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How to Build the Church of Your Dreams


Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Planning a church is a challenging task. While many church planters have been blamed for treating churches like businesses, there is no doubt that financial concerns can prohibit builders from creating the church they would like to. How can you build the church of your dreams? How can you best serve your congregation?

When planning, you’ll want to make design choices that will inspire your congregation and help them connect with God. Of course, your ideal church may not be within your budget. However, given recent trends in churches in the past couple decades, affordable, non-traditional church designs can help new builders achieve their goals. Furthermore, in order to offer the best service to your followers, you’ll want to provide a comfortable environment that embraces diversity. This guide will tackle each of these considerations. Let’s get started:

Evoking Trust and Inspiration Through Design

our church should evoke feelings of trust and inspiration from your congregation. As noted by architect Norman L. Koonce, since the earliest days of recorded history, the goal of sacred architecture has been to “(make) transparent the boundary between matter and mind, flesh and the spirit.” Through design choices, your church can facilitate stronger connections between each person in your congregation, as well as stronger connections within each member — those they have with their inner spirit and God.

What kind of design choices can you use to create a progressive, inspiring, and welcoming place of worship? Here are some considerations to keep in mind when planning how you’ll build your church:

Decide on a traditional or modern design: Assess your congregation or community to determine which approach will appeal to your following. For example, stained glass windows, while expensive, are a good traditional touch that can evoke inspiration in your following. However, a modern, progressive group may prefer a more minimalist, informal setting. Pick furnishings and decor to suit your church members.

Focus on creating an inviting atmosphere: Every design choice should contribute to an environment that draws visitors in. For instance, laying your hardwood flooring perpendicular to the entrance creates a welcoming aesthetic that naturally flows. There should also be adequate lighting, open space, and plenty of large windows to allow natural sunlight in.

Look to other churches for inspiration: Borrow design elements from churches that give you inspiration. If none immediately come to mind, explore Pinterest and Instagram for modern designs that get a lot of traction. Do specific design concepts seem to appeal to demographics in your congregation? Those are a great place to start.

Seek advice from other Christian leaders: Are you left unsure about other specific details? If you need guidance, turn to other Christian leaders. They will be able to give you advice for designing and planting your church. They can be a vital resource during difficult times.

Embrace Non-Traditional Church Building Methods

When most people are asked to imagine the ideal church, they may picture Notre-Dame, Westminster Abbey, or the Milan Cathedral. However, not every church can be a majestic feat of architecture — and not every church builder should aspire to such great heights. There may or may not be the perfect church, but modern churches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each can attract a following for different reasons.

Modest, non-traditional church building methods can suit builders who are looking for modest accommodations for smaller followings. They can also serve as a great temporary place to hold services while you work towards a more traditional church, if that is your goal. These types of churches have grown in popularity over the years, and they can be a great source of community and inspiration. Some examples include:

Storefront churches: As strip malls continue to lose customers and real estate value in an increasingly online-focused world, it’s no surprise that many church builders are opting to simply rent out such a location. Strip malls are typically conveniently located and inexpensive to operate. This makes them ideal for those just starting out building a congregation; the location will help new church owners spread awareness of their services, and the low cost point gives owners plenty of time to accrue a following.

Cowboy churches: If your church is located in a rural area, simply converting a barn or warehouse into a church can be a cost-effective method of holding services. While specific audiences will be attracted to this type of church, there’s no doubt that some country-themed decor and Christian country music will create an effective nostalgic environment that your congregation will love coming back to each week.

Home-based churches: After a resurgence in the ‘90s, home-based churches have become a common sight. While a home-based service may limit the number of members who can attend, it is a cost-efficient way to spread the Word. Doing so can even shape your congregation, as progressive audiences are often more inclined to attend a home-based church, given the connotations they may have with traditional churches.

Public building churches: If you are without a place of worship and are still in the process of developing a congregation, it’s wise to involve the community in church planning. A great way to do so is to hold services in public buildings. You can lease space from public spaces such as schools and agency buildings. Since government buildings are typically not open on Sundays, availability is no issue, and costs are usually quite low. While this isn’t “church building” in the strictest sense, it is an effective way of developing your faith-based community.

A Religious Center for All Seasons

Even with an inspiring environment, one of the quickest ways to lose members is to have a physically uncomfortable place of worship. We’ve already begun to pull out our winter clothes and adjusted our thermostats, but is your church ready for the months ahead?

During warmer months, all those filled pews can really increase the heat of the room. The heat won’t just make your listeners fall asleep during sermons; it might make them simply stop showing up. You’ll want to make sure that your church has plenty of ventilation and air conditioning to keep everyone comfortable.

During fall and winter, you’ll want to assess your heating needs. Depending on the climate of your area, you may want to invest in a more up-to-date water heater and HVAC system. Even a new fireplace, while difficult to install without a guide — given the need for planning, framing the fireplace, installing venting components, and installing electrical plumbing connections — can keep people warm. You can even spread awareness of your services while helping your community by offering your church as a warm shelter for the homeless or refugees during cold winter months. Not only can doing this service the people of your community and foster goodwill for your church, it can introduce diverse people with new perspectives to your congregation.

Embracing Diversity in Your Services

One aspect of church building that is often neglected is the act of attracting members. Through increased diversity in our schools and workplaces, we’ve learned that introducing a wide range of perspectives improves our ability to solve problems and fosters innovation. Opening your own faith-based community to a diverse range of people will benefit everyone involved.

Address racial and discriminatory issues if they exists. If the demographics of your churchgoers are, for the most part, homogenous, let everyone know that you’ll need to work as a community to incorporate more diverse perspectives. You should strive to include people of different cultures, races, sexual orientation and (for non-denominational churches) denominations. By admitting that this is an issue, your congregation can collaborate to find ways to invite new perspectives to your church.

Once you’ve done so, take steps to attract new, diverse members. Here are some ideas:

Hire diverse staff and accept help from volunteers of different backgrounds.
Represent different ethnic and racial identities in your church and in handout materials.
Collaborate with organizations in your community to minister to multicultural audiences.
Make a point to include progressive, identity-related issues in your sermons.
Quickly address issues of bias or discrimination that occur between members of your congregation.

We all have our own ideas about how the ideal church should look. This guide should help you create an inspiring place of worship within your budget, as well as attract a diverse following. As you begin your journey, remember the words of missionary William Carey: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” While the challenge may be great, the rewards will be greater.

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