Why Churches are creating lifestyle settings

By: David Price, AIA  

To achieve successful church environments, it is best to look at what I like to describe as the "script" and the "storytelling."
A "script" is a guideline for developing ministry, which may also transform the building's design. In this context, design is not a noun (solid and decorative), as is often the case in architecture. Rather, it is a verb (active and creative), shaping an environment, which invites dialogue and participation. And a scripted environment makes for genial, friendly places where communities gather for worship, fellowship, and celebration.
Today, successful churches are exploring new architectural scripts. Church campuses are evolving into recreation and entertainment environments with worship and support facilities appealing to the surrounding communities. A good "script" presents the "church experience" in a way that relates to peoples' lives and spiritual sensibilities. This implies a need for great diversity of activities and facilities. The "scripting" of a church environment might include any of the following: Senior housing; conference and banquet center; food court and coffee house; church store; youth recreation center; counseling, prayer, and crisis center; elementary and secondary schools; sports park; community theater; worship center and chapel; and memorial garden. A key ingredient is a social infrastructure, which invites and induces fellowship in many forms: indoor and outdoor, formal and informal, expansive yet intimate.
Lately, themed design or "storytelling" has also become a common component in scripting your design. In the hands of a talented design team, a sense of place can be created through a unique environmental theme. Shopping centers, restaurants, theme parks, to name a few, are creating themed environments, which attract customers and keep them there longer. Walt Disney encouraged his design team to "always tell them (the guest) a story when you entertain, enlighten or feed them." His vision transformed the theme park into an entirely new form of family entertainment. Successful churches are not blind to this credo. The careful selection and combination of design themes can result in a range of powerful images; and, hence, identity. A dedicated or themed environment is a powerful tool that has the effect of immersing the guest into a special place -- what planners like to call PTB's (places to be).
The scripting and storytelling approach to church campus development offers a better, more dynamic approach to mission and outreach. The end game is more than just good design, it may promise better ministry.

  • Do you have the right "script" for your church and its mission?
  • What story are you telling?
  • Consider conducting informal workshops for developing a "script" that works for you.

ChurchWorks is a design firm that designs church buildings that embrace creative ideas for expanded mission and foster friendlier and more inviting environments. If you have any ideas or questions you wish addressed in this column, contact David Price at (714) 832-1722, by fax at (714) 832-0738, or by email at dapainc@sbcglobal.net.

Third Quarter 2001 - PAGE 22- Strategies for Today's Leader - www.strategiesfortoday.org

©2001-2006 David A. Price Architects, Inc., all rights reserved