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Church Architecture
By: Michael D. Barnes

Though the process of designing and building a new church can be rewarding for both the pastor and the congregation, it can be very challenging, as well. The following are five of the most commonly asked questions by church leaders.

What is the most important aspect of church building?
Of all the aspects of church design and building to consider, perhaps the most important aspect is vision. Vision for the local church starts in the throne room of God. That vision is communicated by God directly to the pastor and then to the leadership of the church. It is the architect's responsibility to come under this "umbrella of spiritual authority" in order to design something that truly reflects the vision that God has for His people. 

The scriptures tell us in Proverbs 29:18 that, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."  Vision is critical in the local church today. The church architect plays an instrumental role in capturing the vision and communicating it to the church.

What is the most important aspect of vision in the local church?
There are two aspects regarding vision when evaluating the design and building process of a new church: capturing and casting the vision. 

Capturing the vision is the architect's responsibility, whereby he must listen carefully and align his design talents with the needs of the local church. Quality church architecture flows from ministry needs and is always ministry-based. By listening carefully to the needs of the church and by continuous prayer through the design process, the architect can capture the vision.

Then it is the church architect's responsibility to "cast" that vision to the church. Currently, there are many computer programs that allow the architect to provide computer 3D animations directly to the church. A carefully designed project that is communicated to the church with 3D computer models can be extremely effective in casting the vision to the people. The architect's goal is quite simple. Architects are able to help you see beyond what you currently have. However, Christian architects are able to help you envision so much more as they approach a building project of any size from a ministry-driven stance, relying on God for His vision and direction.

How do you keep the congregation actively engaged and enthusiastic throughout the building process?
Buy-in is critical for the local church. Too often, a church architect will stand before a church after he has presented a design only to hear this statement from a majority of the congregation: "Nobody asked me! I guess this is something the preacher always wanted to do!"

The casting of the vision should not be the first time the church meets the architect. It is critically important that the architect get with the church well prior to the actual design.

This is possible in a number of ways. Perhaps the most effective is to hold design sessions during weeknights, which allow typical parishioners to come in and meet with the church and the architect to discuss their ministry and its needs. It is the architect's role at that point to listen and embrace the needs of the church. The ultimate relationship between the architect and the parishioners is not formed at the end of the project, but rather at the beginning, when the architect turns a listening ear to the hurts and needs. In this way, buy-in almost always occurs and will result in the congregation feeling a part of the process.

Does architectural style matter when designing a new church building?
The buildings and architectural style of the local church today express the identification and personality of the church. The type of architecture can clearly provide an element of identification. The personality, mission, vision, and styles of worship can be expressly communicated through design. The actual design of the building structures can, in fact, speak volumes regarding the identity of the church worshipping within the building. Your building is a kingdom tool. Make it work for you!

Is there spiritual depth rooted beneath the building process or is it simply about lines on a piece of paper?
Though it takes bricks and mortar to build a church facility, the process is about so much more than just physical building materials. It is a definitive spiritual process. 

Jeremiah 29:11 says the following, "For I know the plans I have for you." God knows the plans He has for the local church but those plans are based on ministry. If a church architect cannot "maximize your ministry," then perhaps you have selected the wrong architect or it might not be your exact time to build. Church facilities should always be ministry-based. 

It is very simple when boiled down to a few principles. Identify the hurts in the community by looking out. Then, identify your needs by looking in at your current facilities. Look up as you embrace vision and look forward to embrace the solution. 

All church design and church buildings should be ministry-based. When the church understands that each individual space and each individual building within your facility is based on God's purpose for your church and the ministry He has laid upon your hearts, they immediately understand that it is not about the architecture of merely bricks and mortar. More specifically, it is about the ministry that will take place once the facilities are designed and built. Walk the walk, claim the scriptures, and watch the salvation of our Lord. Embark upon the spiritual journey and enjoy it. For when the journey is complete, the result will be many salvations in the Kingdom of God.

Michael D. Barnes, A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B., is a church architect, design specialist, and chief executive officer of Barnes Design Group, www.BarnesDesignGroup.com.

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