The last post “This Generation Loves “Authentage” pondered this increased longing for things “authentic” and “vintage”. Marla Saunders commented on the post with two excellent questions:
The First - “So is this predisposition toward a traditional looking church aesthetic only, or does it translate into action?”
My experience suggests the longing isn’t about aesthetics at all. The interest in vintage architecture is a symptom of far deeper needs or “soul cravings”. Soul cravings like the “Our Search to Belong” or the “Valuable Life Goal“. (see the Underlying Movement tab). For some insight into these “Soul Cravings” check out this excerpt from a March 11th post titled “Don’t Make Us Walk This Life Alone” regarding the reaction to a presentation I shared:
Moraine Valley Church is a typical, predominantly white congregation, in the South suburbs of Chicago. You know what I mean….quiet and respectful through a presentation. So I was caught off guard when a young adult man up in the left balcony spontaneously shouted out something like“That’s Right” to a point I just made. I had just finished pondering the impact of the “Digital Age” and the aching need of younger people for:
- Authentic Insight
- Pragmatic Answers
As typically happens after sharing these Digital Age needs with young people around the country, several were crowded around my wife and me, asking questions and sharing thoughts. When I asked what provoked the unusually passionate “That’s Right” comment…one man in his early twenties shared:
- We just want to know you older guys.
- We want to be known too.
- We want insight.
- We don’t want to walk this life alone.
Interesting. As they lingered, the longing was evident in their (some tearful) eyes.
Interesting isn’t it that a group of twenty year old guys are telling a 50 year old stranger that they want to know you, be known, gain insight, and not walk alone. I sense this Authentage issue isn’t about architecture at all. It’s about authentic connection and insight. I sense this old vintage architecture simply symbolizes those attributes.
Check out these additional posts for more insight and validation:
The Second – Would they attend the one that feels more like Starbucks even while saying they prefer the more traditional?
Of course there are many factors as to why people go where they do. It’s far more about relationships, soul cravings, and help with insight than architecture. Our research clearly shows people attend church for the first time primarily because someone they respect invited them.
However, I believe it was Churchill who said, “We shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us.” Space matters. If the architecture is aligned effectively with the “soul cravings” and mission, people are more inclined to enthusiastically invite others. And once they do, if their invitation, the message, the spirit of the leadership, and the feel of the architecture all communicate, then a clear and compelling message seems to happen. A clear and compelling message about freedom in Christ, a place to be known, a place for insight, and a place to walk together frees the Spirit to do remarkable things.
So when designing our church buildings, why does it need to be either/or? Could our imagination be big enough to think “Both/And”? Could we design buildings with connecting space (i.e., Starbucks) and more traditional sacred space together? Yes, together. Both kinds of space helping address our soul cravings…the most significant being a relationship with God Himself.