Hospitable Rooms for Adult Groups

August 4th, 2011

Most churches put an emphasis on classrooms for children and youth and ignore the adults. The attitude is “They can take care of themselves.” And many adult classes do just that. In fact, sometimes they become so possessive of their rooms that they make others miserable. They forget that Jesus told his disciples not to worry about the material things (Luke 12:22-34) but to put their hearts into their ministry for him.

It is important, however, for adult classrooms to be inviting and to indicate that the class members are actively engaged in learning and ministry.

Rooms that Speak

An adult room can say many things about the group that meets there. First it can be cheerful and welcoming. This doesn’t mean it must be elaborate in its décor, but it will have fresh paint and be well lit, neat, and uncluttered.

A dreary, dark room gives negative vibes. A clutter of old study materials indicates a “don’t care” attitude. A room that has up-to-date bulletin boards and current studies accessible shows that group members care about what happens.

Recommended Space Requirements

When planning new buildings or reassigning classrooms, it is important to take into consideration the space recommendations for adult classes. Although the requirement is less per person than it is for children, adult groups usually need space to either sit at tables or to have stand-up conversation space before the study time.

The larger the class, the more important this fellowship space is. In a small class members get to know new people as they discuss the lesson. But in a large class it is easy for new people to simply become part of the furniture.

If adult groups have coffee and refreshments during their class time, then additional space is necessary, along with a sink or a nearby water source. Built-in cabinets make a tremendous difference in the appearance of a room and allow supplies to be put away out of sight when they are not in use. Adults should have twenty square feet per person. The same size classroom with windows and two doors will seem bigger than one with no windows and only one door. At gathering and ending times, adults have a tendency to linger around doors to continue visiting. If a room has two entrances, new persons will feel more comfortable since they can go to the other door when one is blocked.

Room Structure and Furnishings

Studies indicate that classes of more than twenty-five do not function well in a discussion format unless the class is divided into small groups at times during the study. When we try to carry on a discussion in a large class, only a few people have an opportunity to talk, and those are usually the same people each week.

Whether the class offers a lecture or discussion, placing chairs in a semicircle is preferable to auditorium-style seating. A semicircle is much more welcoming and allows for better eye contact during the session. Just as body movements can be welcoming or rejecting, furniture placement can also tell visitors and new members that they are welcome into the group or that they are just another body in the room.

Shared Space

Many times adults must share their space with weekday classes or meetings, and sometimes the room is used at a second hour on Sunday morning. In those cases it is important for each group to have its own storage space and bulletin board (or tack strips for displaying photos, calendars, etc). Even when an adult class must share space with weekday preschool programs, you can have a portable storage units.

An adult class I attended, not only shares space with another adult class on Sunday morning, but we also meet in a room that serves as both a resource room for adult material and a library for the weekday preschool! Adult chairs are brought in each Sunday, and we have our own small table with a drawer that we set in the center of our circle each week to hold a lit candle that represents the presence of Christ among us.

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