Design your own church

blueprintsIn the middle of last week, the church Office Manager at Trinity and I were talking about use of space in the church and how we would re-design the building if money was no concern. This quickly became a conversation about how we would design the building if we were starting over from scratch.

So I want to ask you: imagine you were given an unlimited budget and an ideal piece of property (wherever that is) and told to design a church building from the ground up to suit the ministry you think the church needs to be doing in that place. Where would it be located? What kinds of space would it have?

Our office manager has a heart for food and feeding people. The church building of her dreams would have a huge kitchen–maybe two, and lots of storage. Local farmers and restaurant owners would bring their extra food to the building for storage and redistribution to those in need, whether through a food pantry program or a community meal, or more preferably, both. Sanctuary, schmanctuary. In her church, the main space would be a dining room and fellowship center where anyone hungry could eat their fill.

My church would be located in a downtown of the community, so that people could easily walk to it. It would have a parking lot, preferably underground (can you tell this has been an issue for us?). It would have a lawn, but not much grass; most of the lawn would be devoted to a community garden, maintained by church members but available to people in town who are hungry to harvest it. It would be three, maybe four stories, and the roof would sport solar panels, while further heating needs were met with a grass-pellet burning stove. On the lowest level, there would be a sizable food pantry and storage area, and a community thrift shop, and a couple of meeting rooms or small library. Also, there would be bathrooms with showers, just in case the church was being used as a shelter for a time. The next floor would be the social space: a large room safe to run around in for kids to play and learn (which could be broken up with dividers for educational times) and a fellowship/dining area with lightweight tables and chairs near the large kitchen. The fellowship hall would be equipped with a small stage, and a sound and projection system, for community action meetings, classes on cooking or garndening or parenting or resume-writing, movie nights, and open mic events. The sanctuary would be above that, with movable seating (rather than bolted-in pews), lights on freaking dimmer switches (for Christmas Eve and Good Friday!!!!!), an embedded projection screen, a sound system that doesn’t make the pastor’s voice sound like she’s preaching from inside a tin can but can record her sermons direct to mp3 (or dare we hope record the service to video for local access or for the homebound?). The altar area would be open, flexible, and movable, with a stand-alone cross and a window opening out into God’s world, even if that means the bustling street– especially then. There would be a side chapel for smaller gatherings or personal prayer. The building would be accessible at the front without steps (maybe a ramp) and would have at least two elevators, one of which would be large enough to accommodate a coffin, to save the backs of pallbearers everywhere. Somewhere there’d be an office, I guess, but I bet the pastor would only rarely sit there, instead preferring to tend the garden, hand out food, or pray in the chapel. And the doors would have no locks.

Okay, I dream. But that’s the point in this case.

What’s your dream church? Or, if not a church, what would it be?

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One Response

  1. We have had some real discussions about serious renovation because our building is so old and disfunctional. The only thing that has become obvious to us as we think about the connection between mission and space is that the buildings need to be highly adaptable and flexible. Over the course of 50 years, the mission and ministry of a congregation will change greatly–and in ways we cannot today predict.

    The people who built our building more than 75 years ago may have had the perfect space for what they were doing then. It has been a terrible fit for us for at least 20 years. So whatever we do, perhaps even minor changes, should allow the greatest flexibility possible.

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