January 10, 2012

Church Design

During my post-Christmas vacation, I finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.  Different chapters focus on Jobs’ personal life, his love/hate relationship with Apple’s board of directors, and his personality flaws, but what I found most fascinating were the chapters that focused on how important important design was to Jobs.
I’ve never been much of an Apple person.  Actually, I’ve always been more of a “take whatever you can get” person.  Which is why I have a cell phone has more buttons than I’ll ever use or need.  I’m convinced that the only reason some of those buttons are there is to keep me permanently befuddled.  But I keep it, because I'm far too afraid and intimidated to get a new phone, and have to learn all over again how to accomplish even the simplest tasks with it.  
Steve Jobs insisted that all Apple’s products be as easy to use as possible, with as few buttons as necessary.  This would make them friendly and non-intimidating.  Jobs said that figuring out how to use one of Apple’s products should be “intuitive.” In fact, when an Apple board member visited an African village and showed his iPad to a child, the child picked it up and immediately figured out how to use it, even though he was illiterate and had never seen one before.
When designing Apple stores, Jobs insisted that the layout be simple, inviting, and open, so that a customer walking in would immediately perceive the layout and be reassured that this is a friendly, non-intimidating place to be.
Reading this made me think of Disneyland. When Walt Disney designed his magic kingdom, he wanted guests to feel that same reassurance.  Thus the buildings are almost, but not quite, full scale.  There is only one entrance, and only one way to go after you do enter:  toward a charming (not intimidating) castle you see in the not-too-far distance.
Attending a worship service can be an intimidating experience for someone who’s never been or who has been away from the church for some time.  One of the things I turn my attention to every now and then is the “design” of our church, especially the Sunday morning worship experience.  From the moment a person steps out of their car, do they experience a sense of welcome?  Is it immediately clear which way to go?  Does the layout of our building provide a sense of reassurance?  Does the bulletin give a clear indication of what is about to happen in a simple, easy-to-read format?
Of course, the absolute best way for a person to feel welcome and reassured is to be accompanied by a friend who has invited them to worship.  Helping people feel “at home” when they come to worship is one way we can be a movement for wholeness in our community.


Anonymous said...

Danny, thanks for your reminder of the need to make our churches inviting to people. Those of us who have been going to church forever forget that people with little or no experience with churches have little idea what to expect. Both the building itself and what we do inside it need to be easily understood and used.

Jade said...
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