Church design – dedicated sanctuary or multi-purpose auditorium?
Few questions generate more discussion during the design stage than this one. When it comes to the idea of a sanctuary, many people feel it needs to be dedicated solely to worship and don’t really understand the concept of a multi-purpose worship space.
Defining multi-purpose worship space
Multi-purpose worship space does not mean using a ‘gymnasium’ for worship, but using a worship space for other activities. This is an important distinction. Characteristics of a multi-purpose auditorium are a flat or tiered floor, chairs rather than permanent seating, and extensive multi-media equipment. The space can then be used for a variety of uses requiring changes in the seating arrangement such as seminars, dinner theatre, meetings, concerts, children’s and youth events.
The features of a multi-purpose worship space will not detract from the worship experience. To accommodate sports, you’ll need to pay attention to interior wall surfaces, lighting and ceiling height but it does not have to look like a gym. Platform areas and chancels can be designed so they are set into the side walls and look like a normal worship space but can be cordoned off during other activities. Other room features such as windows, ceilings and finishes can all be designed to complement worship and still allow for other uses.
Advantages to Multi-Purpose Worship Space:
- Reduced Cost – Dedicated space used only a few hours a week is expensive due to it’s original construction cost and continuing utilities costs. The church also may not have to build another large space for uses other than worship.
- Accommodates a variety of worship styles – Contemporary worship styles require flat platform space for bands, drama or other non-traditional worship events.
- Allows a variety of ministry activities – a flat and/or widely tiered floor allows banquets, seminars, youth events and dinner theatre.
Advantages to Dedicated Worship spaces:
- A worshipful atmosphere – sloped floor for good sight lines to the platform, comfortable seating, well-tuned acoustics, elegant interior design.
- Equipment set up – technical team will spend less time setting up equipment for worship because the space can be set up and left alone from week to week.
- Less maintenance – with reduced use comes reduced maintenance, cleaning and wear-and-tear from continually readjusting the room.
While many churches will appreciate the reduced costs and flexibility of a multi-purpose worship space, it’s a question that can only be answered by balancing budget, preference, and ministry objectives.
For help deciding, talk to Kelly or David at Parker Seminoff Architects or leave a comment below.
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