Monday, February 8, 2016

What Does Your Church Lobby Say About Your Church?

My church is in the process of completing a renovation project that primarily focuses on the lobby/foyer. Our current lobby space was insufficient for the amount of foot traffic it was experiencing. When the space was originally built it was designed to be used to move people from outside into the worship center or another parts of the building. Not a bad use of space but it posed several problems as the church has grown.
  • People wanted to have conversations outside of the worship center. The space was too small to allow that to happen.
  • With multiple services people were entering and leaving from this area.
  • Senior adults and families with preschoolers had to use this same space to get to their classrooms.
Over the last couple years our church's growth has slowed. The numbers of our first time guests each Sunday is consistent or even growing. However, the number of people who were joining the church was not keeping up. We read books like “Sticky Church.” We took the Reveal Church survey several times and changed some systems accordingly. But one thing we noted is that people were having a problem getting into a small group. Those who had been here for a while were able to navigate without noticing the dysfunctional space because the dysfunction was normal. We spent considerable time trying to understand what entering the church as a guest felt like. It did not take long for us to realize that we needed to change our lobby environment.

When I researched what size would be the  appropriate size lobby for our church the first document I found came from LifeWay. In a document called “Rules of Thumb: Space and Dimension Recommendations” that stated that if the lobby was just used for the worship center it should be 1 ½ - 2 ½ square feet per seat in the worship center. If the lobby served the worship center and the education space, then it should be 15 to 25 percent of the worship center area  When I read this I was shocked because according to the LifeWay numbers our lobby size was sufficient. As I continued to research I found very little in the way of information about how large a lobby should be.

I have been to many churches, some healthy and many not. One thing I found was that growing churches typically had a large lobby. These lobbies consisted of a square footage that was similar or greater than the square footage in the worship center.  As a result of this and much prayer, we cast a vision to the church that we needed a lobby that reflected our desire as a church to help people connect with each other and God.  Our current project will be completed soon and will have a lobby that is about the same size as our worship space. The furnishings (chairs and tables) are designed to promote conversation. We will have coffee available, not to be a Starbucks, but we have found that when you hold a cup of coffee in your hand you are more comfortable talking to someone you don’t know. The technology in the room will showcase different ministries, next step opportunities, and the different small groups that people can join. We want our new space to communicate to a first time guest that we want to get to know you and we have a plan for you to grow in your relationship with God.

The verdict is still out on how successful this will be but we have complete confidence that this is the right step for Canopy Roads Baptist Church and that God has guided this whole process. Here are some observations about lobby sizes in church.

1.    Churches need to be all about relationships because life change happens best within the context of relationships.
Is your lobby helping people form relationships? God is all about relationships and we should do whatever we can do to make sure our buildings are communicating to guests that we want them to be apart of the fellowship. If it feels crowded to you... imagine how crowded it feels to a guests.

2.    The first step into the building needs to be an engaging one not a confusing one.
What does your lobby say about your church? Is it informative, does it help people get around? Is it clean? Does it smell good?  Can they see where the preschoolers need to go? What about the bathrooms? Does the first step in the building encourage a first time guest to take a second step or regret the first one? Signage, technology, coffee, and greeting/hospitality teams are all key to creating an environment that helps people connect with your church and God.

3.    God works through coffee.
Yes... I know the theological weakness of that statement but I also know that throughout scripture, Jesus used food and beverage to breakdown walls that keep people from experiencing a relationship with him. It would make sense that our churches adopt a similar idea.Yes people spill things, but I would replace the carpet as much as needed if it would allow one person to make a step faith.

What A Bigger Lobby Looks Like At Canopy Roads Baptist Church
We run just under 500 on any given Sunday with larger crowds on holidays. We have two identical worship services. Before construction we had a worship center that could seat around 325. The worship center space was about 2800 square feet and a Lobby that was 900 Square Feet.

After the construction we will have a lobby that is 2366 Square Feet and a Worship Center that is ~2400 Square feet. We actually reduced that total square footage in the Worship area. There was some areas that were unusable space so we re-purposed those areas for our online streaming ministry.  

What has been your experience? How has the lobby size of your church affected your experience?  Our goal is to help people connect and stay connected so we can all become more fully devoted followers of Christ. Our prayer is that after this project, our lobby we be helping us with that goal!