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Tables and Chairs for Fellowship and Flexibility
By: Ren Texeira

In the mission to bring more people into fellowship, many churches are seeing design with new eyes. A move toward more flexible spaces and third place areas has many churches thinking about whether pews, theater seating and larger fixed-leg tables meet those needs.

While pews are still favored by some more traditional churches, others are moving to individual stacking seats. So why is the move toward stack seating picking up steam? Interior teams have found stack seating gives churches maximum flexibility in the ways each space can be used.

Areas that were previously only usable for one purpose have become multipurpose facilities to meet as many needs of the congregation as possible, as well as provide fellowship to community members with welcoming spaces.

We're seeing the same move toward convenience and mobility in tables as we are with chairs. While churches have had folding tables for years in classrooms and social spaces, the flexibility stack seating provides has made it possible for you to bring tables into sanctuaries or any other spaces they are needed.

Let's look at some of the spaces churches need to furnish, which products may go in each space, and what things you need to consider as you go along.

Sanctuary
Stacking chairs are a big trend for sanctuary seating for several reasons. Churches enjoy the flexibility, lower price point than pews and comfort that cushioned, portable seating gives them. As your congregation grows, you can add additional seating while still enjoying a more accessible price point.

Lightweight, stackable seating means all members of the congregation can move chairs with ease. Whether you're setting up the room for services, or you're holding a community fellowship event, you can arrange the room however you'd like without anyone getting a strained back.

Plus, you can enjoy accessories like book, pencil and communion cup holders depending on your congregation's needs, as well as the option to customize with arms, flexible back or interlocking capabilities that keep chairs together.

Things to consider:
• A thicker seat cushion is usually more comfortable, but cushion thickness does not always equal comfort. Look at the density of the cushion, as well as whether the seat base is contoured. This combination of factors will be a better overall indicator of comfort.
• Be sure to ask about the durability of the fabric and request samples. Price is important, but low-quality fabric will show wear and tear more quickly.
• How quickly do you need the chairs? American-made chairs usually have shorter lead times.
• Quality chairs can also help people maintain better posture, and create a more attentive, faithful feeling.

Cafés and Third Place Areas
With the rise of cafes or other community-minded dining or third place areas, we have seen many churches looking for café tables and chairs, cocktail tables and minimalistic bent wood chairs. This lets parishioners have a space to relax before and after services and other events.

Spaces like this encourage parishioners to stay longer, relax and enjoy time talking about the sermons, and bring friends who may initially be more comfortable in a coffee shop style setting.

The furnishings you choose go a long way toward creating a welcoming atmosphere that will play a part in community outreach and serving your congregation.

Things to consider:
• Smaller, more mobile tables will make rearranging your space easier. Ask if your supplier carries restaurant tables or lower height cocktail tables for maximum flexibility.
• If you work with a broad-based supplier, rely on them to help you coordinate the design between the different spaces within your building. They can recommend products that will give you a more cohesive design without finding matching furniture for the whole building.
• Make sure you think about how easy these tables and chairs will be to clean. You want everything to be able to wipe clean and resist staining.

Classrooms and Multipurpose Areas
If you have a lower budget, stacking sanctuary seating can serve multiple spaces and is easily moved from room to room. However, if you want more seating for these areas, you may want to look at folding chairs. They're super light weight, often come in different color options and can give you more capacity when you church holds funerals, weddings or other events.

As part of the movement toward flexible, inviting furniture, large and heavy wooden tables are becoming a less common choice for churches.

Lighter weight folding tables make it easy for any group of parishioners to set the room up for their needs. You can store them more easily and move them wherever makes the most sense for your event.

The portability you gain with folding tables makes it easy to take events out into the community, as well as hold events for your parishioners like weddings, quinceaneras and baptisms.

Things to consider:
• Will you be holding teas, potlucks or other dining activities? Folding chairs are easy to clean and may be a better option if you fellowship with food.
• For budget-conscious choices, don't just look at purchase price, but also think about the length of the warranty. If one product is warrantied for 5 years vs. another's 10 years, a 20% higher initial purchase price will still prove to be the less expensive option as your chairs age.
• If you want to keep the wood look but would like the convenience and storability of a folding table, laminate surface folding tables are a great compromise.

Why should you consider adding flexibility into the way you furnish your church? While lower price points are certainly a benefit of portable furniture, the real benefit is in expanded capabilities for fellowship.

It comes down to the ways stack seating, folding chairs and folding tables free you up to arrange your rooms the way you need to. When you gain that flexibility, you can start to reach new people in new ways.

Ren Texeira is the national sales director worship for MITY Inc., www.mitylite.com.









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