Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Old Church Buildings Are the Best

There is something about worship in modern church buildings that throws me off. To me nothing can replace the sacred space feel of an older church. It is not the moldy smells, Tiffany windows, or stained wooden beams that help me forget the cares of the world when I settle into a pew. There is something about spaces in which generation after generation have sat in the pews, knelt, prayed, sung hymns, were baptized, confirmed, married, and cried tears of joy at such events as well tears of sadness at others.

Having visited a few "auditorium, stadium seating, and praise band" spaces so popular with the megachurch crowd, I have to guess that young people don't leave with the same empty feeling that I do.

But maybe they don't know what they are missing because a Barna Group study in 2014 seemed to suggest that "millennials" secretly desire a classic, quiet sanctuary, albeit a "modern" one (I guess they don't appreciate a little moldy smell).

If you click on the Barna Group link, you can see the visual images that were most appealing to those surveyed.

“It’s tempting to oversimplify the relationship between Millennials and sacred space,” says Clint Jenkin, Ph.D., vice president of research at Barna Group and the lead designer of this study. “For instance, it might be easy to believe such a place needs to look ultra modern or chic to appeal to teens and young adults. But the reality, like so much about this generation, is more complicated—refreshingly so. Most Millennials don’t look for a church facility that caters to the whims of pop culture. They want a community that calls them to deeper meaning.” 
“There are myriad ways to design sacred and communal spaces that call people of all ages to deeper relationships with God, self and others.” Jenkin continues. “No two churches will (or should) incorporate them all in the same way. There is no cookie-cutter, mass-production solution for welcoming Millennials to your space.” But, Jenkin says, there are questions your community can keep in mind as you build to include the whole church body. He suggests gathering your leaders—and key members of your church body, including Millennials—to discuss questions such as the following: 
  • How do our facilities present visual cues? Can people easily answer the questions “Where am I?” and “What’s expected of me?”
  • How do our facilities offer respite from the outside world? Can people find a place of peace that is accessible and comfortable?
  • How do our facilities connect to Christian history and traditions? What symbols or design elements evoke a sense of the sacred and tell the story of God’s actions in the world?
  • How do our facilities integrate elements of nature? How can we bring the outside in and take the inside out?

Alas, the one factor that the Barna Group did not include was the element that I noted in my opening paragraph. Of course they could not include it because it is a feeling that cannot be reproduced by architecture or interior design. It is something that can only be conveyed through the lives and prayers of those who have gone before.

Old church buildings are the best, so do the best to make your new church building old through prayer, worship, singing hymns, and spreading the Gospel.

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