There is no rulebook for designing a house of worship. Churches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, serving congregations ranging from single digits to thousands. While each congregation has different needs and ideologies, they typically share a common goal: to create safe and engaging houses of worship for members of all ages.
Even though most churches have dedicated worship spaces for members to attend services, many congregations struggle to support their youngest attendees. As a result, worship facilities without adequate children’s and youth spaces often face declining membership and lower engagement rates. With that in mind, children’s spaces have become a priority in attracting families and growing religious communities.
So what’s the best approach to address this need? Religious design expert Carson Durham says, “Build for the youngest child and oldest adult.” Sounds easy right? To make your life easier, the BLDD team of religious design experts has compiled a few best practices to ensure your spaces are age-appropriate, engaging, safe environments for kids to learn, grow, and worship.
1. Create Age-Appropriate Spaces
Children’s spaces should be welcoming and comforting for both children and their parents. One way to achieve this is by having an easily identifiable kid’s zone near the main entrance.
The 26,000 sq. ft. children’s wing addition at West Side Christian Church in Springfield, IL features a clearly marked check-in area and hallway serving 3-year-olds to 3rd graders.
They have a colorful indoor playground outside of the Kids Zone that children can use before and after services. This provides a space for kids to interact with each other and build community within the church.
Bright colors differentiate the spaces by age group throughout the children’s wing. The colors serve as guideposts for parents and kids to ensure they’re going to the appropriate spaces.
Third graders learn much differently than Pre-K kids, so it is important to create separate classrooms and small group areas to accommodate the range of ages and learning styles. West Side’s children’s addition features a large group space, designed with “tents” for kids to break off into small groups and connect with the larger message through age-appropriate activities.
2. Prioritize Safety & Security
In today’s environment, it is critical to create spaces where parents feel comfortable leaving their children while they worship.
An essential feature when designing a children’s area is having the space contained with a one-way direction flow past the check-in area. Keeping the space contained creates a secondary circulation that is accessible to checked-in children only.
Vale Church in Bloomington, IL has created their children’s entry with a series of secure check-in tablets for drop-off. This system provides children with badges that ensure they get to the correct rooms and are only picked up by a trusted guardian.
3. Select a Theme
Centering your children’s spaces around a theme creates an eye-catching environment that attracts children and their families from the moment they enter the church.
A theme can help young minds create connections with the messages they are learning in fun and unique ways.
At Eastview Christian Church in Normal, IL each room has an age-appropriate theme and wall graphics that help children understand the scripture that is being taught. At Eastview, the learning environments provide a fun atmosphere and promote friendship.
4. Connect with the Community
Building community within the church is important for families and their children; however, it’s also important for churches to create connections with the community outside of church walls. These connections can be formed through multi-purpose spaces used for community events.
Eastview Chrisitan Church in Normal, IL needed more space for a growing congregation and the community. As a solution, they expanded and renovated current spaces to improve worship, teaching, and recreation venues.
A new multi-purpose gymnasium provides a worship space for junior high youth as well as a multi-court configuration for various sports events. An existing gym was redesigned for worship, performance, and gathering for area high school youth and provides a much-needed venue for weddings.
Having multipurpose facilities available to the community offers engaging spaces for families of all ages, while making the church more approachable to those who may have never been to a church before.
Attracting families and growing religious communities through children’s spaces and multipurpose spaces has become a goal for many churches. Are you ready to grow your children’s ministry space and community connections? Chat with Carson or one of our religious experts to learn more!
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