Posted in practice on January 18, 2017 9:43 am EST

7 Church Design Trends for 2017

Active designers around the country share the ideology and components they believe will influence and change church architectural and interior design in the New Year.











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TAGS: architectural design, church, renovation, trends, worship space,


By Cathy Hutchison

Church and worship space trends emerge in cycles and are often first embraced by cutting-edge churches, then they sweep across the country as others seek to emulate them. Church Designer spoke with some of the top church designers in the U.S. to get insight on the design trends that their clients are embracing.


“We are seeing the pendulum begin to swing back from the retail/entertainment and ‘don’t look like a church’ model of church design,” reveals Tom Greenwood, principal of The Beck Group in Dallas. “The generational values and new cultural sensibilities are affecting church architecture in many interesting ways. If you want to sell coffee, look like a Starbucks. If you want to provide spiritual transformation, create a place for a spiritual experience. Churches are beginning to re-embrace this idea in their building design, in the use of materials, scale and light. Buildings’ designs are being filled with purpose and meaning beyond their function.”

John Justus, principal of HGA in Sacramento, Calif., also comments on the shift, “Church architecture for the next century embodies sacred space, community, intimacy, light, and story along with technology. I see all of these elements as renewing core principles of church architecture.”


David Evans, president of Mantel Teter Architects in Kansas City, Mo., shares, “Worship center downsizing is the new normal. Millennials are leading the way to attend worship services that are small- to mid-sized. As a result of this trend, the huge worship centers have lost their attraction. Renovating to downsize worship centers [is] becoming a growing activity for church architects and contractors.”

Evans adds, “While the multi-site movement continues to flourish, its next stronghold may be a neighborhood church near you. Many experts in [the] field have written about this. This movement’s next chapter [is] to start or acquire campuses to reach and minister to residents of specific neighborhoods. This could be declining churches or other retail/big box properties that will be renovated.”

“We are seeing a definite trend to smaller worship facilities,” concurs Bruce Woody, president and CEO of HH Architects in Dallas. “We have clients that have up to 25,000 people on their site each weekend. At some point, street access doesn’t support that kind of scale. Most are determining to only grow so big on a single site and [to use] a satellite campus strategy to provide better reach into neighborhoods.”

"There is a movement to be more inter-woven with the surrounding neighborhood ... accepting and encouraging those in the community to feel a real sense of welcome.”

—David Shanks, President, Shanks Architects, Dallas, TX

David Shanks, president of Shanks Architects in Dallas, shares, “Churches are becoming more integrated with community. The notion of a campus, separated from the surrounding urban development, is not as strong as it was 15-20 years ago. There is a movement to be more inter-woven with the surrounding neighborhood ... accepting and encouraging those in the community to feel a real sense of welcome.”


“Many churches are favoring a more ‘authentic’ representation of who they are,” observes Stephen Pickard, leader of Good Fulton and Farrell's (GFF’s) Church Works studio in Dallas. “Today’s church is not cloistered and mysterious, it is open and accessible. Elaborate detailing and expensive materials have given way to more creative uses of inexpensive materials that are durable and easily maintained. Raw concrete is celebrated, not concealed; structural elements are exposed; and paints and stains have become the interior finish of choice. Cost-effective construction techniques—like the use of tilt-wall concrete—allow for high quality construction at budget prices.”

“Churches are asking for spaces that feel authentic with real materials expressed in their native states—wood and stone. Even manufactured materials such as steel and concrete want to be expressed openly—sometimes in a very raw way. Quirkiness and imperfection are acceptable, ‘Slick’ is out,” adds Greenwood.


John Van Houten, principal at Progressive AE in Grand Rapids, Mich., reports, “We are currently seeing a significant shift in how youth ministry environments are being developed. Most notably, today’s youth social spaces are being designed to create enduring relationships. Large, open, vibrant activity areas are further enhanced with the inclusion of small group spaces. These spaces are meant for reflection and personalization. They are areas to learn, discuss and connect. Additionally, the look and feel of the youth worship space is mimicking that of the adult worship experience. The focus is on preparing the church’s youth to participate in the main venue. Also, this area can become a flex programming space (venue) for Sunday, adding to ministry growth.”

Pickard offers, “We continue to see an interest in secure high quality children’s space, with an emphasis on learning environments, not just play (think children’s museum instead of play tubes). Casual, intentionally designed gathering areas are taking on various forms and manifesting at different scales—reaching outdoors where adults, youth and children are in combined spaces that serve the entire family.”

“There is a definite move away from heavilybthemed spaces based on entertainment models to more reality-based themes in design. Whether in children’s spaces, youth spaces or overall campus design, church leaders are being much more intentional in asking ‘why,' which is filtering into more serious, less trendy, design explorations,” Greenwood notes.


“We are seeing more and more faith-based mixed-use development. Churches are building community centers, affordable housing, senior housing, counseling centers, schools, recreation spaces, and so on,” says Ravi Waldon, president of Waldon Studio Architects in Columbia, Md. “In urban areas, churches are ready to tear down traditional structures [that] are antiquated and not conducive to contemporary worship, building a blend of community center-type worship spaces with the mixed uses all on one site. This is leading churches into more relationships with developers who can choreograph large-scale financing and complex construction.”

“We see mixed-use projects cropping up where multi-family, retail and office co-mingle in a very natural way,” observes Scott Hall, principal at Omniplan in Dallas. “We see tremendous opportunity for churches to integrate in with these mixed-use projects where people can live, work, play, and pray. Institutional campuses are moving toward community places, encouraging greater connectivity with neighborhoods and local non-church organizations. This appeals to millennials who prefer walkability and amenity-rich environments. We are also seeing several churches looking for ways to leverage their children’s ministry space with a school by either the church or an education partner. This greatly maximizes usage and revenue for their facilities.”

“Parking solutions will seek options for ‘shared’ scenarios, which can reduce the extravagant (and expensive) amount of paving that surrounds and disconnects most large church campuses, freeing up budget dollars that can be applied toward landscaping and creating more meaningful outdoor environments,” Pickard adds.  continued >>