Church architects often refer to it as the narthex. The common term among the church people is foyer or lobby. A contemporary concept is to make this area a central concourse or mall patterned after the shopping center with the enclosed mall and food court. One well known church has a Starbucks franchise in the central mall.
Let’s avoid extremes, seeking a balance that will contribute to our central purpose of the church to produce disciples—a man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28). While I do not believe we should seek to replicate the mall and the food court, there is an opposite extreme I often find in the church facility of nothing more than an entry area without adequate circulation space or a central gathering area for greetings and fellowship.
I like to call the main foyer the COMMONS. It is a common point of entry from the main church entrance where people can be easily directed to any area of the church complex. Those people who are familiar with the building should be able to go from the commons to their desired area without traffic jams or disturbing other functions.
The commons should be large enough to handle the crowd when the congregational service is dismissed. A typical guideline is two square feet for each potential person in the worship center (example: 1000 square feet for 500 potential people).
A welcome center should provide refreshing greeters with full command of information and resources to capitalize on the only first impression opportunity. The commons should be well lighted (at least 20 foot-candles), along with other signs of life—tasteful interior decorating and plants.
Provide a seating/conversation area or lounge for the elderly and special conversations, not simply a family room overwhelmed by children climbing and playing. The commons is not primarily the area for all the youth trophy encased for endless years until the cabinet is overwhelmed. It is not necessarily the best place for all the missionary letters and displays. Use adjacent areas for these special purposes.
There should be immediate access to the rest rooms, nursery suite, and worship center from the commons. Education space allocations should flow from the commons in order of age—younger to older. The activity/fellowship area should be convenient to the commons, while secondary entrances may provide access to the kitchen or other special areas.