When you’re designing a new church building or considering a renovation of your church, there’s a lot to think about; the walls and lights, doors and windows, landscaping and finishes. And seating, too!

For a church, this is a very important consideration. The comfort and convenience of the seating in your worship space is one of those large, but generally overlooked, factors that determine whether or not people come back to worship with you. If visitors aren’t comfortable, or are squeezed in too close to the people next to them, they’re going to be focused on that rather than worship— this may discourage them from coming back.

There’s much to cover when it comes to seating considerations. First, let’s review the different seating options available, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pews Embrace ‘Tradition’

seating-church-design-pewsPews are, of course, a very traditional option for any church design. The seat is usually either wooden or upholstered, and pews are generally fastened to the floor, which means you won’t have any flexibility in the use of the space.

If you’re renovating and already have pews, you may feel that you don’t need to make a change here—or you could perhaps just opt to give them a facelift and call it good. It’s quite possible, too, that you may have members of your community who are attached to those pews for sentimental or traditional reasons.

However, there are a few things you need to think about when it comes to pews. First, people tend to take up more than their allotted space in a pew, so while it might seem like a good way to get lots of people into your worship space, that’s generally not going to be the case.

Also, in the case of refurbishing, it’s important to look into the cost of that proposed refinishing job. With both wooden and upholstered pews—where you need to factor in the additional cost of replacing fabric and foam—refinishing the wood could turn out to be more expensive than removing them completely and getting chairs.

Chairs Are the Most Popular Church Design Option

seating-church-design-chairsThese days, churches are opting for chairs most often, for a number of reasons. For one thing, they’re flexible, and designing a space for multiple uses is good stewardship. Chairs come with either wood or metal frames, giving you a choice in terms of cost and the feel you’re trying to achieve in your space. Many chairs also come with what’s called a ganging device or interlocking mechanism, which allows the chairs to be connected together for a neater look.

Chairs can also feature a number of options, including book racks, communion cup holders, or regular cup holders. You can choose to have arms, which help people who might need assistance getting up, or just arms on the ends of each row.

Each of those options comes with an additional cost, however, and you need to remember to multiply that cost by the number of chairs you order—it can add up quickly. There is so much to consider that we’ll dedicate a complete article on chair seating in our next post.

Theater Seating Offers Comfort at a Cost

By far the most expensive seating option, and usually the most comfortable, is theater style. This is usually reserved for larger, dedicated worship spaces because, as with pews, they can’t be moved around.

Theater seating also requires a sloped floor or risers, so you definitely need to make this seating decision very early in your church design process. There are also a lot of moving parts in theater seats, which make them more expensive to maintain as well. However, if you have a large worship space that isn’t needed for any other use, and you want people to be comfortable, theater seating could be the choice for you.

Come Back for Part Two

As we mentioned earlier, chairs are definitely the most common seating option being selected these days, and there are so many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right chair that we’re going to dedicate Part Two of this two-part blog series exclusively to chairs.

Meanwhile, visit our website to sign up for our free i3 webinars, where you can learn more useful information about the elements of church design.