We began our series on church building trends with what we consider to be foundational: establishing the vision of your church for ministry in your community.

If your church design isn’t created with that vision in mind, in the years ahead your church building could actually become a hindrance to your ministry rather than a benefit.

In this post, we focus on a VIP in the trends department: multi-use spaces.

The History of a Major Church Building Trend: Multi-Use

Some trends are certainly “micro,” being very specific in nature. Others are more “macro.” Multi-use church building spaces definitely fall into the big picture, macro category. In fact, multi-use spaces are everywhere.

They first became popular in the 1980s and 1990s, and we were in on this trend at the start. At first, multi-use was mostly about making your worship center also function as an athletics gymnasium for youth during the week; sometimes, it was also adapted for dining as well. The primary reasons behind this trend typically was church leaders’ desire to exercise good financial stewardship of their building, and/or the wish to see church building spaces used on more days than Sundays.

Looking back, those early multi-use spaces were pretty bland. Many of them really looked like the gymnasiums they were, which didn’t exactly make guests feel welcome for worship. Yes, those early multi-use spaces were effective, but they often weren’t very attractive.

Introducing Multi-Use 2.0

Over the past 10 years, multi-use church design has changed significantly, to the point where we’ve begun describing it as multi-use 2.0. Multi-use today is less often used for worship spaces and athletics, in part because athletics require a flat floor. Worship spaces with flat floors can be made to work for up to 1,500 seats, but anything beyond that and you begin to have sightline issues, as well as other church design problems.

More of today’s multi-use church building spaces are focused on fellowship, dining, training events, and performances. Platforms are often used, as they are much more amenable for multi-use, allowing for drama and live music.

In older multi use facilities, the platform design was usually too tall, giving a feeling that the congregation and worship leader or speaker were vastly separated. In the traditional sanctuary, the platforms were commonly divided into many levels making it a challenge to reorganize them for any other use. 

The key is to design your church platform to be flexible. A single level platform, built to the right height, can open up opportunities for new and different ministries and services.  If you need multiple heights and choir lofts, it can easily be accomplished with portable risers.

Baptisteries can be designed to be open or covered over for special events. This way limitations to worship themes or changing of platforms between multiple services can be easily achieved.

There are lots of ways a church building can be configured today so that church leaders get the most out of their church design. Multi-use chapels and smaller assembly spaces, ranging from 1/2 to 1/3 the size of the main worship center, are also becoming more popular. Even foyers are being designed to accommodate dining, weddings, and wedding receptions.

Multi-Use Church Design for Fast-Growing Churches

We’ve discovered there are certain situations in which multi-use configurations have become particularly common. The first is with fast-growing churches that need multiple types of uses but don’t yet have the money to build dedicated spaces for each type of activity.

Multi-use is also common when churches are moving onto a new property. Constructing a church building from scratch is more expensive than renovating an existing structure – there are the costs of purchasing the property, installing utilities and infrastructure, and so forth. This means church leaders usually look to maximize their stewardship by getting the most out of every part of their new church building—and that often means multi-use.

Learn More About Design Trends

As you can imagine, multi-use is almost infinitely variable. It’s exciting to partner with church leaders to determine the best church building configuration that will work for their vision.

We’ll cover more church design trends in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about church building and design, look to our free i3 webinar series – simply visit our website and sign up.