Our free i3 webinars give us the chance to share the latest church building wisdom. We also have a question-and-answer session at the end of each one that gives viewers a chance to ask the questions that really matter to them. Then we can share those questions and answers here. Following are our responses to two more of your i3 webinar questions about church design.

Question 1: We have pews and are thinking of changing to theater seating. What is the trend and what are the advantages?

This is an increasingly common question as more church buildings get older and more church leaders are looking to remodel and update their church building. One reason to consider switching from pews to chairs or theater seating is that people are willing to sit closer together with chairs than they are with pews. When you make the switch, you gain an average of about 10 percent in seating capacity.

There are three factors to consider when deciding between removable chairs and theater seating. The first is cost. In 2019, removable chairs can be purchased for $50-60 per chair (more if you want wooden chairs, which give a warmer, more ornate appearance). In contrast, theater seating costs $200-300 per seat.

The second factor is the floor of your worship space. If you have a flat floor, you can install movable chairs. If your floor is sloped greater than 2%, you really have little choice but to invest in theater seating. This means you’ll need to decide whether the increased seating capacity is worth the cost of installing theater seating.

The third factor is flexibility. If you have a flat floor and want to use your worship center as a multi-ministry space, you might wish to choose movable chairs.

Question 2: Do current church design trends include a basement option or are more churches moving away from that design?

The bottom line with multi-story buildings is added costs. This is because you will need to install an elevator (in most places, this will be a building code requirement) and multiple sets of exit stairways. Elevators and internal stairways will eat into your available square footage, increasing the size of the church building you need to construct. Therefore, if you want to build another level, we strongly suggest that the church building be large enough to justify the cost increase. We suggest a church design of at least 5,000-10,000 square feet to make the additional floor (basement or second story) worth the money.

Of course, if your church building is on a landlocked property, you may have no choice but to build a second story or basement level. In that case, you will need to budget and raise funds for the additional costs of elevators and stairwells. If your land has a steep grade across it then it may be well suited for multiple stories with much additional cost. If you have the available space on your property, however, we do recommend that you build out rather than up or down.

We hope that our responses to these questions are helpful in your decision-making process. Whether you’re ready to remodel an existing church building or are looking at new church design options, sign up for our free i3 webinars to learn about the process and get your questions answered.