CoolTown Studios is an organization/blog that helps people build sustainable, livable urban communities. It links "investment capital with proven real estate developers in cities with progressive government leadership."
It’s fascinating to read about their community development/urban renewal projects. Plenty could be said about applying the insights of urban community development to the church, because in many ways, church leadership (especially emerging church leadership, church leadership 2.0, if you will) is a lot like community development, i.e. providing a fertile environment for relationships, growth, and well-being to flourish.
For example, in this post, they talk about how the "American Dream Home" has gotten a lot smaller, and it’s a lot closer to the vibrancy of the inner city than the homogeneity of the suburbs. Given the choice between a large home in the suburbs and a small apartment close to the city, more and more young people are choosing the smaller place that’s closer to community. I’ve talked about this in my Church 2.0 musings, but it can be said again: bigger is not always better.
Instead of only thinking about increasing square footage, church leaders need to be thinking about how best to use space in order to maximize community. How to organize space to cultivate strangers meeting and talking with one another, old friends deepening a relationship, new friends having long conversations, people experiencing communal prayer and glad, spontaneous, communal worship.
The spaces we meet in to talk and pray and worship aren’t "neutral". They send a powerful message that speaks about our true values and presuppositions. For example, in the living rooms of most people, what are all the couches and chairs are all pointed toward? The television of course! That living room arrangement sends a message about what kind of activity is central in the living room. In the same way, your interior design tells people what’s important to you.
Architecture is theology. What does your "church space" say about your theology and values? How can you re-organize the space you have in order to better cultivate the disciple-making, kingdom-facilitating activities you want to be about? Think about it like a garden: how can you provide a fertile environment for community to thrive? Part of the answer is interior design.