Helping churches thrive from Sunday to Sunday.™

Something really intriguing launched last night ? but more on that in a minute.

Recently I and some of my coworkers realized we were forgetting something when it came to our worship planning process. We had the overview of the sermon series and we had our bases covered when it came to branding, design, promotion, print, projection, and music. We planned out everything that was going to happen in our room, but we’d forgotten something important: the room itself.

We’d been so focused on ordering elements to create an experience that we left out the environment, the spatial context in which our experience was going to unfold. In so doing, we were ignoring one of my key convictions: everything communicates.

Coincidentally, right after my friends and I began wrestling with this issue, I saw that the team behind The Practice was working through it too.

The Practice is a brand new initiative at Willow Creek Community Church that is being spearheaded by the great Aaron Niequist (read more about it here). The Practice is a worship community forming around what the team refers to as “the unforced rhythms of grace.” As The Practice has come together over the last few weeks, one task has been designing the space in which it will meet (Willow Creek?s chapel). A recent blog post by Niequist featured the following paragraph, which I found instructive:

“Our goal for the chapel is to help it feel like a holy living room. Simple, reverent, and human.? The chairs are set up in the round because we long to become a tribe together, and the communion table is in the very center of the room because we know that Christ is the very center of everything. It’s simple, but hopefully the room will preach louder than any words.”

Those words make my heart beat fast. I love it. Be sure to note these three ideas at work:

  1. They have an aesthetic in mind. For The Practice, the right kind of environment is “a holy living room.” This aesthetic will shape all of their design decisions going forward by providing a filter — “Does this color/texture/light/furniture get us closer to a holy living room or not?” That kind of filter is empowering.
  2. Values should guide design and design should express values. You see this in the “because” statements above. They’re saying, We were intentional about how we arranged this physical environment because we are intentional about who we are becoming as a community. Again, this is empowering.
  3. Design preaches. Yes, this is another way of saying everything communicates, and I love that The Practice wants its room to preach louder than words. When you have an aesthetic in mind, and when design is synced with your values, your environment sings with synergy. When you do finally speak to say, “This is who we are and what we’re about,” people should be nodding in agreement, not scratching their heads in confusion.

If this is your Spring Break like it is mine, things are a little bit quieter and slower in your world this week. Take advantage of the lull by taking some time to reconsider your space and what it says to the people who fill the space week in and week out. Hopefully your room is preaching loud and clear, but if not, maybe now’s the time to start dreaming and sketching out something new.

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