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Tables and Chairs for Your Outdoor Events
By: Phil Mickey

It's been a long winter for everyone. The brightness of the sunshine and a little fresh air can inject much-needed warmth into everyone in your congregation. Now that spring is just around the corner, it's time to change the scenery a bit. With a little resourcefulness and a bit of mirth in your heart, it's time to take your groups outside for a boost of energy both physical and spiritual.

While everyone enjoys having their church and community activities outside, it's no fun to lug heavy tables and chairs out of the church and into the elements. With the technology that has gone into all brands of folding furniture, it's easy to hold any type of event outside and set-up and take-down is a cinch. Here are a few tips to help you plan an energizing spring activity.

Plan Your Activity
Planning is the essential first step, but it does not need to be complicated. An outdoor activity could be as simple as a lesson or fireside chat, or as complex as a major fundraiser or potluck party. Spring is the perfect time for cleaning and de-cluttering a nice outdoor activity might be a neighborhood yard sale or swap meet. You can also bring your Bible lessons or even your sermons outside. If your church sponsors the local scouting programs, hold your meetings, fundraisers, or group activities out in the sun. Scouting is, of course, a lot about nature. Also keep in mind that an outdoor Saturday afternoon luncheon or a Sunday brunch is a great way to attract and welcome newcomers.

Every group has a team to plan activities, so just challenge them to take it outside. Pull together the committee to meet and discuss your options and then delegate the duties to the members of the team. Be sure to involve the youngsters; it's a good way to build a sense of responsibility in them.

Pick Your Spot
Most congregations have a spot on their grounds for outdoor gatherings. If this is the case in your situation, start your spring activity schedule with a clean-up project. The long winter can wreak havoc on your grounds, so get everyone out to trim the trees and shrubs, aerate and mow the lawn, and rake up any remaining leaves from the previous autumn. If your congregation does not have enough room on the grounds, move the service project to a local park. Either way, a little service out in the sunshine is a great start.

Assess Your Needs
Most group activities require a place to sit and gather. With a large group meal, or even a scout activity, the need for tables and chairs is obvious. But even a service project or church swap meet is in need of a place to check in volunteers, place items for sale, or provide refreshments. The magic of folding tables and chairs is the portability. The whole point of the folding table and chair is having a seating option that is durable, sturdy, and portable. If your congregation does not have a cache of folding tables and chairs, there are several options available.

With tables, the most common varieties are plywood or press-board folding tables and blow-molded plastic folding tables. Wooden tables are very common, especially in more established venues. These tables have been around for years, and we have all used or bought them. They are very strong, sturdy, and rigid. They provide a smooth surface and a classic look, and they are renowned for their longevity. The drawbacks with the old wood tables are they are very expensive, not weather-resistant, and often quite heavy. Blow-molded plastic folding tables are a newer, more modern option. These tables are strong, durable, and very lightweight. The surface is smooth, stain-resistant, and easy to clean especially when used for meals or crafting. They tend to feel less rigid than wooden tables, but most are just as strong and can oftentimes actually hold more weight. The lightweight build is the strongest feature, especially when being used for outdoor activities.

With chairs, once again, there are usually two options: steel folding chairs and plastic folding chairs. The steel chair is the workhorse of the church industry. They are solid, sturdy, and built to last. They are also heavy, so moving them, while not a huge burden, can be more taxing than other folding chairs. As for comfort, the reviews are mixed. Metal chairs with built-in padding can be very comfortable, but they are difficult to clean and cannot always be used outside. The newer blow-molded or injection-molded plastic chairs are certainly light and oftentimes less expensive. Plastic folding chairs are easy to transport and move around for several reasons. First, they are usually made of polyethylene, a type of plastic that is very lightweight. Most also feature a built-in handle in the back of the chair for easy moving before and after setup. As for comfort, sometimes looks can be deceiving. Most plastic chairs have a contoured seat and back, making them more comfortable than a steel chair.

The most obvious consideration with folding tables or chairs is how they react to the elements. Wood and steel are not usually best suited for outdoor use, but most of the newer blow-molded plastic options are superior for outdoor use.

Announce Your Event
Once you have your venue and your activity, now make sure you have all the details covered. Get the word out to your congregation, all your volunteers in place, and all the materials needed to make things happen. This is as simple as handouts for a lesson or a full meal for a dinner or luncheon. In my experience in planning church activities, the more turnkey the activity, the more people will turn out. This puts more of a burden on your planners, but that's why they are there. For the rest of the churchgoers who participate, just being there should be enough.

Go to It
If you have a plan and a space and everything is in motion, then go outside and have fun! Most churches have a beautiful meeting spaces and clean classrooms, but that doesn't mean you have to stay there.

Portable folding tables and chairs give you options, and those options should include meeting, learning, or playing in the greatest meeting space we have been provided the great outdoors!

Phil Mickey is communications director for Lifetime Products, Inc., www.lifetime.com.

Product Roundup

Commercialite from McCourt
At roughly half the cost of traditional plastic folding tables, the Commercialite Folding Table is one of the strongest, lightest, most affordable indoor/outdoor folding tables on the market. Blow Mold technology allows McCourt to produce polyethylene plastic tops to resist heat, stains, chemicals, and physical damage. Their U.S. Steel frame with wishbone folding leg system bolts through the table top, not just into it, allowing the Commercialite to support more than 3,500 pounds.

The Defiant Chair by Church Chair
The Defiant Chair by Church Chair is named to defy high prices and cheap imports. There is a wide variety of select American fabrics from which to choose. Ask about the company's free sample chair program. The chairs are made in the United States and are 99 percent recyclable. Chairs are shipped worldwide for all purposes. The chairs are constructed with quality American steel and foam.

Southern Aluminum's Alulite Table
Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum, Southern Aluminum's Alulite table will not crack, rust or warp after extended usage or exposure to heat, moisture, or sunlight. With an average weight of only 35 pounds, the Alulite table is easy to set up and take down multiple times. Alulite Stages and Choral Risers are also constructed of lightweight aluminum, allowing each unit to easily be set up and taken down as well as moved among locations throughout your worship facility.

Chairs for Worship by Uniflex
Uniflex offers many options with one philosophy: they provide customers superior-quality worship chairs at a good honest value. Whether you choose their most affordable chairs, the Vista 413, one of the higher-end wood seating options, such as the Meridian, or the innovative pew end accessory, you will get the most value for your dollar. Uniflex constantly strives to achieve the highest level of quality delivered on time and at a reasonable price.

Lifetime Tables
Lifetime's patented technology gives you the assurance that every table and chair is safe and built strong enough to live up to their name. Lifetime Tables provide a place to celebrate, a place to reflect, and a place to plan your next great activity. Whether it's a church dinner, the annual membership drive, or an afternoon scout meeting, Lifetime tables are as much a part of your church's activities as you are. Their products are simple to own, ready to use, and easy to maintain.

MAXX Edge from PS Furniture
PS Furniture, formerly known as Palmer Snyder, an industry leading manufacturer of portable furniture, has announced the introduction of a new technology for edging tables.  The new MAXX Edge is not a separate component like traditional vinyl "T" edging or metal edging; rather, the MAXX Edge bonds to and becomes part of the table top. Because of the elimination of gaps, the end result is that there is no space for food particles or other bacterial substrates to collect, making for a more hygienic table.

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Religious Product News