Pandemic-Era Concepts for Connecting Your Church Building with the Community

One side effect of the pandemic has been the fragmentation of community connections. The unknown impact of COVID-19 caused many people to retreat to the safety of their homes and stop being involved in their communities. While COVID-19 is still around, there appears to be a strong public desire to reconnect. Your church building can be a prime tool for supporting community connections while helping people feel comfortable visiting your church. Here are some concepts we’ve encountered that are helping people stay involved and are allowing churches to minister to them.

Using Your Church Building as a Ministry Tool for Hungry People

We’ve heard many stories about faith leaders that opened a church building for food distribution during the pandemic. When people in communities across America lost their jobs, when businesses and restaurants closed down, churches and food banks stepped in to fill hungry bellies. While lately people have been able to go back to work, inflation is now making food harder for families to afford.

Food assistance is an important ministry, and it also provides a low-stress way to introduce visitors to your church building. When people learn that they can turn to the church to get food, upon visiting, they can see what else the church has to offer. They also become more familiar with being in a church building, making it easier for them to imagine returning on Sunday morning.

How Your Church Design Can Support Other Ministry Concepts

A church building can be more than a food distribution site. We are hearing about churches that are opening large indoor spaces, such as a gym or sanctuary, to create socially distanced learning opportunities for kids after school. For children in a community that don’t have internet access at home to do their homework or study online, a church building can become an after-school hub that makes children more comfortable on your church property.

There is also a need for daycare centers in many communities, and your church school classrooms might be just what someone needs to get a daycare started. Adults can also use the classrooms in your church building for job training. The rooms in your church design can also be used for community meetings and as staging areas for distribution of supplies, whether it’s blankets, socks, and underwear for the homeless or testing kits for community members. Churches can also serve as a COVID-19 testing site for your community if needed.

Remembering to Keep Everything Clean

Of course, these opportunities to increase community awareness of your church will come with certain costs. Every time people enter and use your church building for these community events, you will need to clean it afterward. But just seeing a clean church building can help people trust that they will be safe if they visit to worship. Presenting a clean, safe, and active church building will also help people feel involved and less attentive to pandemic issues.

Understanding the multiple ways that your church design can become an effective tool for ministry is one of our goals and part of the reason we created our free i3 webinar series. Register today for our next webinar to learn more creative ideas for meeting your ministry needs.

2022-04-26T20:10:41+00:00 April 26th, 2022|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Church Design Features for Health Safety

While the world becomes more comfortable living with the social and health demands of the pandemic, many still ponder the safety of where they should go in in person. This means that church leaders need to be thinking proactively about church design features that will help guests and attendees feel comfortable when returning to in-person church activities. If they know that they can navigate the church building in relative safety and comfort, they will likely worship more often.

Focusing on Touchless Doorways in Your Church Design

If people don’t have to touch a surface, then you don’t have to clean that surface as frequently, and you can worry less about germ spread. Therefore, touchless features are one obvious element of church design that improves pandemic safety. For example, consider the main doors to your church building. This is one place where everyone touches the door handle, unless, of course, the doors open automatically. It is possible to retrofit most existing doors with a motion sensor and automatic door opener. This allows everyone to enter your church building without touching a handle at all.

You may have also noticed that some public spaces today have restrooms where you walk around a corner to enter the space, without having to open a door. (Airports are one example, where the lack of a door makes maneuvering luggage easier.) If there isn’t space in your existing church design to add such a feature, then another option is for your restroom doors to open outward and if possible don’t latch. That way, people leaving the restroom can use a kickplate or push the door with their foot or elbow.  If your doors open inward there is a foot pull that you can use to open an unlatched door with your foot.

Other Touchless Safety Features to Consider

Touchless features in restrooms are increasingly becoming standard to flush toilets and urinals and dispense soap and water for washing hands. Water fountains are another place where safety is a concern, so we’re seeing many churches adding bottle fillers to existing water fountains or replacing them entirely with touchless bottle fillers. Also, some building codes now require occupancy sensors that turn off lights when rooms aren’t in use. You can program these to turn lights on as well, meaning that no one needs to touch a light switch in your church building.

Another feature that helps guests feel safe in your church building is a good set of signs. Having informative wayfinding signs throughout your church property is a way for people to navigate without having to worry about talking to too many people or wandering into room after room, perhaps touching doorknobs as they go.

The Importance of Natural Light in Your Church Building

Studies show that natural light is helpful in killing viruses, which is one more reason to enhance the natural light in your church design. Natural light makes a room warmer, more friendly, and open feel, which also means people will feel safer.

We are also integrating more outdoor spaces into church designs, such as larger patios and gathering spaces. This provides church leaders with more flexibility, when the weather is good, for fellowship outside or even hold a service outside in the open air.

With these and other options, the pandemic is providing us with opportunities to look at church design from different perspectives. This is part of what we provide in our free i3 webinar series, so we encourage you to sign up here for our upcoming webinars.

2022-04-19T19:37:17+00:00 April 19th, 2022|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Children’s Area Church Safety Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly

It’s easy to presume that church safety is going to look like a fortress, but that doesn’t have to be true. Security doesn’t have to be ugly. Here are some examples of how attractive the check-in desk for the children’s area in your church building can be, while keeping children safe and happy in a space that’s clearly designed for them.

Choosing Thematic Check-in Desks

One option, as you can see here, is to deck out the desk with a dramatic and colorful theme, such as Noah’s Ark, the Reign Forest (get it? Rain/Reign Forest), or the Sea of Galilee. With the Sea of Galilee, the check-in desk itself has become a ship, while the setting is laid out in colorful artwork that extends up the walls, which show the sea itself. Kids and parents are standing on the deck of a ship when they check in, enhancing the sense of adventure while providing security.

With the Reign Forest, a fountain and set of tropical trees behind the check-in desk do the same job of drawing kids into the experience of entering a rain forest, while the check-in desk itself serves as a visual barrier. You know you’re not supposed to go beyond the desk unless you’ve checked in, so it’s an effective design that is still user-friendly as well.

A Check-in Church Design with Bright Colors and Clear Views

In this photo, the bright colors clearly indicate this is the children’s area of the church building, without any need for a theme. The check-in desk curves around, creating a visual block to prevent anyone from proceeding further without checking in. Another advantage to this design is that all the classroom doors are visible from the check-in area, and that the doors have windows, which keeps everyone inside the rooms accountable and easily visible from outside.

Creating a Hard Barrier to Keep Children Safe in Your Church Building

If you want to create a hard barrier, rather than a visual barrier, you can choose a check-in desk design like this one. There is no way to gain access to the classrooms beyond without being granted access by staff at the check-in desk. This is for a preschool area, which means all the children will fit through these small doors—and probably love that the doors are sized just for them.

As with the last example, the doors to all classrooms are visible from the check-in counter, and there are windows in the wall of each classroom as well, which improves visibility, and therefore security. This increased level of church safety can increase parents’ peace of mind.

Church safety doesn’t have to be obvious, or ugly. Whether it’s the children’s area of your church building or the foyer and café area of your church design, creative, colorful, and attractive options are available to make your church building appealing to children and comforting to their parents. We think carefully about every aspect of your church design, which is why we regularly share free i3 webinars that help you see what’s possible in today’s church building environment. To learn more, register for our next webinar today!

2021-08-31T19:02:13+00:00 August 31st, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Options for External Security of Your Church Building

Making the exterior areas of a church building safe and secure should be a priority in a church design, but that doesn’t mean making the church exterior look like a fortress instead of a welcoming place to worship. It’s very possible to incorporate many security elements into a modern church design in ways that are both seamless and effective. Here are some suggestions and photo examples from a new church building project.

Let There Be Light

Of course, one of the most important considerations for the outside of your church building is good lighting. All parking areas should be well-lit, and there should be no dark spaces around the perimeter of your church building where someone could hide. If you’re concerned about the cost of electricity, we recommend installing motion detectors, and you can also use timers for lights in certain parts of the property when you know meetings or evening events will be taking place.

Keeping an Eye on Everything Around Your Church Building

Cameras are another obvious element in a modern church safety system. At a minimum, we recommend installing security cameras at each entrance to your church building, as well as covering all outdoor areas such as parking lots, playgrounds, and athletic fields. We also recommend placing windows in strategic locations of your church design to allow receptionists and security staff to have a clear view of who is coming and going from your church building.

In the top photo of this recent church design, you can see a series of windows which face out into the parking lot. These windows are for staff offices and the last one, closest to the doors, is by the reception desk. This allows staff clear sightlines to the entire parking lot and the approach area to the front doors of the building. The receptionist can also electronically unlock the front door from their desk once they’ve identified the visitor.

Having a Clear View on Church Safety

The other thing you can see from these pictures of the façade of this church design is that there is a lot of transparency around the church foyer. This allows guests to easily see what’s happening inside and feel more comfortable about entering your church building. It also allows the security team to keep an eye on who is heading toward the doors, so they can respond if something doesn’t look right.

In another post, we have discussed the idea of “building hardening,” which uses bulletproof glass, blast resistance, and decorative physical barriers to prevent someone from shooting or driving a vehicle into your church building. While we haven’t included those in a church design, they are an option that could be considered if exterior church safety concerns are a priority for your community.

While we don’t specialize in security system design, there are basic elements that can effectively be included in your exterior church design to maximize security without taking on the appearance of a fortress. To learn all of our latest ideas about church design, sign up for our free i3 webinars. We also address your questions live when you attend a webinar, so register today.

2021-08-24T20:19:51+00:00 August 24th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Controlling Access to Your Church Building: Another Element of Safety and Security

Controlling building access is another key element of church safety. It’s important to limit and even track who has entry to which parts of your church building and at what times.

The good news is that changes in recent years have made the process much easier. Security used to be handled by humans responding to push-button audio-only greetings, tracking entrances and exits with paper logs. Now, much more refined and useful options are available. Here are some church safety best practices for controlling access to your church building.

Beginning with RFID

One of the cornerstone elements to new church safety technology is RFID. This acronym stands for radio-frequency identification. With this technology, digital data is programmed into RFID tags that can be scanned by a reader via radio waves. Each unique tag transmits data that can be stored in a database for later retrieval and reporting. Also, unlike older barcode scanning, there’s no need for a perfect alignment, which makes it easy for anyone to use an RFID tag.

Why Use RFID to Improve Church Safety?

RFID can be specifically programmed for each individual user. This means you can arrange to allow someone into your church building at only certain times of the day and/or particular days of the week. This allows you to prevent Sunday morning nursery volunteers from entering the children’s areas during the week, when you have a preschool program running with paid teachers and different church safety rules and regulations in place.

You can also separate your overall church design into different zones and implement RFID locking systems on interior doors. This allows you to limit access to certain areas of your church building. In this way, it’s easy to prevent band leaders from entering your children’s area, while still allowing them to enter the church building and access the worship space early on Sunday to set up, or to come over for a midweek rehearsal while that preschool program is happening in another part of your church complex.

Another advantage of RFID is having a built-in record of everyone who comes and goes from each area of your church building. This way, you can track who actually uses your church building, and be able to confirm who was in the building if there’s a church safety incident, such as a theft or vandalism.

Thinking Beyond RFID in Your Church Building

Of course, there’s more to church safety access than just RFID. Guests need to gain access to your church building as well. Instead of relying on those voice-only doorbells, you can now use the same kind of sophisticated video doorbell systems that so many of us use in our homes. Since these are set up on a wi-fi system, they’re easy to install at any stage in your church design or long after construction is finished.

You can also integrate a wired camera system in your church building during the church design phase. Everything can be monitored and controlled from a central security office. We also integrate magnetic lock systems into many church designs these days. They can be programmed to automatically release when they sense motion detection (allowing for quick escape should a fire erupt) or engaged to prevent entry to unauthorized parts of your church building.

As you can see, there are some excellent options for controlling access to your church building today. To keep up with the latest smart ideas for your church design, sign up today for our forthcoming free i3 webinars, where we discuss the latest innovations and answer your questions.

2021-08-17T19:32:36+00:00 August 17th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Best Church Safety Practices for the Public Areas in Your Church Design

Church leaders may recognize the need to focus on church safety when designing the public areas of a new church building. But being able to imagine how that might work can be hard. That’s why we are sharing a specific church design schematic that can help you to see and understand how church safety can fit seamlessly into the public areas of your church building.

An Example of Safety in Church Design

This church design drawing shows the entrance and public-facing areas of one of our recent projects. The entrance to the building is at the top of this closeup from their overall church design. You can see there are multiple doors and plenty of glass, both for transparency about what’s happening inside the rooms, and easy viewing from both exterior and interior. It’s easy for guests to see that there are already other people in the building, which can help them feel safer as they walk in.

Another very helpful safety element is the location of the restrooms. When guests walk in, the doors to those restrooms are straight ahead of them and easily visible. This will feel safer for guests than having to walk around a corner or down a hallway into another part of the building. Finally, the doors to the worship center (which is directly below the bottom of this portion of the church design) are right next to the restrooms, again making it easy for guests to figure out where they need to go.

Visibility of Welcome Counter and Church Safety Team and Office

You can also see in the schematic that we’ve placed the information and welcome center directly in front of those restroom and worship center doors. This also directs guests’ eyes toward these important elements in your church design, while also providing a subtle hint that there are people keeping watch as well as answering questions. People stationed at this welcome center also can easily see down both side corridors, which lead to the restricted children’s area. This makes it easy to keep an eye on anyone who might be going where they don’t belong.

The security office is also strategically located to support church safety concerns. It’s located on the right, just below the bookstore and next to the nursery. The big window on the side of the office faces the foyer, so security team members can see everything from the entrance doors and foyer area to the worship center doors, welcome center, and children’s area corridors. They can even see out into the parking lot from that vantage point.

Limiting Access to Other Areas of Your Church Building

Finally, these various church safety aspects quietly but clearly make it more difficult for anyone to move beyond the public areas of this church building without being seen by welcome center and security team members. This goes a long way to discourage unwanted security events in your church building.

Notice how all of these elements help to do two things. First, they make it clear to guests and attendees that church safety matters. The presence of security team members is easy to see, especially if they are identified with a lanyard or name badge. Second, the security team doesn’t detract from the overall welcoming feel of the open foyer, with its café, bookstore, seating areas, and well-thought-out church design.

To learn more about well-designed church building options, register for our upcoming free i3 webinars, which we offer to help make it easier to see and understand all the important elements of your new church building.

2021-08-10T12:31:00+00:00 August 10th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Why Your Church Needs a Comprehensive Church Safety and Security Plan

As we continue with some posts on the elements of church safety, it should be clear that your church building plays a role in any safety and security plan. But simply following the International Building Code with your church design isn’t enough.

Your church building can only go so far in protecting people. You need more. For example, you need security teams. You need trained staff and volunteers who know what to do when security issues arise, or parents raise church safety questions about their children’s health and safety. You also need a comprehensive plan.

How Many Churches Have an Active Church Safety and Security Ministry?

It probably seems like a no-brainer that a church should have a thorough and well-documented plan for church safety and security, but not that many do. Here are some statistics.

According to data published by SurveyUSA in 2019, it turns out that only one in four churches today has an active security ministry. That’s just 25%. Yet 86% of regular church attendees feel it’s important that their church leaders and volunteers are professionally trained to prepare for an active threat. Furthermore, 73% of these faithful people say that their place of worship is completely unprepared to handle an active security threat.

Why Does This Matter?

Here’s another surprising statistic. 45% of people would go to worship services more often if they knew church safety and security systems were in place. This means almost half of the people in your community would be more likely to show up at your church building if they could be confident that they would be safe and secure while they are there. That’s a lot of people that could be joining you on Sunday mornings, if you invest in making church safety a priority.

How Can You Improve the Church Safety Ministry in Your Church Building?

Here’s one last statistical finding that provides some hope for church leaders who wonder about the costs involved in setting up a church safety and security ministry in your church building. The good news is that 63% of survey respondents would be willing to donate to help cover the costs associated with putting a security program in place. This means that almost two-thirds of the people worshipping with you each Sunday are likely willing to make an investment in keeping your church building, and everyone in it, safe and secure.

We encourage church leaders to have conversations about church safety and security. When you make it a priority, you are more likely to get that financial assistance. Once you have a comprehensive plan in place, word will spread in the community and more people are likely to feel comfortable coming to your church building on Sunday mornings.

So, how do you go about putting together an effective church safety and security team? We’re so glad you asked! We will cover that in our next article on this topic. Meanwhile, we suggest you check out our upcoming free i3 webinars, where not only do we address church safety issues like this, but also provide other important information about church building and design issues.

2021-08-03T18:24:14+00:00 August 3rd, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Church Building Security Guidelines for Keeping Children and Youth Safe

While we are not safety and security experts, or ministry and programming professionals, we know how important it is to keep people of all ages safe and secure while they’re in your church building. And when it comes to children and youth, there are some church safety considerations to make. Here are some important security guidelines for children and youth ministries in—and beyond—your church building.

Have and Use Proven Policies for Children and Youth Ministry

First and foremost, it’s critical to have current and proven children and youth security policies in place and to use them. Those policies should include elements like background checks for all staff and volunteers who work with children and youth, as well as zero tolerance for inappropriate touching and other issues, social media guidelines for communicating with youth or posting and identifying photos of children, and so forth. Fortunately, many insurance companies and denominational bodies have model policy templates that church leaders can use to craft wise policies for their own children and youth ministries.

Maintain Appropriate Adult Presence at All Times

Many of the important security protocols for children and youth ministry involve the presence of adults. Children and youth should never be left alone in your church building—or anywhere on your property. There should be a minimum of two approved adults always present at every event involving youth or children. Remember that visits by children to other areas of your church building, such as the restrooms, should also be carefully monitored.

Also, whenever a group leaves your church building for an approved or official church event, make sure an appropriate number (two or more) of chaperones are in attendance. It’s important to note that half of all church security and safety incidents involving youth and children take place off church property, and only a quarter take place within the church building itself. This is one reason why approved chaperones are so important to keep your youngest attendees safe.

Concentrate on Visibility and Awareness in Your Church Building

Another way to keep youth and children safe is by having the right mindset. Visibility is important, whether it’s volunteers who are sitting at the children’s ministry check-in desk, or roaming security team members who remind everyone to be on their best and safest behavior. For the same reason, unannounced drop-ins to youth and children’s events are another way to make certain that all is well and security procedures are being followed appropriately.

Also, train all staff and volunteers to recognize signs of abuse and tell them to keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look right. (Remember that it’s not your job to investigate any suspicions, but rather to report them to authorities so that they can be investigated by professionals.)

There’s much that goes on in your church building that needs your careful attention. Whether for safety and security or the latest trends in church design, to learn more about what we recommend in terms of your church building needs, sign up for our next free i3 webinar today.

2021-07-27T21:40:07+00:00 July 27th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|

Exceeding the Safety Basic Requirements for Your Church Building

The International Building Code (IBC) helps ensure a minimum level of safety for any building. However, the building code is meant to be a baseline. There are times when church leaders make a conscious choice to exceed those safety basics with their church design. There are also times where you may be required to exceed the basics because of the types of activities that take place in your church building.

Going Above and Beyond with Your Church Design

There are some straightforward ways that church leaders choose to exceed the safety basics required by code. Some can be very simple and not overly expensive. For example, we have worked on church designs that voluntarily included extra smoke detectors.

Some church leaders go much farther. We’ve had conversations with a few of them about installing automatic sprinkler systems because of safety concerns, something that can be a pretty expensive addition. But it’s also an added investment in the safety of everyone who enters your church building.

Incorporating Emergency Evacuation Shelters into Your Church Design

Another area where more churches are going beyond the basics is with storm shelters, although in some areas and situations these may be required. One type of shelter is the emergency evacuation shelter. This is a place where people can gather for safety after a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, winter storm, or other significant event has left them without shelter. To prepare for events like this, you would need to install backup generators, showers, sometimes commercial kitchens, and open spaces in your church building (without fixed furniture) that can be used as gathering spaces and for sleeping.

Does Your Church Building Need a True Storm Shelter?

Another type of storm shelter is one that can withstand the storm itself and provide a safe refuge for people as the storm comes through. These types of shelters are more durable and expensive. They are also required by the IBC (and thus in most states) for many types of buildings, including some new educational facilities. This is important for church leaders to understand.

In some states, the storm shelter requirement applies to all educational facilities, including schools within a new church facility. However, there are exceptions for daycare facilities and “occupancies that are accessory to religious worship.” This means that if you just hold Sunday school classes or small groups in your church building on Sundays, you don’t need to have a storm shelter in place. However, if you have any sort of school, anything from preschool through twelfth grade, you may need to include a dedicated storm shelter that can safely hold all occupants of the entire building. (Of course, every state makes its own decisions regarding storm shelters. For example, Ohio has been delaying the implementation of storm shelter requirements for three or four years.)

What does this mean? That space must have increased roof strength and wall structural design. It must have multiple exits, minimal windows, and be fire separated from the rest of the building. It must have emergency power for light and ventilation for up to two hours, through a generator or battery system. This storm shelter also has to have its own restrooms and first aid station, and many other very specific details. Schools typically combine storm shelters with other big spaces like the cafeteria or a gymnasium (since locker rooms contain restrooms and showers).

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to safety for your church building. We know such building code requirements are not top-of-mind for most church leaders. This is why we implemented our free i3 webinars—to help you understand what’s involved in creating a safe church design and constructing a safe church building. Sign up for our next i3 webinar today!

2021-07-20T20:29:58+00:00 July 20th, 2021|Church Building, Church Design, Safety, Security|

Get a Clear View on Church Safety with These Church Building Exterior Examples

Church security is an important component of the best church experience, for both guests and attendees. In one of our free i3 webinars, we took an in-depth look at many elements of church safety, from hardening the church building exterior to protecting internal children’s areas. Many of those elements have been presented here in our blog.

One theme emerges from all these church safety components; they can seamlessly and beautifully be incorporated into a church design. As we conclude our church safety series, here are some church building examples which illustrate the ability of an aesthetically pleasing design to dually serve a safety purpose.

Choosing Church Building User-Friendliness

Many church leaders are opting to keep the exterior of their church building focused on user-friendliness. This first example is from a Florida church design we recently completed. You can see it has a car canopy to protect attendees on rainy days, and lots of natural light flowing into the foyer on sunny days. The leaders of this church do allow people and cars to come right up to the building, in contrast with some church safety recommendations, but a bright foyer allows their security team to keep a good eye on everyone coming into the church building.

Choosing a Strategically Located Second Exit for Church Safety

In this second example, from another recent McKnight Group church design, you see again that lots of light comes into the building from the glass-walled front entryway. This allows people to see what’s going on in the foyer area of the church building. A second entryway with a car canopy is visible on the left side of the lower image. This is certainly convenient for the elderly and parents with young children, who can get into the church building quickly on days with rain or snow.

There’s a second reason for this canopy-covered entrance which is specifically related to church safety. In this particular design, the hallway which leads to this entrance is where the church security and medical offices are located. This allows security teams to direct ambulances to the entrance that’s closest to the medical office, without disturbing other guests and attendees by pulling up to the front entrance of the church building.

Choosing a Church Design that Welcomes Guests

In these final examples, you can see that church leaders have opted for lots of light in the front facades of each church building. Both buildings have tall sections of the foyer filled with glass. This makes it easy for guests to see that people are gathered in this church building. When they see that lights are on and people are inside, they know that this is a safe church building for them to visit. All that glass also makes it easier for Sunday volunteers and weekday receptionists to get a clear view of who is approaching the church building.

Obviously, there’s a lot of thought that goes into church safety elements in any church design. To learn more about how you can incorporate security components into your church building, contact us today. You can also learn about what else we consider to be priorities in church design by signing up today for the next in our free i3 webinar series. You can learn more about what we’re focusing on here.

2020-04-14T19:14:39+00:00 April 14th, 2020|Church Building, Church Design, Safety|