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Can People See In? Why Visibility Matters for Places of Worship
“We always ask visitors what brought them to Brightmoor. The first answer has always been, ‘a friend invited me’ but since we opened the addition, the number two answer has been ‘I was driving by, saw all the activity, and just had to check it out.’”
Jamie Kjos, senior pastor, Brightmoor Christian Church
The ability to see inside a building and witness the activity and excitement within has a magnetic effect on people passing by. On the other hand, visual barriers and unclear points of entry often cause anxiety with new visitors. Think about the last time you traveled to a new store or restaurant. If parking, the entrance, or the building itself aren’t clearly marked, were you concerned about being at the wrong location? For a place of worship that aspires to be a part of the community and feel inviting, barriers like these can cause potential new members to pass by.
“They thought our church was an office complex”
Brightmoor Christian Church recently celebrated the opening of a major expansion project that included a new worship center, youth areas, and an intentionally transparent gathering hub. The addition came as Brightmoor grappled with a lack of fellowship space for their growing congregation and their need for a more tech savvy worship center to support their media-driven services. Part of the design of the church expansion included a new front entrance that made the church more visible and identifiable from the nearby highway.
“In the past, visitors have commented that they thought our church was an office complex. But now with the transparent front porch on the hub and the 60-foot cross, it is clear we are a church. Now people can see in, can see activity, and become curious about what we offer,” said Senior Pastor Jamie Kjos.
Like many contemporary churches, Brightmoor has taken a decidedly controlled approach to lighting and sound within the worship center. The new, 2,100 theatre-style seat facility has no access to natural light and thus, no opportunities for people outside the church to see in. Instead, the front hub is the church’s visual connection with the community. It was created to serve as a “community park”, embracing and capitalizing on the dramatic use of natural light and views. All ministries flow into the hub, making church activity evident and inviting visitors into the life of the church.
Not only does this openness generate interest, it also levels expectations. When people can see activity, they are far more likely to venture in and explore. The dramatic entrance also supports a heightened level of anticipation for the congregants as they travel from the parking lot to the front door.
Visibility should be planned correctly
At Brightmoor Christian Church the hub was strategically placed to make the most of solar orientation, entry experience and views to activity. Adding the appropriate and best shading elements and glass type were also important elements of an effective design. Expansive east and northeast glass curtain walls allow morning light to bathe the hub. The exterior wing-like sun shade blocks any harsh afternoon sun. A dynamic visual element, the sun shade helps reduce the church’s summer operating expenses while attracting the attention of nearby highway travelers. Activity within the hub is visible from the road in part because of the highly transparent, low-reflective glass.
Each exterior element serves multiple purposes: drawing the attention of potential visitors, reducing operating costs and revealing the main entry to the building. Transparency requires thoughtful design and placement. Glass type, solar orientation, and solar shading can have an immense impact on the quality of environment while supporting purposeful activity. Visibility into the building, and being able to see the activity and life within, is one of the most important building characteristics that can help draw people into a church.
The idea of visibility is one of the many things churches must consider when making decisions about their need for expansion or a new building. Is your church struggling with how or when to expand? Download our Worship Facility Discernment to help guide your journey.