Compelling Environments: Next Generation Youth Spaces

Most church youth spaces have come a long way from the metal folding chairs in a basement that were once the norm. And while climbing walls and video game stations may be what comes to mind in cutting-edge ministry, here are some views from designers who are working with youth spaces across the country.

Worship Facilities Magazine (founder of WFX) writer Cathy Hutchison asked these questions:

What are in the future for youth ministry facilities that will have real traction and influence?

The trend is toward spaces that foster authenticity, both environmental and relational. They don’t want “fluff” in a lot of artificial theming, but rather timeless design that integrates – not alienates – them into the church. There is design sensitivity to lasting emotion (relationships) over temporary emotion (environments). We try to design spaces that foster lasting relationships. Sandy Gibbs, Church Development & Design, LS3P, Greenville SC

We see a difference based on where ministries are located geographically. We have pursued edgier area design like shared community spaces, but we still have requests to do things we’ve been doing for the past 18 years. A lot is about spending time with the youth pastors who know the culture and the kids. For some, the solution will be high-tech such as two-sided, large –screen video displays with games in high-definition. But we are finding the trend is toward communal…the living room or coffee-house feel. Richard Carver, founder and CEO of Little Mountain Productions in Tulsa, OK.

What new strategies have you seen in architecture for youth facilities that really work?

We are seeing churches do amazing things in sharing their resources for the community. The spaces are designed to meet community needs without imposing the “churchy feel.” Our main question to youth ministers is “Do you need 100% of the space 100% of the time?” Most often, the answer is “no,” allowing you to put more into less space,, resulting in greater allocation of resources. Ravi Waldon, Principle, Waldon Studio Architects, Columbia, MD.

What do you wish youth pastors knew about facilities?

Kids are in anticipation of down time. In many of the areas where we work, the kids are so busy. Select sports, high-pressure academics, and extracurricular activities – the youth are so busy that they need the space to unplug and unwind. Intentional space for community over distractions allows them to be who they really are and connect. Scott Nelson, Principle, HH Architects in Dallas, TX.

With technology evolving it is hard to say. Of all the ministries in the church, I think youth ministers in particular need to be on the edge of things. We want to make sure there are no obstacles in the way of evolving ministries. The success of the space is really about leadership. A great youth pastor can make marginal facilities work. It is the people who connect. Dave Benham, Principle, LS3P Architects, Greenville, SC.

Read more about these trends and look at examples here.


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