This year, and especially over the past few months, we’ve been commemorating the 50th anniversary of The McKnight Group. It’s time to look to the future by considering what may occur in church design and construction in the years to come.

What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Church Design

It’s been interesting to look at The McKnight Group’s history during a time when church leaders are confronting so many challenges to the way we worship and work in order to keep community vibrant. Fortunately, a lot of our recent church design ideas lend themselves easily to the transition to a COVID-era church. Flexible spaces and movable seating make it very easy to socially distance. Even with chairs further apart, you can still handle decent-sized numbers of people in a pretty large space.

Another distinct advantage to modern church design has been the significant increase in technological capabilities. Most of the churches we’ve worked with in recent years have already been streaming worship and other events taking place in the church building. Even for those who weren’t, it’s been easy to transition online. We are also realizing how some aspects of new church building finishes, like investing in touchless and automatic restroom fixtures, are going to become even more important in the future of church design.

Embracing Multi-Site Church Building Campuses

Another impact of COVID-19 has been an increase in the value of multi-site campus complexes. Rather than managing the logistics of one large worship gathering with thousands of people, church leaders are realizing how much more practical it can be to meet instead in four or five or six different locations, using worship centers that seat 300–500 people. Smaller venues are also more flexible—for example, allowing weddings to feel intimate and connected rather than lost in a 3000-seat worship center. This focus on multiple smaller church building spaces might go against expectations, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in fifty years of constructing church buildings, it’s that you just can’t know what the future will hold.

What Will Future Church Building Projects Be Like?

Yes, there’s no way to predict what the future will hold. We never anticipated the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on church building finances, or imagined that we would be living through a pandemic in our lifetime. With that in mind, we do have three suggestions for church leaders who are wanting to focus on the next fifty years.

First, place attention on communities. Ask yourself this question: if your church building ceased to exist—if it disappeared tomorrow—would your community notice? Second, plan ahead for church building maintenance. We see so many church leaders who struggle to pay the bills because they weren’t planning for larger church building expenses, like roof or HVAC-system replacements or parking lot resurfacing. Third, save money for the future, whenever possible. Your vision for ministry in your community will change over time, and you’ll need funds to remodel or replace aspects of your church building complex to meet those future needs.

In our next article, as we look to the future, we’ll make some suggestions for how churches can prepare for change, even if you can’t predict what that change will be.