What Makes A Great Church Building?

In the pursuit of worthy facility, what elements must come together to create a sacred space?

There are some facets that go into what makes a church building great and they all intertwined together.

It’s really the collision of form and function in an explosive manner that brings greatness.

Form can be looked at and described in many ways.  I would prefer to call it design rather than form.  Design in our modern vocabulary congers up ideas like beauty, inspiration and engagement.

Good design actually also includes function.

If we look at the iPhone most people would give it compliments on its design.  They would say, its sleek, classy, beautiful and it works great.

Shouldn’t our church facilities be referred to in the same fashion?

In my home town is Hope College, on its campus sits Dimnent Chapel.

The beautiful Gothic structure was completed in 1929. The construction cost was $404,000 (about $5.6 million in 2016 dollars).

At the front of the 1150 seat chapel is the beautiful rose window, a gift from the Hope College Class of 1916 and constructed at a cost of $4,000, it contains three rows of petals.  When the sun shines thru this magnificent work of art it is absolutely breathtaking. The tall walls and beautiful wood work gives you a feeling of awe and wonder as you sit inside and gaze around the structure.

There are two organs in the chapel, a four-manual Skinner organ in the chancel and a Dutch classic tracker organ in the balcony, built by Pels and Van Leeuwen in the Netherlands and installed in 1971. The Skinner organ with its 2,932 pipes was installed in 1929. Both organs sound fabulous in the space.

Yearly the college does a Christmas Vespers service. The program of Christmas carols and anthems features more than 200 performers. The choir with minimal acoustic instrumentation along with the Skinner organ is a thing of sure beauty.

For me the Chapel as the locals call it is a great building.

It is engaging.

Just looking at it from the outside calls you to want to enter to see what the inside is like.  The soaring 108’ tower makes the approximately 175’ long by 60’ wide structure appears larger than life.  Once inside all of the elements I mentioned above, particularly the stained glass windows personally draw me through their beauty closer to my creator.

It is inspiring.

Just as it is engaging, drawing you in, its beauty inspires you.  The magnificence of the marble floors, the deep wood colors and colors splashed about by the sun penetrating the stained glass windows brings light and hope deep into my soul.

It’s functional.

Hosting events like a student lead chapel service that features modern music, an organ concert, a choral vespers service as well as bachelorette.  The building is well used and services multiple different types of events extremely well.  There have been modern elements and conveniences added to the building like Air conditioning, modern restrooms, a performance sound system along with production lighting and video screens.  But all of that has added to the function and comfort of the building without taking away from the beauty of its design.

Really what it boils down to is that the experience that you have attending an event there is enhanced as you walk up to the building and then as you participate in the event that takes place inside.

Today what are we doing in our worship spaces to bring design and beauty into the facility? Think of ways, like bringing in artwork or creatively using projection and lighting that you can use to bring beauty.

 

Forget the Greeter!

Hopefully your greeters are doing more than just being an obstacle to get around.

Forget the greeter, give me an advocate

I don’t know about you, but when I visit someplace new I rarely go alone.  I usually take a guide (someone who has been to the place before) or a friend that I can share the uncomfortableness that I feel when visiting new places.

There is something about being with someone you know, experiencing something new.  I also think there is something even better that happens when someone who already knows the territory takes your around.

Now, in general churches do a good job of greeting people.  You know the couple standing at the door wearing a name tag and a glued-on smile. They are eager to shake your hand and say welcome.

I have had the question on my mind, “Why do we just have greeters and not advocates?”  An advocate is someone who is on your side. They are there to help you succeed.

So what is the difference between a greeter and an advocate?

A greeter says hi, an advocate steps in and helps.

When you walk in the door, a greeter does just what the name says, they greet you.  One of the large chain superstores has greeters at the door.  At least in my area the greeters are nothing more than an obstruction to walk around as you enter the store.

Hopefully your greeters are doing more than just being an obstacle to get around.  A good greeter will smile, be courteous and give a warm welcome.

At the same chain store I have never heard a greeter add on to the welcome statement, “how can I help you?” Right there with that question a greeter now becomes an advocate, a person that is there to help.

So have your greeters add the simple question “how can I help you?” right after the hello.  Also the greeter (now advocate) should introduce themselves. You want to know the name of the person that is advocating for you.

A greeter points, an advocate takes you there.

Another store in my town has really worked at stepping up their customer service. Recently, I asked where I could find a light bulb.  The employee smiled and said, follow me.  WOW she didn’t just point me in a direction but actually was taking me there.

On the walk there she asked what kind of bulb I was looking for, she even added that she had just switched to LED lights and was saving over $20 a month on her electric bill.  As we walked down the aisle with the light bulbs she took me right to the location of the type of bulb I was looking for.  I have to admit I was impressed.

When someone walks in the door at your church and asks where the children’s area is, I bet your greeter dutifully points them in the right direction.  Let’s get them to be an advocate and walk the visitors to the children’s area and on the way explain how the check in system works and let them know how much the teachers love kids.

A greeter smiles, an advocate engages you

A good greeter will actually give you an authentic smile and a warm hand shake.  An advocate will not only do that but they will also look you in the eye, introduce themselves, ask a little about you and then assist you with whatever you need.

A greeter makes you feel welcome; an advocate makes you feel at home.

A good greeter who is genuine will make you feel welcome.  An advocate is unequally positioned to make you feel comfortable and at home.  Often its little things, like them asking where you live only to find out that your neighbors are best friends with the advocate.

Perhaps its finding out your kids have the same teacher at school, or it could be a number of other things.  The important thing is that there was a connection made, some common ground, friends or experience.  That is exactly what makes people feel comfortable and at home.

Your assignment.
Go fire your greeters and rehire and retrain them as advocates.  Advocates of every person who walks thru the door at your church.  If you do this, I think you will be surprised at how quickly new people will feel cared for and want to keep coming back.