience the service. At Disneyland, they script the experience from the gates to the castle to make it the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

RYAN: Many churches have a building that is at least 15 years old with no current plans to rebuild. What are some practical adjustments they can make to their current buildings to better engage millennials?

STEVEN: Lipstick on a pig. I know that’s crass, but sometimes its that simple. Paint will go a long way but it needs to be done right. Choosing the right colors, adding environmental graphics, changing backdrops, and even laying out the space in a new way can do wonders. We have helped some churches completely transform spaces with lighting and staging. We have learned lessons from hotels that are transforming their lobbies from compartmentalized spaces to open planned lobby/lounges.

You can learn more about Steven and the team at Visioneering Studios here.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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