Posted in From the Editor on October 20, 2014 11:29 am EDT

Does a Dichotomy Exist in Church Design Today?

Reports of small, intimate venues being on the rise clash with reports of renovation at thriving mega-churches. So which is it, or is it both?









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TAGS: blog, demographics, design, site selection,


By Carol Badaracco Padgett

On one hand, reports come in of Christian churches across the United States evolving into smaller, more intimate venues—oftentimes with multiple sites around a metropolitan area, for example. And on the other, there are reports of renovation at thriving mega-churches, like Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C., featured in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of Designer and online here: (visit link)

So, are architects being called upon to design or renovate both kinds of spaces? Or is one or the other moving more actively into the forefront? And how much do individual approach and geographic locale factor in?

"We have found that the area's demographics, geography, denomination, and the ministry emphasis of the church has a lot to do with church size."

—Steve Fridsma, AIA, LEED AP,Principal Architect, Elevate Studio, Grand Rapids, MI

Designer sought out active church-focused architect Steve Fridsma, AIA, LEED AP, and principal architect at Elevate Studio in Grand Rapids, Mich., to give us his take.

“About half of our ministry-related practice over the past four years has been helping church plants renovate existing facilities into their first permanent homes: warehouses, schools, office buildings, retail spaces, and even a semi-conductor research lab and a boat dealership. About a third has been helping well-established churches renovate and/or add on to older buildings for more state-of-the-art worship, hospitality, children, and youth ministry spaces. The remainder is new buildings on new sites, or renovation projects for very large churches.

We are currently designing a brand new building for a mainline church and an extensive renovation of a mega-church auditorium. We have found that the area's demographics, geography, denomination, and the ministry emphasis of the church has a lot to do with church size. Almost all of the very large churches I have worked on in my career tend towards the more socially and religiously conservative, fundamentalist side of God's kingdom. The largest church I ever worked on had 3-4 very healthy smaller churches within a good tee shot away from its 110-acre campus. They simply had a different ministry emphasis or cultural expectation for church life; for example, they may have had youth ministry in borrowed space, evangelistic small groups, or partnerships with para-church organizations for servant-evangelism that didn't require church-owned facilities. I do think geography and regional cultural norms and societal/spiritual trends do play a strong role; we have worked on the northern East and West Coasts where our 600-member clients were the largest churches in a 30-mile radius.  continued >>