Modern Church Design Ideas for Beautiful Acoustics

At its heart, a church is a place of both communication and worship. Through verbal and musical expression, people come together to celebrate and worship, so proper acoustics are essential. Studying acoustics helps understand how sound behaves and moves through a space, thus in a place such as a church where verbal communication is a foundational value, proper design is important.

How Acoustics Work

Acoustics are determined by the architectural design of the space as well as the way people are occupying it. The bigger the room is, the more sound it will hold, and bigger rooms swallow sound. Hard versus soft walls will determine how the sound “bounces” around a room, as hard walls facilitate more bouncing off the sound and it will be easier to hear the voice, but when speaking in a room with soft walls it is harder to be heard. Acoustics are an essential part of architectural design, especially in places of performance, since highly reflective ceiling panels above a stage will direct sound towards seating areas. If the ceiling panel is placed properly above the stage, it will have a positive effect, but if the panel is placed too far back there will be a negative effect. Sound also refracts through small openings, so careful attention is paid to the door and floor tracks as well as HVAC ducting.

Acoustics in Church Design

Acoustics are essential for proper sound distribution when it comes to sermons or songs in churches. With improper acoustic ceiling systems, it will be difficult for individuals to clearly understand the words of the sermon or to hear the lyrics to a song properly. This can inhibit the overall experience in the Church, so these issues are given careful thought by architects during the design process. Echos are traditionally caused by “parallel reflective surfaces or side walls”, but this can be treated. A large flat or curved surface can also cause echoes and should be avoided.

Sound Absorbing Panels

Sound absorbing panels will help the spoken words of the pastor or religious leader be heard more clearly throughout the entire space. Sound absorbing panels work to reduce reverberation time, which is what makes sounds harder to understand as they build up on top of each other, and can also make them appear rather loud. Acoustical foam, panels, and curtains will help, with acoustical panels often being the best choice as they are presentable and can be installed onto a wall that’s already standing. These panels are also customizable and can be tailored to the style preferences of each particular church.

Acoustics for a Powerful Service

When tended to properly, acoustics can add an additional layer of power and beauty to the delivery of a church service. A careful balance must be struck between enough acoustic treatment to make the service accessible and not enough that it sounds messy. Careful application of panels and soft surfaces to absorb sound help, as well as breaking up large spaces into separate sections to direct sound. Sidewalls can be designed to angle slightly near the front where the speaker is in order to project sound to the back. For roof peaks over the speaker, sound can be improved by adding low-frequency sound absorption in the top.

Acoustic ceiling systems allow the beautiful sounds of worship and celebration to be heard by all members of the congregation. When designed properly, they are both aesthetically pleasing and practical, making acoustic ceiling systems an essential aspect of church design.


Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value. 

the IONIC Masterplan For Your Church Project

Developing a plan for a group can have its challenges if you don’t have your act together. It takes a carefully crafted process to guide a church’s building committee successfully.

We have been told by so many of our clients that our process was the most thorough and detailed that they had ever experienced. Our step-by-step process that leads a committee from the beginning of a program guide to a projected budget has helped our clients fully understand the process of renovating or modifying their church facility.

First let me share that it isn’t an easy process. It can be very time consuming, if done improperly. There are many factors that go into developing a master plan for a church and any one of them can create chaos if not approached properly. We feel we have been given an opportunity to be good stewards for our church clients and not lead them down a path that would create hardships or delays in their projects.

Here are a few of the issues that we have helped our clients face:

1. Budget

2. Re-purposing existing spaces

3. Expansion of new facilities

4. Focusing on priorities

5. Committee members’ different desires

6. Providing solutions when the budget doesn’t allow them to fulfill all their wishes.

7. Creating a phasing plan

8. Team involvement

Any one of these can be a challenge to the committee and it helps to have someone steering the committee in a direction that will get them positive results.

IONIC’s goal is to assist the church in recognizing its own VISION and allowing it to rise to the surface. We are not here to push our own agenda but rather carefully take the needs and requirements of the church and help craft a plan that can be successfully implemented.

the IONIC Masterplan… Now What?

Last week, we briefly shared some early steps in the process of the IONIC Masterplan and strategic planning for your church growth. How do you begin? The steps? Why the IONIC Masterplan is better than just a master plan. And so on. Here is the direct link if you missed it. the IONIC Masterplan Link

This week, we want to talk about what’s next. You have engaged IONIC to prepare your IONIC Masterplan and have come to an agreement that all of the pieces of the puzzle are exactly what the church needs… but… there is always a but!

First let me share that most people, especially people involved on a church development committee do not like to make decisions. Everyone likes to share opinions, plan, plot, tinker, discuss, debate and beat an idea to death over the littlest details… but it’s difficult to make the decision on the next step. Most of the time, a church comes to IONIC when they are in need of a design solution for their spatial problems. That’s what we do… DeZign Solutions. The key ingredient here is that they are already struggling with the spatial problems otherwise they wouldn’t have reached out for our help. They need the solution now!

So here is the big but… they don’t move forward once they have the road map in front of them. Why?

1.       Money

2.       Congregational approvals

Congregational approvals is mostly an excuse. Everyone knows that it is needed. Everyone knows that it is wanted. Everyone knows that it will enormously help with the ministry. Everyone knows… but… no one will make a decision. Most likely it always comes down to money.

Money is a good reason, too. I practice the good stewardship of praying about my needs before a big purchase. Many times I have already studied, diagnosed the need and come to agreement (with myself or others involved) that it is the right choice. I pray about it and turn it over to God. And then I listen… probably the next most important part of prayer.

I always share with our church clients a few simple steps for looking at their new ‘building adventure’. If it was the exact amount of money they expected, would there still be hesitation? Most of the time that isn’t the case. It’s more money than anticipated. Unfortunately, the cost of construction is expensive. And it isn’t going to get cheaper. It’s only going to get more expensive. So for that very reason, NOW is the perfect time!

So let’s take an example and break it down. Let say a church met over several months with our design team and they had a modest budget dream of $500,000 dollars for the construction of a new smaller addition. Sound familiar? So after several months of planning and drawing and configuring. A plan has been developed… everything they wanted… and it’s the cost is… you guessed it… $750,000. Now this wasn’t poor planning. It was discussed during the development that if we added that extra bathroom, that extra room, that new entry, etc., it would affect the costs. All agreed that it was the ultimate desire. How do we fix it?

1. Scale back the plan. We have an overall plan and can now prepare to develop the work in phases, if needed. Often, we can build the majority of what we absolutely need now. The church may not get EVERYTHING they want right now and by breaking it into phases might push that phase down the road many years or not ever at all. Be careful!

2. Seek additional pricing. Commonly, we will be asked to find another contractor to prepare an estimate on the master the IONIC Masterplan plan, until we find one that provides a price that is ACCEPTABLE. At this early stage of design documents it’s still a guessing game. Not the best long term solution.

3. Develop detailed plans. One of the best ways to determine the real cost of a construction project is allowing IONIC to begin developing further detailed documents that describe the steel, the mechanical, how the walls will be built, how the firewall will work and any critical details to help the selected contractor to sharpen their focus on the TRUE COST of the construction.

4. Wait. Yes, this is an option. Unfortunately, we see it too often. A church decides to wait until enough money, support and commitment can be stockpiled. Most of the time it includes PAIN. Leaders will decide to wait to do anything until it HURTS ENOUGH. Before pulling the trigger.

Let me share a breakout of how the cost of construction and waiting affects the project. Then you, as the leadership, can make the best decision for your church.

So let’s just say that your Project was planned for $500,000 and if the work came to that amount you would pull the trigger…..GREAT! We love when a plan comes together. But it didn’t. It’s $250,000 over. That’s a lot of money. I agree. Construction is a lot of money.

The breakdown that $250,000 into the total years of use you’ll have it. Now the church most likely will have it forever…..but we can use 25 years as a guide. Easy math.


$250,000 into 25 years = $10,000/year

$10,000 a year = $833/month

$833 a month would break down into $208 a week. Since churches typically receive tithes every Sunday.

That might be one new family added to the fellowship due to your new programs and ministry added because you had room to grow. Or maybe it’s five existing families giving an extra $52 a week to help offset the cost of the entire desired scope.

This example shows how the break down can allow it to happen now… under the current construction dollars.

What happens if we wait? Let’s exclude things that we have no control over like tariffs on steel or labor force issues or even a downturn in the economic system. None of us really want that!

We have seen historically that the increases in construction cost happen yearly based on material availability at 6% and labor costs at 2%. Again we will try to leave inflation out of it as well but 4% is a common number used. Let’s plan that the church has put the project on hold for 5 years.

This is what happens:


Year One: $250,000 becomes $270,000

Year Two: $270,000 becomes $291,600

Year Three: $291,600 becomes $314,928

Year Four: $314,928 becomes $340,122

Year Five: $340,122 becomes $367,331

Your project now costs you an additional $117,331!

NOT REALLY! Wait!!!!!

Remember you never pulled the trigger on the original $500,00 budget. The above numbers were just the additional costs for the project.

A FIVE YEAR DELAY of the construction project on $750,000 scope will increase to over $1,100,000 which is a $350,000 increase in your costs.

So what is the answer? It’s actually a little bit of everything

1.       Scale back a portion of the work to make it accommodate as much of the ministry goals as possible and not create a financial hardship on the church. IONIC can help you break this down allowing for the future expansion once needed or desired.

2.       Find a contractor that fits the goals and budget concerns. One that does work with churches and is willing to do open book pricing so the committee can see the direct results of their choices. IONIC has worked with many contractors that we can recommend.

3.       Pursue the detailed plans along with the general contractor the church decided to partner with. This eliminates a lot of guess work by the subcontractors that will be pricing their portion. IONIC can develop the plans

So, what’s next? Let’s talk. We can help DeZign a Solution for your future.

Three Chopt Presbyterian Dedicated!

Three Chopt Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA celebrated its 50th anniversary with a dedication of its renovated facility. IONIC helped Three Chopt from conception to completion of this $2,000,000 renovation project and is ecstatic to hear that the church has responded enthusiastically to the final product.

Feel free to browse a few of our other completed projects in our portfolio.

Two offices to serve you better. Headquarters in Hampton Roads, a second office in Central Virginia.

IONIC Featured In AIA Newsletter

Ionic DeZign Studios was featured in the latest edition of AIA Richmond’s newsletter, The Pedestal. The Central Virginia office located in Richmond recently completed renovations and an addition to Providence Baptist Church located in Hayes, Virginia.

This project was also recognized and received two awards from the National Association of Church Design-Builders (NACDB) earlier this year.

Click below to see the newsletter.

AIA RVA 3Q The Pedestal

Feel free to browse a few of our other completed projects here:

IONIC Churches

Two offices to serve you better. Headquarters in Hampton Roads. Second office in Central Virginia.

Find out more about IONIC 

IONIC Vision: Creating Places and Spaces that Enrich the Lives of Those Who Use Them.

Providence Baptist Church is an Award Winner!

IONIC returned from the Annual Member Meeting for the National Association of Church Design Builders with two awards for its Providence Baptist Church project. We teamed up with general contractor JH Batten, Inc., a fellow NACDB member, to add an 8,200 square foot expansion to the existing church building in Hayes, VA.

Our partnership with JH Batten was rewarded with an Honors Award for best TEAM NACDB project for collaborating with a fellow member. The job was also a winner in the category for best project under $5 million.



The 1960s facility presented a challenge to the team, with a large amount of the existing square footage constructed prior to the existence of current Building Codes. To match the colonial style and brick facade of the existing building, special care was needed to meet the requirements of the fire code, without employing a sprinkler system. By designing and building a Firewall between the existing Commons and Fellowship Hall, the Design/Build team was able to isolate the existing Fellowship Hall and then add to it to create the new Fellowship Center. When completed, the firewall allowed the structure to be represented as though it was two separate buildings. The firewall also set the stage for the future Multi-Purpose Outreach Center addition, which could be separated and sprinkled for fire safety.

Creative collaboration and careful coordination between Ionic DeZign Studios and JH Batten allowed the fire code requirements to be addressed in a way that saved the church both time and expense. The client also had an extensive wish list for the new building and the team was able to meet those needs, while staying within budget.










The new Fellowship Center doubled the size of the church’s seating capacity from 150 to 300 seats for dining and fellowship events, while allowing for better furniture placement. Key features of the new center include a new Commercial Kitchen and handicap accessible bathrooms and showers. A new entry Commons with a coffee bar and high-top tables can be conveniently accessed from a covered Drop-off area in the parking lot. Additional parking, accessible walkways and new landscaping and lighting further enhanced the completed Phase 1 design.

3rd Street Bethel AME Church

Ionic DeZign Studios, Inc. has been awarded the contract to provide design services to preserve the historic Third Street Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. The church is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and the project is being funded through a National Park Service grant. As part of the preservation of African American civil rights movement sites, Third Street Bethel AME Church was one of 39 projects in 21 states to receive funding.

The funds will be used to stabilize the 1856 Gothic structure, where trailblazing African-American Maggie Walker addressed the Right Worthy Grand Council of Virginia in 1901, saying, ”Let us awake” and urging them to “start and do good in our ranks,” establishing a bank, a newspaper and a business empire in Richmond’s African American community during the infancy of the Civil Rights movement in Virginia.

Be sure to follow up on our progress as we share along the way. Check out other church projects at www.ionicdezigns.com

We currently have offices in Virginia Beach and Richmond to better serve you.  757.499.3510.