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A Guide to Church Sanctuary Design

We all know that interior design and architectural styles come and go, as eras peak and fade. Churches aren’t exempt from this, though we could argue that the great cathedrals are the exception to the rule. But when it comes to growing a worship community in your community, you need to pay special attention to how you create the space. Outdated or clashing decor and furnishings can be distracting and leave congregants feeling out of touch during worship.

Perhaps you are renovating a church, with the hopes of bringing new life into the space. Or you might be building a new church from the ground up. Both situations require reflection, research, and insight from those who will occupy the space.

If you are redesigning a church space with a healthy and established congregation, you could consider asking attendees to contribute to a survey that captures their perceptions of the space and how they think it could be better. They might be able to offer perspectives that you would not have considered otherwise. For a new church, you can do some serious research into the community and neighborhood where the building will be located. What are their hopes for a new worship center? These community ideas and suggestions can jumpstart your planning so that when it is finished, everyone agrees that it is perfect for their needs.

After gathering thoughts from the community, it’s time to start the planning process. Here are a few areas you should consider when working with your design committee.

Consider Your Community

The first step in designing a church building is to consider the needs of your community. If your church will serve young families, then your building design should reflect the things that young children and parents will need. Congregations with mostly older participants should also be created with that specific population in mind. Young adults will be attracted to a church that is more modern and has considered their unique social interests.

Probably the most difficult church to create is the one that serves a large community full of a mixture of populations and subgroups. It’s tricky to speak to everyone or to bring elements in that will make them all equally comfortable. However, it can be done with proper research and understanding what will make the space feel warm and inviting to as many people as possible. For these circumstances, you would be wise to consult with a professional who can help you choose design choices that will be broadly appealing.

Architecture

It can be tricky to balance members of a committee’s ideas for a building. This is where all of your research will be helpful. Does the community hope for a more traditional style church building? Or maybe they are millennials who really want a space that is more appealing to younger adults. Whichever style you choose for the building, you need to ensure that it fits into the neighborhood as well.

You will also need to pay special attention to size. Most church-goers like a sanctuary that is big enough that they won’t draw attention to themselves when coming in, but not so big that they feel lost in a crowd. After assessing what your budget will allow, you can start to think about how to design spaces for multipurpose use. Many times, we get locked into thinking that each room should have a specific and separate purpose. In reality, many rooms can be used for more than one event. Think about your community and their needs, then how to translate that into the space. This process can save you a lot of money, which can then be put to making each room as cozy and inviting as possible.

Choosing Finish Work

Once you have an established design and a driving aesthetic theme, you can focus on the details. In order to make the space feel warm and inviting, considering every detail is important. Thrown together decor, paint selections, and poor quality finish carpentry can make a room feel strange and irritating. You want your community members to come to church for that feeling of peace and belonging. You want their minds to be focused on praying and listening to the messages, not drifting to the discord in the room.

There are many different ways to bring together a happy, welcoming feeling in a space. Every style can achieve this overall vibe, but it does take effort and sincere consideration. After deciding on your design theme, you might consider bringing in a professional to consult with your building committee. Sometimes they can offer insight that you might have otherwise overlooked.

Furnishing Your Church

Your community members are going to spend a lot of time sitting down, so you want to think about your seating options carefully. Comfortable chairs should be your top priority. In the past, pew benches were the go-to choice for churches, but they aren’t as practical for the modern church anymore (or very comfortable). If you have a dedicated sanctuary that will not be used for other spaces, then benches can be an option for your church. But if you are like most churches today, you likely use your rooms in multi-purpose ways. By choosing quality chairs, you can rearrange seating for different kinds of meetings and events.

You should also ensure that you buy the highest quality furnishings that your budget will allow. Choose quality, commercial-grade tables and chairs that will last many years. Other furnishings specific to your religious practices and sanctuary needs should also be well-made so they will withstand years of use.

Also consider furniture that can serve multiple purposes, instead of single-function items. Look for furnishings that stack easily and can be stored out of sight. Weddings, youth dances, birthday parties, and other events might require you to clear the floor. By choosing flexible furnishings, you can accommodate both Sunday worship and community-building events.

Bringing It All Together

Developing a new or renovated church building and growing a spiritual community are worthy endeavors for any religious team. Churches are a wonderful addition to towns and neighborhoods, doubling as both a space to nourish the soul and to serve the community. Designing the perfect space will take a lot of planning, as well as community and practical research. The end result is an inviting building that brings people together in worship and in community outreach.

Always choose the best quality materials and furnishings that your budget can afford, and double the value through choosing flexible furnishings that will work for many different kinds of congregant requirements. By creating a warm building that is thoughtful toward church members’ needs, you can deepen your congregants devotion to both your cause and to their spiritual community.

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