School, mall or prison?

5 comments Written on September 19th, 2008     
Filed under: Articles, Style of Worship, Visual Arts
Tags: ,

I knew it! The unchurched do not prefer secular looking church buildings to sacred looking church buildings. In fact, according to a survey (and who can argue with a survey?) non church goers would prefer to attend church in a sacred looking building. Read this short article, and tell me what you think.

Dave and I were with some friends who are secular humanists. (That’s what they call themselves.) We were driving to dinner with them, and we passed a church building. Our friend asked, “Why do churches now build these buildings that look like schools, malls or prisons?

Why do we?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

5 comments “School, mall or prison?”

Read the article and appreciated the cautions of Jim Couchenour.

I certainly can’t answer for all the factors or motives that go into the construction of all the buildings constructed by congregations across this nation. I suppose cost is one factor. Aesthetics is certainly an issue in some if not many decision processes. Cultural assumptions probably play some part in design, interior and exterior (this is what a ‘church’ is supposed to look like!). I suppose congregations that design buildings to look like schools, malls or prisons (!?) are responding to some survey somewhere that says churchy looking church buildings put off the unchurched.

I do know in at least one case it came down to pure economics- it was simply cheaper to build the prefab mall-like building than to go for a distinctive and unique design. That church still has a growing discipling outreach and strong community building church culture and the style of the building doesn’t seem to have had any affect other than to give them more space to do ministry.

I’m thinking each congregation makes it’s decision based on some since of what would honor the Lord in their situation. How does one then judge that? I guess that would be my response to your friends… leaving them to wonder about this strange group of people who would make decisions on such a basis.

Report This Comment

I’m pretty sure it was Scot McNight who said that if you look at the architecture of church buildings, there are “holiness” churches and there are “love” churches.

When I was living in Chicago, I belonged to a multi-site church, and our location was in a “churchy” looking church, but the central location was in what used to be a dental plant (that’s right, folks, a place where they used to manufacture dentures). It’s a wonder we got along, which such different buildings and the inherent theological implications! 🙂

Report This Comment

I have been working on “sacred space” issues since my sabbatical leave in 2000 and have just finished a manuscript on the topic. We hunger for the “transcendent” but our architecture (modern and evangelical) is driven by utilitarianism (bang for buck and maximize square footage). Doug Paggitt told me some years ago that we have replaced the beauty of vertical transcendence with the horizontal blast of electronic speakers.

Report This Comment

Its not the building that nonchurched are repulsed by. There is clearly a revival in seeking spirituality. Churchy buildings do create a feeling of the divine far more than a sterile box building. Does that make it a requirement, of course not. But, I would challenge the Church to stop being a business and return to being the body of Christ. IMO

Report This Comment

What do you think Troy, conditioned reflex

Is there anywhere that we are told what type of architecture “creates a feeling of the divine”? Seems we are back to culturally defined stuff here… God had no buildings for a REALLY long time and then he had the newly delivered Israelites make him a tent. Latter he let one of their kings build a more permanent building… and if i read my history right when these structures became significant in and of themselves the Lord had no problem letting them be destroyed… the discussion of space – what is sacred and what is not with regards to architecture – needs to be handled with humility…

Report This Comment

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog