Pews, Church Chairs, or Theater Seating?
For centuries, this has dominated the church market as the preferred style of seating. Within the last 50 years, pew manufacturers began making pews more ergonomically advanced adding foam and upholstery to the pew for comfort and style. Also, the upholstery and foam on the pew acts to rid slap and diffusion (echo) throughout the room. This adds to the acoustical stability of the room and the intelligibility of the words and music. One thing about many pews, however, is that most manufacturers just don’t make them like they use to it seems.
As upholstery gained popularity, many manufacturers realized they could put whatever they wanted underneath the fabric and foam to keep the cost competitive and the customer would not either know or mind. Also, veneer pew ends started to gain popularity, which cannot be refinished. There are, however, a handful of companies that have decided that quality would be put over quantity.
1. Beauty - The benefits of pews first start with the aesthetics. Pews help churches look like…well, churches. With such large expanses in the room, it helps to have the bulkier furniture in the room to give the sanctuary a grounded feel in rooms that may have 60’ ceilings.
2. Architectural Significance – many pew styles match and compliment the architectural stylings of the building. If you have a gothic style building, it is very beautiful to see gothic styled pew ends (pointed arches) in the sanctuary. For churches that have such architectural styles as Colonial, Gothic, Romanesque, etc, it is nice to have a pew end that compliments the architecture.
3. Roominess and Comfort - would be another benefit of pews as you can spread out on a pew, put your purse or bible next to you without looking as if you are ‘taking’ someone else’s seat, and also let your children lay in the pew as I did when I was 5. Those were the best naps ever. No offense Dr. Futral, you’re still the best.
4. Longevity – Yes, we’ve seen 100 year old pews that were still structurally sound. While you may replace chairs many times over the next century, your pews can be refinished and reupholstered and look brand new again.
1. Space – One disadvantage of pews vs chairs and theatre seats is that you generally fit a lot less people on them before they feel full. Many men spread their arms out over the pew rails so as a guest would have to cuddle with them if they wanted to sit next to them. Women will put their purses on one side and their bible on the other side. Other forms of seating, everyone has their little space and needs to stick to it. So, you lose seating capacity when it comes to pews.
2. Multipurpose Use – Pews are not very multipurpose friendly. You wouldn’t want to unbolt your pews from the floor and move them every time you had a meal or Upward basketball if you were in a multipurpose sanctuary.
3. Cost – While pews are not the most expensive of the 3 typically, they are considerably more than chairs.
2. Church Chairs
The first thing worth mentioning is that “No, chairs in a sanctuary are not the devil.” All kidding aside, chairs have become a very popular alternative and even preference of many churches both with traditional and modern worship and architectural styles. Also, both in the upholstered metal chairs and upholstered wood chair markets, companies have greatly increased both the aesthetics and even practical functionality of chairs.
1. Flexibility – You can change your aisle configuration any time you like. You can stack the back 6 rows if no one wants to sit in the back to move everyone forward. You can get the hooks that allow you to have curved rows at a nominal extra cost vs having curved pews. Not only do very few manufacturers make curved pews, they are very expensive often doubling the cost of the pew. Also, chairs are flexible in that you can stack the front row or two to make extra room for funerals for the casket and viewing. The possibilities are endless.
2. Multipurpose Use – Wednesday night service is over, stack ‘em and let the youth play basketball. Whatever the need, chairs are the truly the only low cost method of having multipurpose seating.
3. Cost – While it is no secret chairs are cheaper, I do not recommend that you buy the $28 chair off the internet for your sanctuary seating. You will get what you pay for and then you may have to get them again soon.
1. Upset Members – I would say that is the number one issue leadership may have to face. People may complain that they have to be stacked all the time reset back into place. Some may say that they don’t look as nice as pews. Others may exclaim that they don’t have enough personal space. Some may remind you that the pew you are replacing was dedicated to or by their great aunt.
Chairs have had a tough time working their way into the more traditional markets and still have a ways to go. Make sure your congregation is behind the move to switch to chairs so that you don’t have newly emptied chairs.
2. Floors – They are not recommended for slope floors or stadiums risers.
3. Heavy People – Chairs are not always so accommodating for heavier set people. However, wider model chairs can be purchased from most manufacturers.
3. Theater Seating
Some refer to it as auditorium seating. It has gained a lot of popularity in the worship market and is very likely to be the fixed seating of choice in a sanctuary with stadium risers or sloped floors.
1. Beauty – With the new styling that auditorium seating has taken since it gained popularity in the worship market, theater seating has many aesthetically pleasing options, including pews ends.
2. Comfort - Theater seating is probably the most comfortable of all seating. The back support goes up nice and high and the arms on the theatre seat are a very nice touch. The only limit to comfort on the theater seat is how much you are willing to spend
3. Multipurpose – Now, theater seating can even come out from the wall with a push of a button. The seats are on stadium risers that are telescopic and are often carpeted as well to reduce noise. This is a great way to give a high end feel to a multipurpose sanctuary.
4. Space – This is a nice mix between the fixed area of a chair that allows for more people to sit in the same number of linear feet of seating but has the best part of a pew built into each seat… arm rest. Not only are they comfortable, arm rests are the polite way to put a divider between you and the person that seems to be sitting in the chair with you and invading your personal space.
1. Cost – The main deterrent of any church from theater seats usually seems to be the price. You will pay a considerable amount more for the luxury of theatre seats.
2. Maintenance – Theatre seats have moving parts. Moving parts are more likely to break than fixed parts.
3. Floors – Floors either have to have stadium risers or have a nice slope in order to make theater seats work. If you have a flat floor, you will have to build the stadium risers before you even buy the seats. That gets expensive. Technically, could you mount theater seats to a flat floor? Yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
4. Space – It’s good to have some other form of seating couple with the theater seats or a couple of extra wide ones for much larger individuals.