Recently we’ve been discussing church building trends. In our post about remodeling, we mentioned that church design has moved away from mega-sized buildings. This is another trend to consider.

Church leaders now prefer churches with less capacity. By this, we mean auditoriums or worship centers that seat between 1,000 and 1,500 people, rather than the 2,500-seat mega-church buildings being constructed in the early 2000s.

The reasons can very well prove useful when examining your own church’s construction and remodeling options in the future.

Why Downsize Your Church Design?

It’s important to say, right up front, that downsizing is not a pessimistic trend. Church leaders are simply recognizing how a non-mega-size church building is more flexible and can actually support church growth in a variety of important ways.

Here are the primary reasons why starting smaller can be a wise idea and promote good stewardship:

  • People, Energy, and Services – A reason to build with less capacity is that a church building can feel awkward and empty if it’s less than half full. Think about the energy that’s raised through powerful worship in an auditorium that is full to overflowing. If you put the same number of people in a worship center that is three times the size, suddenly they feel small, and the energy of worship decreases significantly.
  • Maintenance Costs – Another reason to keep your church design smaller is that a smaller building will cost you less. Maintenance costs run from $1.50 to $2.00 per square foot, so if you have a smaller church building footprint, you will have lower maintenance costs. It will also cost less when it’s time to replace finishing elements such as carpeting or the fabric on your chairs.
  • Church Building Costs – Naturally, the cost of a facility that serves 500 people can cost much less to build than a 2500 seat facility. As a result, you will have more funds available for other priorities. For example, you could invest a few extra dollars in furnishings and finishes, which would make your new—or newly remodeled—church building even more appealing to guests. If you grow beyond the capacity of your new auditorium, you can always add another service or a second venue – the most common way churches today grow.

The Church Building Sweet Spot

These days, it appears that the size sweet spot for a worship center auditorium is around 1,200 people. We don’t see many churches wanting to build one with seats 2,500 or more. Of course, if your current worship size is 400 people, even 1,200 would be too much.

This is why we always suggest you begin your church design phase by talking with a qualified builder or designer that’s experienced in church construction. These latest trends are quite clear to us, but for busy church leaders with so many other things to attend to, there can be an initial—but extremely useful—learning phase.

The next installment in this series on current church building trends will expand on something we’ve touched on above: multi-venue ministry. This information is based on one of our past i3 webinars; to participate in upcoming free webinars, we’ve made it easy: Simply visit the bottom of our website home page and register.