Church Seating: Inviting the Wider Community

May 29, 2018

When people think of churches, they might imagine a building crossed with pews and stationed in rows. This type of fixed seating represents a longer ‘period’ of time in church history- but it was not the way church seating truly began! Prior to the thirteenth century, church-goers were encouraged to be active during worship and were, therefore, not seated. Seating was only gradually introduced.

We can fast forward right up unto today where it would seem extremely unusual not to see a church full of seats! At present, many congregations want a mix between being an ‘active’ church and also being a building where many people can sit down. A significant shift has taken place across churches nationwide, whereby pew or bench style seating has been largely reduced or eliminated and more ‘adaptable’ seating has replaced it instead.

Congregations and church leaders hope to reach out to wider communities. Whether it’s a Sunday service, a small group meeting, a youth club or a dance class, churches offer a dynamic space. In some cases, church spaces are used as local cafes or nursery schools, post offices or food banks. Flexible seating allows for any of these to take place at any given time. Being able to move seating, or change seating layouts, provides an invitation for the wider community to use the space.

If your church is considering upgrading seating, or making the change to meet adaptable arrangements, there’s some things to read up on before you go ahead and invest. Here’s what to consider:

Durability

If your building is going to be serving a variety of users, which is likely in the context of a church setting (especially if you’re reaching out to accommodate community events and activities,) then you will want to purchase seating that is sturdy, robust and reliable. Choosing the most durable option might appear a little pricier to begin with, but because your seating may be frequently moved or handled by lots of people, it is best to choose chairs from the start that are truly built to last. Chairs with strong steel frames are often recommended for regular movement, such as this.

Users

To maximise the usage of your choice of chairs, you will want to consider choosing seating that can be used across ages. It is advisable to consider chairs both young and elderly might be able to move or put away. For use by church-goers, as well as the wider community, consider options that are lightweight for ease of use by the wide ‘age range’ of people who may need to handle the chairs.

Comfort

It perhaps goes without saying that comfort is a prioritising factor. Think of your congregation to start with. These are a group of people who will be in attendance most weeks, for an hour or more during a Sunday service. It will of course be important that they are seated comfortably and- again- your age range may well be varied. It might even be a good idea to get your congregation involved in sampling some different seating options, to find the ‘best fit.’ Seat pads and seat cushions are also options to account for and often enhance the comfort factor!

In addition to this, anybody from the wider community who comes in to use your church space may be much more likely or inclined to keep using the space if they know that their group have been able to sit comfortably- and enjoy their experience inside your church.

Storage

Whilst it may be easy to get caught up in the comfort and aesthetics of seating alone, a deciding factor may depend somewhat on the practical decision of where you will store your chairs! Planning or preparing a space- if your church is adapting from pews or fixed seating- is going to be of high importance. Again, do a bit of research here and ask questions: some chairs can be folded, some stacked, some utilise trolleys. You’ll need to bare this in mind and possibly even take measurements of the space you have available.

Overall, there are many elements to consider when choosing chairs for your church, to maximise the space, use and ease of storage. It’s not a decision to make alone: seek advice, hold discussions and take your time to think of your users and their needs. If your church space is not being used regularly by the wider community, you might want to consider how careful seating choices could give your church a whole new lease of potential!