In looking at the typical brick-and-mortar church and its participantsthe heartbeat is usually corporate worship. Community outreach, children's and student ministries, global missions, and so on, are sparked and sustained by a church's core mission of gathering together to worship. Weekend in and weekend out, seats in a church's worship space facilitate that purpose—and often many other purposes throughout the week. Therefore, the decisions surrounding the selection of seating are among the most important a church's leadership team will make.
Worship Facilities spoke with four well-known seating providers and experts to offer an overview of the best fixed and non-fixed seating products on the market today, and hopefully help make this important choice a little simpler.
Fixed seating continues to be available in the form of a pew, but more often than not, churches are choosing individual fixed chairs or theater seats. "The self-lifting seat has always been the key to greater traffic flow, greater seat capacity and better use of the worship area foot print," says Ron Ogden, president of Worship Space Advisors, an independent consulting firm that helps churches identify products that best meet their needs.
The VERA from SERIES Seating
The VERA is designed with the most streamlined seat envelope in the industry and specifically for the worship setting. Its efficient design allows for more seats per row without violating building codes. The Vera also comes without intermediate arm dividers, delivering more personal space and privacy.
The VERA was installed in Southwest Baptist Seminary's 3,400-seat chapel in Fort Worth, Texas, which was designed to serve the community as well as the school by doubling as a premier performing arts space. Decision makers wanted a seat that would maximize capacity, optimize traffic flow, and provide the quality and performance expectations of a first class concert hall. The absence of arm dividers provides more individual space at the hips and elbows, greater personal privacy, and ultimately increases seat capacity.
Citation Theater-Style Auditorium Church Chair from Bertolini Sanctuary Seating
The Citation model was designed specifically for worship centers. It's the most popular choice when durability and cost are important factors. A self-rising seat bottom is spring and coil-free, making it a noiseless chair that provides comfort, style and durability. There are two seating options: ergonomic for a firm feel or serpentine spring for relaxed feel.
Clarity Line from Sauder Worship Seating
Clarity auditorium seats were also designed for worship spaces exclusively. The line offers a high-back and standard option and features spring-free seats for optimal system that utilizes adjustable spacing brackets to allow for on-site adjustments during installation, reduction of unusual seat transitions, and elimination of uneven row ends.
When a traditional aesthetic is desired, the pew still quintessentially delivers it. "[Pews are] prominent among Catholic and traditional Protestant worship spaces. It is also common to find them within the chapels of more contemporary churches," adds Amanda Opdycke, worship market manager for Sauder Worship Seating.
Radiance Curved Pew from Sauder Worship
Radiance pews are made-to-order and engineered with a unique concentric radius for every project. They are constructed using bent wood seat construction and with the same ergonomic contour as Sauder's straight pews. This is an ideal product for worship "in the round" or any space that has a semi-circular curvature. Radiance pews are available in eight wood species and 11 finishes, and can be outfitted with bookracks, kneelers, communion cup holders, and other accessories.
St. Raphael Church in Koloa, Hawaii, selected Radiance Curved Pews to better fit the wide profile of its sanctuary and altar. The architectural design of the space was one of significant curvature and the individual chairs they were employing worked awkwardly in the space. Collaborating with church leadership, Sauder delivered pews that were a custom fit for the church's layout and aesthetic.
The Pew Optima from SERIES Seating
The Pew Optima is the only pew product in the industry that utilizes self-lifting seats without the restrictions of arm dividers. Available in fixed rows with encasement, Pew Optima offers the added capacity and traffic flow of the theater seat and the traditional look and feel of a pew.
As churches continue to expand ministries and programming and work to decrease their facilities' footprints, the flexibility and space efficiency of non-fixed seating continues to rise in popularity.
"Today, 85 percent of all new church seating is an individual, moveable chaira definite move away from fixed installation pews and theater seats. Churches are seeking more comfort at less cost, while maintaining floor space for multiple uses," says Tom McElheny, founder and owner of The ChurchPlaza Companies.
Jericho Chair from The ChurchPlaza Companies
The Jericho Chair is one of ChurchPlaza's Best Value Series offerings. Despite its low price, it features dual layer, quality commercial grade foam, quality CARB 2-certified safe plywood foundations, and 150,000 certified double rub fabric with T-Nut fasteners. ChurchPlaza seating is also the only church seat provider using fabrics, foundations, foams, and paints that are certified as free from harmful emissions.
Celebration Chair from The ChurchPlaza Companies
The Celebration is built with the same quality components and care as the Jericho, but its footprint is three inches smaller than other full-size chairs, making it perfect for smaller spaces.
Christ Community Wesleyan Church of Albany, Ohio, purchased 650 Celebration Chairs for their sanctuary in 1999 and then selected the same for a smaller space just recently, its compactness makes it ideal for multipurpose spaces that call for multiple seating configurations. It's also easy to stack and store.
Impressions Church Chair from Bertolini Sanctuary Seating
Impressions Series chairs employ Bertolini's Flex-Fit seat and Fit-Tight fastening system with BosScrew technology. BosScrew was engineered to eliminate loose screws through using a fastener that reacts to the vibrations of stacking and unstacking by tightening instead of loosening. All Impressions Series models feature the award-winning Ergo-V back, too. This back support system is a multi-contoured V shape that fits individuals of all shapes and sizes by supporting the lower back and cradling the upper shoulders.
Unity Pew Chairs from Sauder Worship
These chairs are typically used in more traditional worship settings but are becoming popular in contemporary churches, too. The Unity pew chair comes in 20", 40" and 60" lengths and is an ideal choice when flexibility in a traditional atmosphere is the goal.
Since their introduction, moveable, stackable chairs have given churches far more flexibility with space. "The problem, however, is that stackable chairs take up the same amount of row-to-row space as a pew without the self-lifting seat," says Ogden.
The K-chair from SERIES Seating
For this reason Worship Space Advisors has long appealed to seat manufactures to innovate a stackable chair with a self-lifting seata stackable theater seat. The challenge has been answered by SERIES Seating, who in July will launch the K-chair, a non-fixed, stackable, self-rising seat. The K-chair can be stacked 20 high compared to the current industry average of eight. The same number of K-chairs can be stored in 1/3 the space of standard stacking chairs.