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The Shape of Sacred Space

A lesson plan to accompany the Living Worship curriculum that addresses meaning and intentionality in the design and utilization of worship space

A lesson plan to accompany the Living Worship DVD curriculum


This lesson is designed to examine the meaning of the worship space and the impact it has on worship for the congregation. Comparing the worship space of the students’ home churches and Ravenswood Covenant Church will help them explore the theological and philosophical reasons behind the design of theworship space and consider ways to utilize the space more intentionally for enhancing the worship experience.


  1. Explain the theological and practical significance of various elements of worship space
  2. Analyze the use of worship space in a particular worship context
  3. Suggest modifications for enhancing the use of worship space for a particular congregation

Best Context:

This topic would be valuable for anyone interested in understanding worship practices and desiring to deepen appreciation for and participation in corporate worship services. It is especially applicable for those who currently lead or are preparing to lead corporate worship.

Before class:

Have students interact with Living Worship: From the Community section of Living Worship read the “History of the worship space.” Examine the pictures of the four buildings which have been used by RCC for worship over the years. Pay special attention to the “4th building brochure”, trying to visualize walking through the building and participating in a service in the worship room.

To better understand how the worship space is used, watch the “Lord’s Supper Service” in the services section of the DVD. For the purpose of this learning exercise you can fast forward through sections, observing the movement and slowing down to observe the way different elements in the space are utilized. Plan to take 10-15 minutes to view the service this way.

Have students prepare: Be prepared to discuss your observations about the worship space of RCC. This includes the presence (or absence), location and form of such elements as foyer/greeting area, central gathering place for worship, movement/flow of people, congregation seating, clergy seating, choir, baptismal, altar-table, pulpit, etc. What type of atmosphere is created by the worship space? What type of atmosphere is created by the aesthetics (presence or absence of liturgical art, lighting, color, space, etc.)? What do these spaces say about the theological perspectives and ministry philosophy of RCC?

Have students write: Prepare a description of the church you normally attend including pictures or a diagram of the worship space. Be prepared to explain the similarities and differences between your church and Ravenswood. Write 2-3 paragraphs explaining why the similarities and differences exist. What is the purpose of the space? How is it used? How does this reflect the theological and practical perspectives on worship of those who designed the worship space? Are there ways you believe the worship space inhibits the leaders’ preferences for worship?

During Class:

Begin by having students describe their usual place of worship and share pictures or diagrams with each other in groups of 3-4. Ask each group to make a list of similarities and differences between their home churches and RCC. Discuss the reasons for these similarities and differences. That is, what theological and practical perspectives have shaped the worship spaces?

As a class listen to the following interview portions from the “witnesses” section of Living Worship.

- ­­Mark Torgerson’s interview (almost entirely on worship space)

- Michael Pasquarello’s comments on “Use of the pulpit” and “Use of the pulpit at RCC.”

- Matthew Lundgren’s comments on space: “Use of space,” “Demands on space,”“Retrofitting spaces”, and “Use of space at RCC”

- Robert Webber’s “Comment on space”

Get back into the small groups. Ask each group to act as a church worship space consultant group. Based on the theological perspectives and ministry philosophy of RCC make one recommendation for more effectively utilizing or modifying some aspect of the worship space. Work together and help each member of the group do the same for her home church.