Why Choose Chairs

By Malcolm Nygren

The case for purchasing Chairs for your sanctuary.

Flexibility and choice – these words sum the advantages of chairs for your sanctuary.

* Chair seating is flexible because chairs can be arranged in countless configurations.

* Choice comes to mind because for every seating priority you may have, a chair can be found.

Analogy: The difference between pews and chairs in a place of worship is the difference between driving a train and a car. Pews are one track seating. You can go only where that track goes.

But with chairs, you are in control. You make the seating fit what you do, instead of limiting what you do by what the seating will allow.

Problem Solving with Chairs.

Chairs provide the obvious solution if your church worships in a multipurpose room that has other uses during the week. But chairs retain great advantages in flexibility when the sanctuary isn’t used in other ways.

* You can be flexible for Sunday worship. With chairs, you can plan the worship seating as carefully as you plan the music or the order of worship. Whenever the event or the size of the expected congregation varies, you can take a fresh look not only at what you normally do, but also at what you can do.

When you do something different on a particular Sunday, you don’t have to make your service fit the seating. You can just move the chairs.

Option: Chairs cause worshipers to look straight ahead. So how about directing the congregation’s attention toward the focal point you choose? Example: If the sanctuary is comparatively wide for its length, you can arrange chairs in a curve, so that the ends of the rows face the pulpit.

Option: If you want people to be focused on the center of the chancel, leave the center aisle out and space the rows farther apart so people can get in and out easily.

* You can make small groups seem large. Examples: Sometimes a group at a wedding or memorial service is much smaller than the size the room accommodates. Simple remove some chairs, widen the aisles, increase the pitch (the distance between rows for leg room), and leave some space between chairs in a row.

Result: You avoid the feeling that the crowd is dwarfed by the size of the room. The sanctuary looks comfortably filled with half the chairs.

As soon as the service is over, you can bring the chairs back for a capacity Sunday crowd.

* You can make room for large groups. On Easter Sunday or for services that bring an unusually large congregation, you can add a sizable number of seats by narrowing the aisles and leaving less room at the front and rear of the sanctuary. Rows can be a little closer together.

It won’t be as comfortable as usual, but it’s better than seating people in a distant room with a video monitor. Caution: Be sure you aren’t violating fire regulations by overcrowding the room.

* Special events can be special. At holiday seasons or other times when the sanctuary is used for special programs, the variety of seating arrangements is limited only by your imagination.

Option: Instead of a straight center aisle, run it diagonally. The procession of the Magi will seem to pass through the middle of the congregation.

Option: Take out a row or two in the front to make more room for a pageant or play.

Option: Turn a few rows around to face the congregation to form seating for the children’s choir.

Getting What You Want

Chairs can be constructed of metal, wood, or plastic, cushioned or plain. They come in a wide range of styles and prices. And if you can’t find exactly what you want, some manufacturers will custom design your chairs.

First step: List your priorities. Decide what is most important and what is less important but useful.

* Is comfort a high priority?

Option; Chairs can have cushioned seats and backs.

Option: No one needs to be crowded in a church with chairs, no matter how zealous the ushers are at packing people in. Every person gets his or her share of space – and no more.

Option: If you want to seat the maximum number of people, get chairs that can be linked together with seats and backs that meet, forming a continuous bench. They can be separated for stacking or to provide wider separation.

* Is cost an important factor? Chairs can be either more or less expensive than pews, since they come in a wide range of prices. Some upholstered metal chairs are mass produced with good quality at a surprisingly low price – around $30. Custom-made, upholstered wooden chairs run about $70 and up.

Important: Price isn’t the same as cost. An inexpensive but poorly made chair that will last only a few years actually costs much more than a solid one that can be used four or five times as long.

Note; Maintenance is part of cost, too. If a cushion is torn or the finish of a chair is scarred, you have only one chair to repair or replace, rather than a whole pew, and its absence will hardly be missed.

* Is appearance important?

Chairs aren’t just a place to sit; they are an architectural feature, and one of the most visible ones.

You can choose chairs that are aesthetically pleasing and match the design of your church. Note: Wood chairs can be finished to match other woodwork in the room.

* Are you looking for convenience?

Option: Holders for Communion cups, Bibles, hymnals, and pew cards can be attached to chairs.

Option: If you will frequently assemble the chairs in straight rows, many types can be ganged in groups of four or more. Ganging chairs helps keep the rows straight. Most links remove easily when you want to stack the chairs or arrange them differently.

Option: Do you record worship attendance? Ushers can count the empty chairs rather than the entire congregation.

Chairs for the church sanctuary? Right! The flexibility they allow makes the room right for any occasion, and the choices insure you can select chairs exactly right for your church.

Malcolm Nygren, S.T.D., is pastor emeritus of First Presbyterian Church in Champaign, Illinois, a church he served for 38 years until he retired in 1990 to continue free-lance writing.

(The above material was published by YOUR CHURCH, 1991)

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