In the past, churches were the primary means of social interaction. Ladies’ circles, men’s groups, and church dinners were the only game in many towns and thus were heavily attended. These days people have numerous secular activities distracting them from church festivities. Churches must reinvent hospitality areas to resemble contemporary venues appealing and familiar to society, such as coffee shops or bookstores.
Location – Locate the place of gathering adjacent to worship. While long-time members may venture into hidden or less visible hospitality areas, visitors will not.
Size – Scale the gathering area to half the size of the nave. This allows for many of the worshippers to remain in the hospitality area without feeling crowded.
Circulation – Ensure the gathering space does not interfere with major circulation paths. This encourages people to stay for socializing before events and worship. Members won’t want to engage in hospitality activities when they are blocking the path of people entering the next service.
Focus – Direct attention within the space on a hospitality counter where refreshment service provides the opportunity to connect people with one another.
Light – Natural light is essential for the spaces to feel cheery and to encourage interaction. A light, airy space will be more likely to draw in visitors passing by.
Aesthetics – Keep the atmosphere clean and engaging. Too many distractions in the space (for example, unnecessary furnishings or objects) detract from the main focus of person to person interaction.
Cleanliness – Design with maintenance in mind. Often the Hospitality Space is the first impression for visitors. If the surroundings are tired and dated, or worse yet, unkempt, a visitor may assume the congregation is out of touch.
Technology – Replace bulletin boards with newer technologies. Flat screens are versatile, easily provide information to larger groups and are able to animate information to capture people’s attention. The effect is cleaner and less prone to being outdated or cluttered.
Furnishings – Use furnishings that encourage mingling. Café tables or bar tables, minus a lot of seating, work perfectly. Design limited-seating primarily for people who need to sit. Any more comfortable lounge seating should be limited.
Related Article Series
The Hospitable Church I – Presence
The Hospitable Church II – Parking & Entry
The Hospitable Church IV – Parenting