Ray Oldenberg, author of The Great Good Place wrote, “The third place is a generic designation for a great variety of public places that host the regular, voluntary, informal and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work.” Small groups are the conduits to community. However, you or your group members may not be comfortable to open your home and invite strangers into such a private setting. You may want to meet at your church, but do you have a place that welcomes people to share their thoughts and feelings? Although the deep connection people desire cannot be achieved fully in this setting, creating a space for people to gather after church for fellowship or host their small group provides the foundation for cultivating community. Here are some tips are ways for churches to be able to create a warm, cozy environment on a cheap budget.
Choose your space– It may be a small space, such as a secluded room in the back of the church or a much larger space, such as a fellowship hall or Narthex. Once you have chosen your space, consider how you will redecorate it. Think about your favorite coffee shop. What makes it so inviting to you? You want to communicate this is a place for fellowship simply by its design.
What does the foyer to the church look like? Is it warm and inviting, or drab and dated? Choose a similar color palette and coordinating furniture to pull the look from the foyer into your fellowship hall. Remember you are not merely creating an environment, but communicating a message of openness, honesty and authenticity.
Change the paint colors- Choose warm, earthy, tones that remind you of coffee. If that doesn’t work, neutral colors will suffice. Grays, muted greens and blues also work well and communicate a place of serenity and peace.
Purchase New Furniture- Places like Ikea specializes in modern looking furniture and accents for low prices. Choose a few comfy couches, tables with bar stools, and comfortable chairs. They also carry drop leaf tables that take up less space if you need to stow them away and take them out for your service. Consider how much wear and tear your furniture selections will endure. You may also want to take into account how easy the furniture is to clean. You may not want to use expensive furniture since it will take a beating from the constant use.
Add some finishing touches– Choose some decorative accents for the walls, tables and accent rugs. Rugs may be ideal if replacing the carpet puts too much strain on your church’s budget. Place accent rugs under the table legs to give the room a more colorful look, yet catches all the extra crumbs and spills from your coffee and refreshments.
Advertise- Open up your church as a place where you can host your triad meetings during the week if you choose. An aesthetically pleasing environment also attracts young moms to bring their kids for a morning out, a group of men to converse about the word of God and a sitting place for someone who wants to get away and pray quietly.
Christians need community to meet their deepest needs for connection. With just a little paint and budget friendly accents, your church may be just the place where long lasting community begins.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. She has been published over one hundred times in places such as Charisma Magazine, crosswalk.com and Christianity Today’s website Gifted For Leadership. She also teaches writers’ workshops for various places such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and Advanced Writers’ and speakers Association. Her newest book, An Invitation to the Table explores the biblical concept of hospitality. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com
Ray Oldenburg. The Great Good Place: Cafes, coffee shops, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts at the heart of a community (Philadelphia: DaCapo press, 1999). 16.