October 22, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

Features on the Worship Facilities newsletter and website offer a snapshot of current trends or cutting edge ideas in church design. Targeted to a largely evangelical Christian audience, recent features have ranged from branding (for both the ministry and the pastor) to evaluations of seating options. The current Worship Facilities feature on church entries, with its emphasis on covered drop-offs seems stuck on an idea that dates from the 1980’s.

Zion Helotes Car Canopy Entry.jpg

This church built in the 1980's illustrates the problem of obscuring the front door - welcoming the car more than the people!

There are serious problems designing a church entry with a covered drop-off, particularly one that is sized to fully cover cars. The biggest architectural challenge is that the size and scale of a cover for cars can overwhelm the main entry. From a distance, it may be hard to actually see the front door, or worse, the oversized canopy can make the front door seem small or insignificant.


 This modernist image from the Worship Facilities article solves the overscaled covering issue by making a minimal canopy.  But it's still hard to know this is a church.

Another problem with a covered canopy as the front feature is that it can be hard to tell the building is a church. Other buildings that use the same types of automobile canopies are institutions like hospitals or nursing homes, or transportation related establishments like gas stations, auto dealers, transit or train stations. A small cross may not convey enough of an image of worship or spirituality to distinguish the church from these other non-church buildings.

Clear Lake Presbyterian Covered Entry.jpg

 Heimsath Architects designed this church in the 1970's but a later car canopy was added and overwhelmed the original entry design.

In addition to the canopies, the article does, however, include another trend that does make sense for the design of the church entry - lot’s of openness and clear glass. Though the door itself may be ornamented or artful, a visitor these days feels more comfortable knowing what’s going on inside. The heavy, obscure doors of the old traditional church don’t convey a feeling of welcome nearly as well as someone or some group of people inside already engaged in greeting and welcoming each other.  

Church Design & Construction/ Worship Spaces