Many churches have found, architectural decisions can make or break a church renovation goal of creating a sense of community. Both interior and exterior design choices affect how people interact during worship and whether church neighbors feel welcome. Community used to mean almost exclusively those people who lived in proximity to us. But today, people talk about a community as a group of people who share an interest, or the Christian community. There’s no expectation that these community members live near each other or even know each other.
If churches rejoin the ideas of physicality and community, then they will pay more attention to how their church and congregation exist in and connect with the neighborhood surrounding the church.
In other words, instead of thinking your corner church is somehow lesser because it’s not a mega church, you can join God in the community that already exists in and near your church.
When your church chooses to stay put and be more a part of the community, a couple things will happen, not all of them comfortable.
First, when you start thinking of your church property as public space…or start walking in the neighborhood around your church…then you’ll have to relate to people who aren’t like you. Public spaces force us to think about and interact with people we don’t necessarily know.
Second, and you may enjoy this, you’ll get to talk with people on the neutral ground of public space. You’ll notice class differences. But you’ll experience them more as a bridge to understanding rather than a barrier that prevents you from seeing each person as someone Jesus treasures. You’ll start to see yourself and those you meet as ordinary people going about their daily activities.
Finally, as some of your church neighbors join you in worship, you’ll want to rejoice with those who rejoice and grieve with those who grieve. These bonds may nudge your church toward getting involved in issues that affect the whole community.
Talk about how to create a sense of community on your next church renovation.
· What does your church architecture, both interior and exterior, say about your theology or practice of worship and welcome?
· Consider several design choices that can help create community, such as flexible seating, natural light, clear entrances, and intuitive navigation. If your church plans a renovation, how would you describe the renovation purposes? Which design choices best achieve these purposes?
· Would your church neighborhood miss your congregation if you would relocate? Would your congregation miss the neighbors?
· What do you think about the idea of staying put in the city, especially if your church has been losing members?
Our church is a beautiful historic building, we need to be good stewards of this asset, offering it as public space, not just something available for church members. We could host public school music groups, and neighborhood council meetings or other community gatherings.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).