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Choosing Folding Tables for Your Congregation
By: Phil Mickey

Here are just a few of the more popular questions asked by our valued church customers about choosing the right tables about choosing the right tables.

What types of folding tables are readily available on the market?
There are two main types of folding tables used by churches today: plywood folding tables and blow-molded plastic folding tables.

Plywood tables are what we refer to as "your parents' folding table." These tables have been around as long as any of us can remember, and everyone has used or bought them. They are very strong, sturdy, and quite rigid. They provide a smooth tabletop surface and have been known to last for decades. Drawbacks with these tables are they are expensive and are quite heavy. They are also susceptible to cracking and chipping if dropped on their corners or sides, and they are not very good if left outdoors in the rain or cool weather, for obvious reasons.

Blow-molded plastic folding tables have only been on the market since the late 90s. These tables are strong, durable, very lightweight. Their tabletop surface is not as smooth as plywood, but they are stain-resistant and easy to clean, especially when used for meals. They tend to feel less rigid than plywood tables, but most are just as sturdy and rated to hold more weight. Their lightweight construction is probably the strongest feature, allowing for anyone to move them. The plastic tabletop is also able to take a pounding and not chip or break and is better for the outdoors because of UV-treatment and the waterproof nature of plastic.

What features should we consider when choosing a folding table?
The final thing to look at is budgetary value. Everyone has to watch their spending, and when it comes time for capital improvements, you always need to get the most out of your dollar. The cheapest table may not be the best long-term option. Find the folding table that has the best combination of durability and affordability. Paying $50 or more for a 6-foot banquet-style folding table may be a fair price, but it's even better when you can expect to get a couple of decades of use out of it. Always choose value over inexpensiveness.

What sizes are available and what works best for my congregation?
Most folding tables come in two distinct styles that can be used in a number of different ways.

Banquet-styled tables are your basic rectangular tables. They range in size from 4-feet long to 8-feet long and are usually 30 to 36 inches wide, with the 6-foot table being the most common. This is your all-purpose table. It can be set up against the wall for displaying projects and items at a bake sale or book fair. It's also perfect for food service. Use it as a buffet table, or set up chairs around it for formal dining. You could also use these in a horseshoe setup for activities meetings similar to what you would see in a board room. You can also use these outside for garage sales or placed end-to-end in long rows for a picnic.

The second style is the round folding table. These tables are perfect for a formal setting like a holiday meal or an awards banquet. They are also perfect for weddings. Just set them up in a cultural hall or gymnasium, place chairs all around, add colorful table cloths and themed centerpieces, and your church instantly becomes a beautiful formal reception hall. Round tables can be as large as 72" or as small as 48", but 60" is the most common, and they seat six adults comfortably.

As for which table is best for your congregation, we always recommend a good mix of the two. But, always have a few extra banquet-styled tables on hand. You can never have too many rectangular tables at a church activity. Just take into account the maximum number of people that will attend the large activities being planned by your congregation and you'll know exactly how many of each you'll need. A little pre-planning and forward thinking today will save you a trip to the store or supplies catalog in the future.

What is the best way to store a large number of tables?
Many congregations use their folding tables on weekly basis. Whether it's for an afternoon scouting activity or a Saturday evening dinner, you need to get to them easily and cleanly. We recommend a sturdy steel table rack on which to store your tables. This allows you to move several tables very easily from your storage closet to the spot of setup. It also keeps the tables off the floor/ground, so you don't have to drag them around. Dragging or sliding a table along the ground just speeds up the wear and tear, so a wheeled rack that holds 10 or more tables is perfect.

Most churches have a good indoor storage space, and this is obviously the best option and will be the easiest to get to. However, if you are short on space, we recommend a small storage shed on your property that can be dedicated to your supply of tables. Be sure to build your storage space on a flat surface so you can wheel your carts in and out as easily as possible. If you provide a secure, dry place to store your tables, you'll get years of use and enjoyment out of them.

Philip D. Mickey is the communications director for Lifetime Products, Inc., www.lifetime.com.

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