In our last post, we began a discussion about the important elements you need in any worship space. We talked about how the size and shape of worship spaces have changed over the past few decades, and how acoustics and audiovisual considerations have become increasingly important.

In final part of our two-part series on worship spaces and church design, we’re discussing some options to consider: whether to use fixed seating such as theater seating or movable chairs, and “multi-use” spaces.

Fixed Versus Movable Seating: How Flexible Are You?

College Wesleyan Church

College Wesleyan Church

In the past, traditional worship spaces usually had everyone but the preacher sitting in fixed pews. Today, you seldom see pews in a newer church building, although that traditional feel is still important in the vison of a few churches. For example, College Wesleyan Church, in Marion, IN, pictured below, still prefers using pews.


Epiphany Lutheran Church

Epiphany Lutheran Church

Nowadays, churches tend to be more concerned about whether to use fixed, theater-style seating or movable, stackable chairs. Obviously, if you’ve got movable chairs, you’ve got more flexibility in how you arrange the worship space, as can be seen in the photo of Epiphany Lutheran Church, in Dayton, OH.

Another consideration is tiered seating, especially for bigger worship spaces seating 800 people or more. Tiered seating can dramatically improve sight lines, but, as with theater-style seating, you have the downside of reducing the flexibility of your worship space.

The Case for Multi-Ministry Church Building Spaces

Tiered seating and fixed, theater-style chairs can also prevent your worship space from being used as a multi-use area.

We’ve been hearing multi-use spaces are becoming less popular lately, but for a church that needs to get more out of their limited budgets and church buildings they are still a great option. We suspect much of the unfavorable view comes from people who have had to live with, and worship in, poorly designed multi-use spaces. That’s one of the reasons why we actually prefer calling the worship spaces we design “multi-ministry.”

The most important consideration when creating a truly multi-ministry worship space is making sure that worship needs are given top priority. We build a worship space you can play basketball in, not a gym you can worship in.

Bethany Wesleyan Church

Bethany Wesleyan Church

That focus on worship and vision translates to all aspects of our church designs. As we discussed in Part 1, we think about the acoustics of the worship space. We also take into account the aesthetics, things like the size and height of the platform. For an example of a multi-ministry focus, look at the picture from Bethany Wesleyan Church in Cherryville, PA.

The Father's House

The Father’s House

We also recognize that flexibility concerns might require a combination of fixed and movable seating, tiered and flat spaces, as we designed at The Father’s House in Rochester, NY (pictured). Approximately a third of the seating is moveable, with the remaining seats tiered. This means that part of the worship space can be converted for a dinner or seminar, while still retaining the critical sight lines for those who worship in the back of the church.

Let’s Talk

Whatever your needs for a worship space, we can take those considerations, combine them with basic concepts such as we have discussed here, and design a functional, beautiful space for worship and your other ministries. If you have questions, contact us and let’s talk.

And if you’d like to learn more about the philosophy behind the work we do, visit our website to find the 2016 lineup for our free i3 webinar series, and to you and yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!