5 Spaces to Thoughtfully Consider When Designing a Church


We live in different world than our parents did. Luckily, very simple and economical efforts can provide lots of safety for the kids!

It’s common in mid – to large – sized churches for children to be checked in to class or childcare. Churches that are smaller or have had the same childcare programs for many years may have chosen not to tackle this initiative yet. Planning is key, though, and you need to think in terms of “phases” of child security. If you can’t check them in using a computer system yet, you can start blog-10-01by at least documenting who is where on a clipboard. Start doing this, and it will become second nature in a few months. At some point, you will need a place where you can put a desk and check-in station. Consider data and electrical needs for that space, as a laptop and printer will likely be placed in that space. Once a child is checked in to the children’s area, most parents believe they will not be let out until they are picked up, so ideally there needs to be a restroom inside that children’s area. If that is not feasible, you’ll need to create a policy for how children will be escorted safely to the restroom and back to the classrooms.

The children’s area will also need to have proper fire egress (have your architect verify this for you).


Churches usually feel they don’t have enough storage. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Sunday School teachers need storage. A teacher cabinet per classroom is ideal, as are some cubbies and hooks for the children’s belongings. Each teacher might keep a plastic tub in the cabinet with class-specific items, and then common items could be shared. Usually, only volunteers who are currently teaching get to keep their personal materials at the church.
  • As a general rule of thumb, these items always need their own space: chairs and tables, banquet/fellowship items, janitorial items, server/data equipment (this room needs to stay cool 24/7!), seasonal decorations, books for pastoral research and church use, and communion supplies (these sometimes need to be stored in a refrigerator in close proximity to a sink area).
  • Will non-church ministries using your space be allowed to store items? If so, where? Consider a common space for this should you allow it. For example, maybe AA meets at your buildingblog-10-02 on Thursdays and would like to store some books. If that’s okay with you, perhaps a dedicated space for all non-church users would be a good choice. When it fills up, you can politely ask the leaders to tidy up.


 The code requirement for church restrooms is rarely enough. A good indicator of what you need is the situation you currently have. Take some notes and let your architect know if there are long lines. Here are some considerations for the restrooms:

A typical rule of thumb for the restroom requirement when it comes to worship spaces is to provide 1 fixture per 150 occupants in the men’s room, and 1 fixture per 75 occupants for the women’s room.

In addition, you will generally need one sink/lavatory for 200 occupants. This rule of thumb is for both men and women.

  • One handicapped stall is required in each restroom.
  • If there are six stalls, there must also be an “ambulatory” stall, which means there will be grab bars for a person on crutches.
  • Consider adding a family restroom for moms and dads (also appreciated by people with several children and single parents). The physically disabled will also appreciate family restrooms, as they are typically easier to navigate and offer increased privacy.


Certainly, if you are running any type of food or clothing distribution center, you will need to discuss this project in detail with your architect because those types of ministries typically start small and grow at lightening speed. What may have initially fit into the context of whatever space it was allocated could soon need its own space.

  • Take your architect on a personal tour of the distribution work you have going on. These stories are rarely communicated clearly through picture and descriptions.
  • Measurements and inventories are very important, as are numbers of volunteers and what their actual jobs are.
  • We have never created more actual drawings for one room than for a “benevolence barn” that we drew very early in my career. These buildings work very hard! Remind your architect to consider every detail, including the weight capacities and depths of shelving.


Increasingly, churches are becoming intentional about designing their outdoor space for maximum use. Your architect should help you think about how you should orient the building so you can gain maximum shade for outdoor spaces.

Are there ministry opportunities, or even ongoing ministry efforts, that would be well-served by a functional outdoor space?

  • Consider working in a few semi-private areas outside, perhaps with half-walls, some landscaping, shade, and an outdoor fan.
  • If at least some of your tasks can be completed outdoors (and the millennial work force loves blog-10-03to move around while working!), that change will free up some of your indoor space. This might not work June through September in Texas, but it would be a great amenity for the rest of the year.
  • Possibilities for outdoor activities include lunch and break areas, conference spaces, and publicly open spaces.
  • Here are some amenities that the church could offer outdoors to strangers and members alike: free Wi-Fi, with a separate password for the porch areas, perhaps a switch for the outdoor fan, and a water fountain that fills up a bottle. Simple items like this will help welcome people to use the space even when you’re not there.
  • Are there ministry opportunities, or even ongoing ministry efforts, that would be well-served by a functional outdoor space?

If any questions come to my mind, please feel free to email us at info@plannorth.com




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