What's Your Physical Space Communicating?

Bryan Haley

We spend a lot of time talking about websites and bulletins, but your building communicates something to guests, too. What is your physical space communicating to people when they enter?

Show Notes

Episode Summary

In this episode, we welcome Jillian Lawson, an interior designer, to talk about an important aspect of communication: your building. The space you welcome guests into communicates something—let's be intentional with what it's saying.

Mentioned in this episode

Transcript

Jeanette:

Communication is multifaceted. It's what we tell people, but it's also what people perceive. We spend a lot of time thinking, planning, and producing communication pieces that tell a story from print to social media, in person and online. But what about the spaces that people are engaging with? What is your physical spaces communicating? Today, we're talking about how to think about your building and evaluating what people are perceiving when they enter your space.

Bryan:

Hey friends, welcome to another episode of The Church Juice Podcast. Whatever your title or role at your church is our hope is that you realize communication is vital to success. And that's probably why you're here. I'm Brian Haley. I'm joined today by my co-host Jeanette Yates. And we're here energizing church communications.

Jeanette:

That's right. And today we're welcoming Jillian Lawson, who is an interior designer that creates unique and branded spaces that reflect your heart mission and purpose to everyone that walks through your church doors. Her design experience, coupled with her years of serving the church in various capacities from nursing director to pastoral staff, give her insight into challenges churches face to provide the design solutions they need.

Bryan:

That's right. Welcome Jillian. Thanks for coming on today.

Jill:

Thanks for having me. This is so fun.

Bryan:

Absolutely. So we met the first time a few weeks ago, I think, but why don't you start by giving our listeners your story, I guess. How'd you get into this space?

Jill:

Well, I've always loved party planning and like event design. And so that's kind of how it all started. And I just always had a love for home and design and making people feel special and welcomed. But in 2019, I got serious about starting my business, because people kept asking me to do it so.

Bryan:

Right.

Jill:

I was like, well, if you're going to do it all the time, you should probably make money from it. So I started my business and then a church that we attended for and served on staff for years in Florida called and was like, Hey, we're going to be renovating. We need more office spaces. We think we might even need an addition, like all this stuff. And, but we've brought in design firms to come in to help us, but I don't think they understand what we need, because the way a church functions is very different than a home or even another business. Like it's not just like you build offices and you put... The church is ever evolving. The way we use our spaces are always evolving in a church.

Bryan:

Absolutely. Right.

Jill:

And so she said, would you come down here and just help us like think about this a different way? And I was like, okay, that's kind of outside my wheelhouse, but sure. I'll give it a try. And I was like, no promises. She's like, great. So I come down, we go through everything. We talk to contractors and I said, give me a few days to think about this. And I put together a plan where they didn't need to add onto their building. Because there was a lot of unused space already within the building. So I helped them reimagine the space. And because I understand the way that a church office works, it was easier for my brain to kind of switch on in that direction. And so they love the solutions I came up with. They're like, could you carry this across the finish line? I was like, sure. Yeah, I'll give that a try.

Jill:

And so then I finished that one up and then came back and did their nursery wing. And all of a sudden I was like, hold on. I actually love this. This is really what I want to do. I have a passion for the church. I'm a church girl at heart. I understand it and I get to be like, you just get to be a little bit more creative than with a living room. Like you can really be very imaginative and creative if you're given the leeway to be with the church. And so then another church saw what I did and then another one and I was like, this is what I'm doing. So I kind of swung real hard the last part of last year, streamlining all of my materials to kind of be more church focused. And it's been such a fun ride. Like I'm here for this. I feel like I'm at that cross section of all your favorite things. Do you know what I mean?

Jeanette:

What I love about what you said is that it sounded like the church that called you, that they understood your gift and they understood the importance of design. But there may be some of our listeners that they kind of understand things need to match or whatever, but maybe they don't really understand why interior design in a church building is necessary. Can you talk about the necessity of that?

Jill:

It's so much more than putting something on your wall. Because your environments produce a feeling. Whether we know it or understand it or not, when you walk into a space, your emotions sort of automatically assign a feeling. I belong here. I can see myself here. I don't belong here. I don't fit in here. So we're automatically assigning these things when we walk into a space and not just church spaces, in restaurants, in coffee shops, in the stores that we shop in. So our environments produce a feeling and I believe that the church can produce environments that create feelings of connectedness. And I think that we can connect people to your mission, your values, your purpose. I think you can connect people through your environments and that it can be an exciting place to be in.

Jill:

It can look like whatever it is because each church is different. That's what I love, is that each church is different. Each church has their own story to tell and their building can support that and tell that story, whether you're a traditional church, or you're a very modern and contemporary church, or you're somewhere in the middle, that there's a place for your building to come alive and to connect with the people that come through those doors. So I think it's definitely a necessity. And I think it's just something that ends up on the back burner.

Bryan:

Yeah. And we talk a lot in like communication realms about verbal and nonverbal communication. So I think entering into a space is a big part of non-verbal, the way that we are communicating non-verbally to people who enter our church building. So I'm curious why you think churches aren't spending more time on the way that we communicate through our spaces and I think part of that too, is I see a trend in a lot of church buildings where it's an empty warehouse and it looks like an empty warehouse and we keep it dark and we use lights to project whatever we want. Right.

Jeanette:

Yes. Because we're like a club.

Bryan:

Right.

Jill:

Woot, woot.

Bryan:

But they're so much more than that. And especially like, sometimes it's very contradictory to who the church is as well. So why are we not spending more time being purposeful in how we're communicating in the spaces that we have?

Jill:

Pastors are just trying to be pastors. Right. They're trying to shepherd their people. And I honestly think they don't think about it. We can't expect a pastor to pastor the people, know IT, and design a building too, like come on.

Bryan:

Right. Yeah.

Jill:

And so I think they just don't think about it. And I also think that there are infinite supply of information and conferences about how to have the best greeter teams, and how to have the best websites, and how to have the best social media. But this is something that we don't really talk about is your environments and how it affects, not just your first time visitors, but the people that attend there. So because the people who call your church home, they should feel inspired when they're there. They should be like, this place makes me want to serve here more. This place makes me want to connect here more. And then to our first time visitors, it should be a very welcoming experience. So I think they're just not giving it the thought to begin with. I didn't think they don't even realize like, oh it matters what our building look like. It matters if we have clutter in our lobbies. You know what I mean? It matters if our ping cups match. I don't know. It just does guys. And then for those who do consider it, they don't know where to begin.

Jeanette:

That leads me to my next question, which is churches A, don't know where to begin and also maybe they know like, yeah, we need help in all the areas. But where would you encourage them to review and focus on first steps first? What's the first thing?

Jill:

So the first thing you should do is you should take your blinders off because when we're always in a place, we just kind of get, like nose blind, for lack of a better word to our environments. And so what you should do is you should take your blinders off and walk from your parking lot to your front door and imagine yourself as a first time visitor, you've never been there before. And walk through the doors and really look at every inch of that first impression. You got seven minutes guys to make your first impression. Time yourself. From the parking lot. See how much you see in seven minutes.

Jeanette:

When you even make it to the building.

Jill:

Is there a sign that points you to the door? So I'm very practical in the way that I approach my design process. And I go through a very extensive like questionnaire with not just the pastoral leadership, but then with the people who like, if you have like a greeter team, I like to talk to the greeter team. Where do you hang your badges? Are they just like sitting on a counter somewhere? So I like really kind like-

Jeanette:

They're stuck in the drawer of the dresser someone donated 27 years.

Jill:

Exactly.

Jeanette:

Obviously.

Jill:

That's where they should always go. So I take a very practical approach because if your space is beautiful, but not functional, well, that doesn't help you very much. So we got to have function and it should be, it should look awesome too. I use the word beautiful, but that could mean like vibey or cool or whatever. So as you're walking through that space, you want to scan all of that and you want to see, like, what can we improve on. Ask yourself this question, when was the last time that your space had a fresh coat of paint? And have you decluttered recently? We just kind of gather clutter, like from events or we have a box of t-shirts sitting on the floor, we have cardboard boxes. A decluttering and a fresh paint job can go a really long way in making your space feel new. So that's like a very fundamental thing that you can do.

Jeanette:

That's such a good idea. And then I'm like, and I could also probably stand to do that here at home. So thank you for that wonderful advice. But that's so true. And I think churches, because we're always on a tight budget, it's like, we're not going to throw away those cardboard boxes that all the candles were shipped in because we could probably repurpose those to build something for the kid or whatever.

Jill:

Exactly.

Jeanette:

And it's like, or...

Bryan:

Maybe someday we'll find a use for this.

Jeanette:

Yeah. And we want to be good steward. So we try to hold onto all that stuff. But then it's like, no, we've used these same pipe cleaners for VBS now five years. So let's get rid of them.

Bryan:

Well, I'm also curious and Jeanette, you kind of mentioned this before we started recording, but a lot of churches, obviously you have established spaces and so decluttering and painting is good and an easy way to make a big change. But sometimes there are structural changes that you can't do without spending a ton of money. Or what are some practical things that you think churches could do that would make a huge difference without the major cost beyond just decluttering and a fresh coat of paint?

Jill:

Okay. So, well I'm going to continue the paint trend for just a second because every church has a brand of some sort,

Bryan:

Absolutely.

Jill:

Whether they've touched it in a long time or not, but if you've recently like focused on branding, then your paint scheme throughout your building should reflect that. So, and paint is the least expensive way to get the biggest impact. If you can't change out all, like maybe you have a very traditional building and you're trying to be more modern and you're not going to like change out all of your ornamental molding that's everywhere that you don't want anymore. If you don't want it, if you're a traditional church and you want it, then we're going to embrace it. But if you don't want it, that's an expensive thing. That's remodeling. But you can paint.

Jill:

And so your branding should be reflective in your building. You should have your church name on a wall somewhere when you come in a building. You can put vinyl lettering. Don't put live, laugh, love, unless that's your mission statement. We could do without live, laugh, love. But you could put your mission statement on a wall. I just saw somebody in a Facebook group this morning that I'm part of, they were like, what should we put on this wall here? And I was like, well, we have to talk more about that. We have to talk like, it's not just about putting something on the wall. It's about putting something on the wall that connects people to your mission and purpose.

Jeanette:

I want to know though, you were talking about painting. Are there any bad colors? What are some things that churches probably should stay away from? Are there any bad colors or no?

Jill:

There's not bad colors. There's bad use of colors. Right. So, and a good rule of thumb is that every seven years you should kind of like have a refresh in your building. So like, if you haven't changed anything in your building, since the 90s and everything has a very Tuscan kind of theme to it's not current. Right. So someone, a brand new family comes in your church. We have a very Instagram, Pinterest like society. And so they're used to kind of seeing awesome things and there's no reason why the church can't be something awesome to look at. And so when they walk in, they need to be able to connect with that. And if it doesn't look and feel current to them, then they might automatically, again, we're talking about assigning emotions with our environments, they might be like, well, then they can't be current at all. How are they going to be relevant to me?

Jill:

And so a combination of white and blacks, always a good idea. It goes with most branding. But I mean, we can get much more creative than that dependent on what your church feel is and what your church vibe is. But there's nothing that you need to really stay away from except if it looks like it hasn't been touched in 20 years. So just, you want something to look fresh and that doesn't mean every church has to look the same.

Bryan:

But it needs to look authentic to who you are as a people too.

Jill:

Correct.

Bryan:

Right. So I think there are things that churches should avoid, but it's unique to your situation kind of thing too.

Jill:

Right. Right. What do you think churches should avoid?

Bryan:

Vinyl lettering in papyrus.

Jill:

In papyrus.

Jeanette:

Oh my gosh. Wait Bryan, we have been working together too long. Because I was like, I need to make a papyrus joke here somewhere.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

Oh, my goodness.

Jill:

Work with a good graphic designer. I can work with your graphic designer to make sure it comes across. It is important. Like that kind of stuff does say 20 years ago.

Bryan:

And I also walk into a lot of churches that have, I don't even know that I would call it residential furniture in their lobby, but it often looks like a funeral home when you walk into a lobby because they just have furniture to fill space and it's not purposeful.

Jill:

Right.

Bryan:

So I think there are some-

Jeanette:

Or something that somebody donated. It may be residential because,

Bryan:

Right.

Jeanette:

That chair belonged to...

Jill:

A founding member. Yep.

Bryan:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

We can't reupholster it because that was their favorite or whatever. And we talk about this in communications too, making that paradigm shift. And also you were talking about this idea of like, making it current and relevant. And we talk about that in the communications space as well that and I hate to use the word compete, but because that's not it. You said it better with like they're used to. So like when we talk about communications, we say they're used to getting a text that tells them their prescription is ready. They're used to texting to get a reservation at a restaurant. Therefore, texting makes sense in the church. If you want to connect with them that's how.

Jeanette:

And the same thing like in the interior design, it's like they're used to seeing spaces that welcome them in and have a certain feel and a vibe to them. They've decorated their own home to feel comfortable and safe and welcoming. And then when they walk into another space that's either not comfortable and safe and welcoming feeling or maybe it's just looks like a time warp has happened, there's a disconnect there because they're used to that in all these other places. So it's not about like we're competing with the world necessarily, but that's what they're used to. And so we have to communicate the same way with our communications, including our spaces.

Jill:

Yeah. I mean think about all the places that, and I know we use like millennial families a lot, but when I talk to pastors, that's always like, we're trying to attract millennial families. Well, millennial families want to be in places that they feel an emotional attachment to, like the coffee places they go to, the restaurants they go to. They are more heart driven by their choices of where they spend their time and money. So we need to create an environment that they want to be in.

Bryan:

Yeah. It's much more about an experience,

Jill:

Yes.

Bryan:

Right? Like an entire experience, not just the preaching, not just the quality of the coffee, but the entire vibe.

Jill:

Yep. And it's a whole other way to communicate to the people that attend or are coming in for the first time. And so it's actually a lot of real estate to communicate. I mean, it's a lot of opportunity to get your message across.

Jeanette:

So we may have already touched on this, but I just wanted to ask just in case. So like you've already told us to go in with fresh eyes and do all this stuff. Well, let's say I do that today at my church. My eyes have been opened. I see all things but obviously I really can't even paint before Sunday, but is there anything I can do this week that would make a difference? Is there any small thing that churches can do? And just, with just what we have now that might make something feel more welcoming, make our space feel more welcoming.

Jill:

Like a lot of churches have these old artificial plants, do you know what I'm talking about? Like the ficus trees that have been in like the wicker baskets from like 20 years ago, remove those and get some fresh, like Ikea has a great selection of greenery and plants,

Bryan:

Or Target. Yeah.

Jill:

Like bring something in that's fresh and take away things that are not fresh. So if you have like a oil painting that's been on your wall for a long time, do you need that there? Is it helping to communicate anything to the people that come in there? So it's a lot of removing and probably making a blank slate so that you can see that. And then, like I said, like fresh greenery, changing your light bulbs to like daytime level light bulbs, instead of like that yellow overtone, that really will freshen up your space real quick.

Jeanette:

I have another idea and tell me if I'm wrong here, but that wall where you have all of your pamphlets.

Jill:

Yeah.

Jeanette:

You know what I'm talking about. We all have them. We don't want it, but it's there. It's not going anywhere. And they're all wilted and kind of like discolored because they've been in the sun. We could replace those.

Jill:

Yes. Yeah. Anything that looks sad or like it's droopy, like you don't want that. You want people to feel alive in your space. So make sure that if anything's broken, remove it. You know what I'm saying? Just like, we're underestimating what a good cleanup can do for our spaces.

Jeanette:

Well, I just have to say for us, Florida churches, if you replace those pamphlets and connect cards, don't do it until Sunday morning because the humidity will get to them,

Jill:

That's right.

Jeanette:

And they will be sad again, they will be wilted. So you have to do that first thing Sunday morning, or it's too late. They've already [inaudible 00:21:06]. I'm going to use that phrase from now on. Like, oh, they look so sad.

Bryan:

All right. As we wrap things up, do you have any resources or places that we could point people to, if they want to take a deeper dive into facility use and the way that we communicate using our buildings and our facilities?

Jill:

Yes. You can find me at my website at jilliandesignco.com and there's a church's tab. And there's also a banner across the top where you can download five simple ways to update your lobby. And it just gives like very, some of the things we talked about today. There's an idea that I put out there. I'm really big into feature walls. I like to create an opportunity for people to want to take a picture in front of. So that way it can create some buzz on social media, like oh, where are you at? Oh, that's my church. So I talk a little bit about the importance of a feature wall. There's five actionable steps that you can take. If you need more help, you can always reach out to me. I would love to talk to you about your church. And I work with churches all over the country. My process allows me to do that. And my newsletter, I give a monthly newsletter to people who sign up and with trends that I'm seeing now, and it's specific to churches. So those are some different ways that you can connect with me.

Bryan:

Awesome. Thank you. Well, we will add a link to that in our show notes, of course. But yeah. Thank you for coming on today and talking through this. I think this is an area that we've kind of overlooked, I guess.

Jeanette:

Yeah, this was so fun. This was like a good, fun conversation.

Jill:

I'm glad you think it's fun, because I can talk about it for days.

Bryan:

Which is always a good sign, that that's something you're enjoying. Awesome. Well thank you again for being with us today.

Jill:

All right. Thank you. Appreciate it.

Bryan:

Absolutely. And thank you for listening to The Church Juice Podcast. If you haven't already, make sure that you subscribe wherever you're listening today, and then you will never miss a future episode. And if you're listening on Apple Podcast, it would mean a lot to us if you took the time to leave us a review. That helps other church leaders find us as well. And by the way, we'll continue today's discussion in our Facebook group. You can find the link to the group along with those show notes at churchjuice.com/podcast/

Jeanette:

Church Juice's Podcast is a listener supporter production of ReFrame Ministries, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Brian Haley with post-production by audio engineer, Nate Morris in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information about Church Juice, visit churchjuice.com. For more information on ReFrame Ministries and our family of programs visit reframeministries.org.