Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creating Experiences, Part 2: Places

At Starbucks, people come into a comfortable setting where they are valued on a personal level, and where a meaningful connection is made. Everything the company does is intended to give the customer a positive, uplifting experience while purchasing a quality beverage or food item.

To achieve this, the ambiance of the store must be inviting: it must be a place where a person will feel comfortable hanging out alone or with friends. This setting, often referred to as the "third place" (a phrase coined by sociologist Ray Oldham) must capture a unique warmth that sets it apart from the first two places in most people's lives: work and home.

Hit the pause button.

Would creating such environments at your church be something worth doing? Is it time to "get physical"?

Think like a designer - be an environmental architect

Just as an architect asks a number of questions before designing a building, church leaders who want to be environmental architects must ask questions to reveal the function of the space, which in term determine its design.

If you were to own the architectural responsibility for every environment in your church, you should be asking questions like:
  • What's the purpose of this environment?
  • Who will use this environment?
  • What do we want people to experience?
  • What do we want people to leave with?
  • Who's responsible for quality control?
Mark Waltz, connections pastor at Granger Community Church, has thoughtfully developed this concept in his book "Lasting Impressions". Elaborating on the questions above, he further defines environments through the lenses of four types of space: public, social, personal, and intimate. The several pages of this discussion are worth the price of the book alone!

Another description of environments that you are probably familiar with is North Point Community Church and its use of rooms in a house.
  • The foyer is a place where you welcome guests
  • The living rooms is a place where you develop friends
  • The kitchen is a place where you are loved as family
Now just in case you were wondering, this concept of space is not limited to physical place. Environments (the physical kind) matter very much. But a good environmental architect is also creating psychological space in much the same way.

You're on a journey to create experiences that keep people coming back. Yesterday we looked at product; today at quick view of place. Tomorrow, it's all about people.

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