Posted in education on December 30, 2016 4:14 pm EST

Child-Like (able) Design

A treatise on creating church education spaces for engagement and delight.

A travel metaphor at Summit Church of Durham, N.C., is continued from the children's space to a large-group space for older students. Images courtesy of LS3P.











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TAGS: children's space, creativity, interior design, theming,


By Chuck Hulstrand

“Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.” Garrison Keillor

From the tiniest nursery dwellers through high school students, our youth are core members of our worship centers. Children may not be signing up for committees, filling the pews at the morning services, and running the annual stewardship campaign, but their energy is vital—and their potential is limitless. If we want them to feel like the valued members of the worship community that they are, how do we create places that make them want to come to our worship centers, and make them want to come back?

“Boarding pass” check-in kiosks greet Summit families next to a model biplane and map of the world.

We begin by acknowledging that our spaces for education should feel very different from our spaces for worship. Worship spaces might be designed to inspire awe and its attendant solemnity, while education spaces oftentimes encourage engagement. Ideally, spaces for education should accommodate a full range of learning modes, from boisterous activities to contemplative guided learning. These spaces should also feel welcoming, comfortable and secure.

Diverse-needs design

Designing for the needs of diverse ages and activities provides both challenges and design opportunities. Nurseries should be calm and soothing, with well-planned circulation areas for arrivals and departures. Preschoolers need large, flexible classrooms with a central gathering space for whole-group time; these classrooms should be durable enough to withstand a fair amount of age-appropriate chaos. Elementary programs require zones for small group activities and large common areas for gathering. Older students will feel most comfortable with their own independent territory, with room for small-group discussions, structured educational sessions, and plenty of space for socializing.  continued >>