Making predictions are dangerous and even a bit ridiculous according to Pastor Carey Nieuwhof, a columnist at Christian Week. Yet in a recent blog post, he boldly made 10 predictions about the future church.
Prediction #2: “Churches that love their model more than their mission will die.”
This caught my attention and inspired me to write this series on revitalizing and transforming the church through architectural design.
To explain his prediction about church mission and model, Pastor Nieuwhof shared examples of travel and innovation. When the car was invented, it quickly rose in popularity over the horse and buggy, leaving those manufacturers in a boutique status with many going belly-up. While the old model died, the mission of travel strengthened and the transportation industry grew.
His second example, “companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak)”. He ties his prediction back to churches: “churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in [their] model.”
Metro Detroit Christian Church
How does this prediction involve church design? As an architect in the Detroit area who’s passionate about church architecture, our firm has helped growing and evolving churches improve design models that weren’t serving their congregation as effectively.
We have all seen the magnificent and ornately crafted structures built in the early twentieth century. We’ve been in awe of them. Yet, in the 1950s and 1960s, church design gravitated to a simpler, less ornate contemporary style of architecture primarily due to cost and the decline of skilled craftsmen who could build the former.
Early church design had less to do with outreach and connection than today’s design trends. In the old “model” you would enter into a relatively small narthex that flanked the sanctuary. The sanctuary was a large gathering place intended for individual spiritual growth and reflection. But as far as large group connection, congregations used the infamous fellowship hall most often located in the basement.
Being in the basement was a natural extension of home life because families often gathered for big events like birthday parties and wedding receptions. It was familiar and comfortable at home, so why not at church? That is not the case today, neither at home or church.
Visual and communicative connection must successfully support the church’s outreach mission of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus. Connection should be conveyed when you enter the building, without the typical journey through a maze of hallways to find the fellowship hall in the basement.
There are other design considerations in the early to mid-century church model that also need transformative change to make these buildings more effective ministry tools to advance the church’s mission.
In the next four posts, I’ll share ideas on how to revitalize and transform older church facilities through architectural design:
- This Isn’t my Grandfather’s Church!
- Where’s the Front Door?
- Preserve the Legacy, Respect the Details
- Make Community Outreach Visible to the Community
Tagged: innovation, mission, transformation