DESIGNER COLUMNS & BLOGS / Design & Architecture

Posted in Design & Architecture on June 8, 2015 9:46 am EDT

4 Tensions That Affect Design for Ministry

The tension between openness and safety: how to respond to fallen world realities without building bunkers.


 

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TAGS: architectural design, design for connection, security,

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By Ron Geyer

We’re not really allowed to fence out what’s merely inconvenient or unfamiliar, but it's reasonable and appropriate to protect the vulnerable people in our midst.

Years ago, our family invited, and began taking, a friend of our daughter to church with us. Neither she nor her parents were believers. We were encouraged by our young guest’s positive response and by the fact that her mother began showing up, too, on her own.

Our daughter was in elementary school and our youngest child, her brother, several years younger. The girls got along fine, but very soon after we started, our guest decided it would be fun to “pick on” our young son. We coached our children on how to respond and spoke directly with our guest and her mother, but things got worse. Small comments became jokes. Jokes became taunts. Taunts became verbal abuse. Our son was upset, especially since we’d disarmed his instinctive response, and dreaded going.

My wife and I struggled with the tension between our responsibility to our son and what we owed to this “stranger.” Had it just been us, I know we would have soldiered on. But we couldn’t ask the same of a first-grader. We eventually stopped inviting the girl to ride with us. In a way, we failed.

One of the few things [that] should be permanent about a ministry is the desire to extend welcome-ness and offer access to everyone.

That means that if you get “church” right, people will show up who don’t behave. We’re not really allowed to fence out what’s merely inconvenient or unfamiliar, but it's reasonable and appropriate to protect the vulnerable people in our midst.

The challenge for designers is to respond to these fallen world realities without building bunkers. It’s not unlike the challenges faced by designers of embassies. In response to growing hostility, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations requires 100-foot setbacks, anti-ram barriers, anti-climb barriers, access controls, forced entry protection, ballistic and blast protection, and the provision of safe areas or havens. All while providing “inspiring places for the conduct of diplomacy and representing the U.S. Government to the host nation.” Somehow, thoughtful architects have pulled it off.

Tension 1: How to respond to fallen world realities without building bunkers

Our churches are no less embassies to places not our home. We, too, must minimize barriers to understanding and entrance as much as possible without abdicating control.  continued >>

 

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