10 Problems in Church Foyers

In my home church, we called the primary interior entrance to the worship center “the vestibule.” Others call it the “narthex,” the “foyer,” or “lobby.” Whatever we may call this entranceway to a church building and the worship center – which I will call “foyer” for consistency – here are some of the problems we’ve seen in years of church consulting. Use this list to evaluate your church foyer.

  1. It’s not clear from the outside where the foyer may be. The exterior of the building has so many doors (and several doors so look like a possible entrance) that it’s tough to know where best to enter.
  2. The best parking is distanced from the foyer. I’ve seen buildings with the foyer in the front and the parking far in the back. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but it’s not best when the parking directs attenders away from the foyer. 
  3. The foyer is too small. I’ve especially seen this problem in older buildings, but some newer structures have the problem, too. Traffic flow gets blocked and fellowship gets hindered when there’s no room to move in the foyer. This problem becomes especially acute when a church has multiple services.
  4. It’s dark and uninviting. Regular church members may not see it that way (since they’ve grown accustomed to it), but guests see older, poorly lit foyers as less than welcoming.
  5. The foyer is cluttered. It’s easy for “stuff” (even good stuff, like food and clothing collected for the needy) to create a mess that hinders the welcoming nature of a foyer. If you use the foyer for this purpose – which I don’t recommend – at least do it neatly. The first interior part of a building that a person sees matters.
  6. Any furniture is old and/or worn out. I understand that some of the furniture may have been gifts to the church, but the foyer should not be the “parlor” celebrating the past. Old furniture leaves the impression that the church is stuck in the past.
  7. Too much has been added to a small foyer. This often happens because a church begins to think strategically about maximizing the foyer, but the area is too small for the plans. Even a welcome center – which I highly recommend – can sometimes be so large that it actually hinders traffic flow.
  8. Greeters are non-existent or not identified clearly. This problem can be fixed easily, but I’m surprised by how many churches still don’t use greeters wisely.
  9. The welcome center – if there is one – is poorly designed or managed. I’ve seen sloppy, cheaply designed welcome centers, and I’ve also stood for too long at “welcome” centers with no human beings there. 
  10. The foyer misses opportunities to facilitate worship. For example, soft worship music in the background can help turn a heart to God. If the foyer has screens, scripture verses prior to the worship service are more important than announcements. Even greeters can help by greeting with, “We’re glad you’re here today. We’re praying you meet God today.” 

What other issues would you add to this list? 

10 Comments

  • Robin Jordan says:

    The foyer may have several exits but no signs indicating where each exit leads.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    In a liturgical church the foyers should be a large enough for each congregation and its guests to gather before the church service. This was one of the insights of the liturgical and worship renewal movements of the last century.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Robin!

      • Robin Jordan says:

        You are quite welcome.Many churches underestimate the value of a large, spacious, well-lit foyer in which a congregation and its guests can gather before and after a church service. My church worships in the student union building of a local university. The building has three floors that open onto an antrium which has a glass roof. The church uses rooms on the first and third floors. The first floor foyer includes a lounge. The third floor foyer consists of a spacious balcony overlooking the atrium. On Sundays we turn one end of the balcony into a cafe.For our worship gatherings we use the banquet room near that end of the balcony. The balcony is large enough for our three congregations and their guests to have fellowship together before their particular worship gathering. The university has installed new LED lighting so the balcony no longer suffers from poor lighting on a cloudy day or at night. We have portable signs everywhere directing guests to the various ministry check-in stations and greeters stationed everywhere too.. We also have a welcome center. God has blessed us with a steady growth rate and a decent baptism rate. We are multisite. We have a second campus in another community about a 20-minute drive from the original campus. Its congregation uses a community center for its worship gatherings and children’s ministry.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Sounds like you’re doing it well.

  • Terry Beckerman says:

    Please supply links to solutions. Pretty much know the downsides, but how do you avoid any of these ten issues or being/becoming one of the eight types? We really want to be more focused on making it the best, not rehashing what the worst is. Thanks!

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Terry, it ultimately comes down to how much you can physically do with a given area. Here are some things I would look for in a strong foyer: plenty of space to move around; warm, strong lighting; clearly identified greeters; an obvious, inviting welcome center; signage to the worship center and other central parts of the building. Thanks.  

  • Kimberley says:

    Thank you for the insight on church foyers. I think my church fits into category #10. We are a mobile church meeting in a high school so we use the auditorium as our worship center. However, the auditorium is a good distance from the front entrance of the school, with little activity in the hallway although we have a display with some information on it and we play music in the front area. As a mobile church, we have limited space in our truck to store our equipment but I’m hopeful that you may be able to suggest something we can do to enliven the area between the front doors and the auditorium so it will feel and look more inviting and not just a wasteland. Thank you for any help you can offer about the foyer aka front entrance. If possible could you also share some suggestions about how to use greeters. Thank you.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Good questions, Kimberley. Honestly, I would station greeters throughout the area, simply to make sure that everybody has human interaction in the “wasteland.” When people have conversations, they don’t notice/worry as much about the surroundings. Get some really friendly folks who understand the difference between friendly greetings and overwhelming smothering, and put them to work in the hallway.  Hope this helps.  

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