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What the Unchurched See in a Building

New research says people are looking for "sacred" buildings.

Does "sacred" space appeal to or repel the unchurched? A recent survey probed 1,700 unchurched American adults, putting photos of four different church exteriors in front of them. Respondents indicated their preferences by allocating 100 points across the four images, based on the appeal of the appearance.

The Gothic look averaged 48 points, more than double the next-highest finisher, a white-steeple-and-pillar exterior that averaged about 19 points. The other two churches, with more contemporary looks, averaged 18 points and 16 points, according to the study, commissioned by Cornerstone Knowledge Network and conducted by LifeWay Research.

So should churches opt for the cathedral look as a way to attract the unchurched?

Not necessarily, says Jim Couchenour, director of marketing and ministry services at Cogun Inc., a church building design firm that co-founded Cornerstone with Aspen Group. Aesthetics are an important element to weigh, Couchenour says, but the building must reflect the values ...

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