Abundant Life, Image Courtesy of  Emmalee Schaumburg

Abundant Life, Image Courtesy of Emmalee Schaumburg

by Erica Cottrill, Church.Design

Almost upon us, 2019 is expected to be a year of changes that will reshape--or at least refine-- houses of worship. Designers agree that the worship space should serve the church as an expression of its brand while becoming an engaging tool for its mission.

Architects, designers and AVL professionals weigh in, predicting what will happen in the coming year:

1-Multisite movement continues to flourish. The multisite movement is stronger than ever, notes David Evans, president of Kansas City, Mo.-based architectural firm Mantel Teter. “The movement’s next chapter will be to start or acquire campuses to reach and minister to residents of specific communities. Many demographics will influence these choices and a church’s ministry skill sets. This could be churches or other retail/big box properties that will be renovated for church and community uses.”

2-Rebranding. “Now more than ever, churches are expanding their outreach by branding themselves as all-purpose community centers,” says James Theimer, principal architect for Trilogy in Redding, Calif. Food previously provided after worship services becomes an everyday café for people to mingle and network, integrated housing is created for the "built-in" worshipper, and sanctuaries translate into "experience centers," he notes.

“As outreach grows stronger, churches offer a unique opportunity to brand themselves as ‘safe zones’ where multi-generational users can attend, confident that the content is family-friendly. Daycare, libraries and even retail are beginning to insert themselves into faith-based campuses,” Theimer adds.

3-Connection through design. The church has definitely broadened its net by providing more intentional and creative ways to attract more community involvement, observes Lisa Masteller, principal of Raleigh, N.C., design firm Sassafras Studios. “It’s our responsibility to bring to life a more tangible way of connectivity through our designs. The use of lobbies, parking paths and furniture options need to handle different ways of interaction. Depending on these parameters, we make moves to correct better space flow and incorporate natural architectural elements.”

4-Innovative ways to attract people … and not just on Sunday. Due to the power of digital, people can connect, gather and participate and are not limited to specific days and activities, Evans says. “We can reach people every day. People may even choose to gather spontaneously on their own, meeting with friends and inviting new people into their lives. The expressions are limited as you want them to be. The digital age is not a threat to the church. It’s an opportunity. It’s a missional powerhouse.”

5-Affirmation of a sense of intimacy. There is a heavy leaning towards a fresh and timeless approach that is authentically infused within the overall visual story. It is a move forward but not losing history, notes Masteller. “We are seeing a [continuing] trend towards transforming large spaces to smaller, multi-functional [ones] that encourage community interaction.”

Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Image Courtesy of  Emmalee Schaumburg

Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Image Courtesy of Emmalee Schaumburg

6-Technological advances point to LED and more. There may be no building type where technological advances will be more important as we approach the third decade of the 21st century, says Theimer. “Recent advances in LED display brightness allow for the design of more natural light in worship spaces. Self-tinting glazing isn’t inexpensive, but for the right project, it is changing the way architects think about natural light into what was previously considered ‘black box’ design. Sound and light controls have become more critical as churches broaden their outreach outside the physical confines of a single building. With the required flexibility of many contemporary worship facilities, designers are focusing more and more on new technology in acoustic panels which can be adjusted when necessary for a specific activity. Miniaturization of enhanced active sound systems allow designers more opportunities to design creative spaces without compromising the acoustics of that space.”

LED video walls are growing in popularity, says James Kumorek, an AVL industry writer and former church technical director. And he adds that digital audio networks replacing traditional analog snakes is also a trend. “Dante digital audio networks are growing in popularity in the installation market, and provide a huge amount of flexibility in routing audio. However, with flexibility can also come increased complexity, so additional training of volunteers may be needed to ensure they can handle issues that arise on Sunday morning.”

Platte Woods United Methodist Church, Image Courtesy of  Emmalee Schaumburg

Platte Woods United Methodist Church, Image Courtesy of Emmalee Schaumburg

7-Affordable technology, easy to use. With manufacturers making smaller, more affordable audio consoles, churches are able to work with a single manufacturer across all their venues and streamline training, says Shaun Miller, director of technical arts for Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. “You can use a large format in the main room, a medium size in the youth room, and a rack mount, iPad controlled mixer for a meeting room. They are all comparable, running similar software that makes training a volunteer easy.”