Strategize Your Space for the Post-Pandemic Church Experience | by Dave Milam and Nathan Elder 

Forward-thinking church design can signal respect and consideration. The right design is an investment in church growth.

The start of every new year always brings an avalanche of usual predictions about what the year will hold. This year is no exception. With COVID trailing behind like a dozen clanging cans tied behind a honeymooner's car, here are this year’s design trends forecast monumental change.

1. Healthy Density in Design

Ever notice that car dealerships always cluster together in the same part of town? You'd think that the cut-throat nature of auto sales might force dealers to build far away from the competition. Quite the contrary. Dealers know that a healthy density will bring people to their lot, and foot traffic sells cars. Build on an island, and they'd starve like a hungry castaway rubbing sticks together.

Church leaders are beginning to understand this principle. That's why in 2022, you'll see mixed-use development emerging to help activate dormant church property while also increasing monthly revenue to the bottom line.

Churches have discovered that the large moat of land surrounding their property doesn't increase foot traffic on Sunday mornings. It's actually a barrier to growth.

2. Cater Over Kitchen

With the surge of convenient food delivery services such as DoorDash, combined with a flood of ever-expanding health code regulations, it's time to reimagine hospitality within the church. The investment of installing a commercial kitchen can run you well into the six figures. Once you add ongoing maintenance plus operational cost, the return on investment often isn't worth the headache.

On the other hand, food trucks and catered meals offer alternative food service options and take up a fraction of valuable real estate. So, unless you plan to feed the fish and bread to 5,000 people every week, the best bang for your buck is simply a click away.

3. Church On Demand

From Instacart to instant coffee, the world is moving faster than ever, and the church has to keep up. So, this year, churches will begin building permanent studio spaces to create content that can be delivered on-demand with one turnkey operation.

With dedicated studio space, a church can now film, record, and stream endless amounts of content from kid's curriculum to leadership courses and broadcast it within minutes around the globe.

4. The Great Indoors

When the outside world blends with the interior landscape, it results in engaging environments where people feel comfortable and at home. These spaces promote a natural feeling of openness and a sense of community by seamlessly weaving the two worlds into one.

In 2022, you'll begin to see a blur of the lines between indoor and outdoor environments - especially in community spaces.

5. We're Bringing Techy Back

In a world where we are connected more than ever with products like Ring, Google, and Alexa, churches are starting to assess and implement technology solutions within their building design.

In 2022, you'll begin to see church push the tech boundaries with "smart" technology, remote child check-in, high-tech security systems, and LED everything.

6. Cyberspace and the Workplace

COVID has officially ended the era of cubicles, executive office suites for every staff member, and forty hours sitting at a desk. Before the pandemic, the office served as a functional place to push papers and hold meetings. But these days, they serve a different purpose: to create culture.

In a season where people literally don't "need" to come into work to get the job done, the workspace design is now taking a more attractional approach to entice employees to work onsite.

As a result, the workspace now stands at the epicenter of an organization's culture. So show me your workspace, and I'll tell you about your organization's culture.

7. The Coming Metaverse

Take a deep breath. There's a shiny new object on the horizon: the "metaverse." We are standing at the dawn of a brand new age in technology - like AOL in the 1990s.

The next 20 years will see an alternate reality where your grandchildren will spend most of their lives - the marriage of Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

If you don't understand what it is, go ahead are rewatch the Matrix a couple of times. Believe it or not, that's where we're headed.

The futurists among us are beginning to gobble up real estate in the metaverse to develop virtual campuses with a price tag of anywhere from $10K-$300K (no kidding).

As we barrel at break-neck speeds toward the inevitable new reality, "Human Experience Design" will become the main focus of the church design world. Not just creating functional environments for people to do the work of church, but space where users can have a brand new, safe, intuitive real-life experience.

8. Simple, Clean, and Spacious Design

In 2022, you'll continue to see a clean and straightforward design palette. Retail shops are reducing inventory, removing shelves, and expanding the size of the aisles. Americans are getting used to even more elbow room.

As a result, in 2022, you'll see an increase in the functional square footage requirement community space - high volumes of open area has become the norm.

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