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Sanctuary Seating Options
By: Andrew Holland

Many options are available in the area of sanctuary seating today. With all of the available choices, the task of choosing a particular style and design can often be overwhelming for church committees. 

Answering a few simple questions about what your congregation’s needs are can help to narrow down your choices.

Who is sitting in your church and do any of the members have special seating requirements?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets forth specific guidelines for handicapped seating; however, local code and individual church needs may vary.

How long does your congregation sit during service? Many churches choose padded seats for increased comfort during long sermons.

What are your budget restrictions, and what do you want your seating to say about your church? Many churches opt for metal chairs that are an inexpensive alternative to pews; however, some denominations prefer a more luxurious style with intricate wood carving and timeless appeal.

Chairs tend to be the least expensive option when considering sanctuary seating. They also have the advantage of being movable during other events in the sanctuary.

Chair frames are normally constructed from either metal or wood, and they are upholstered on the seat and back. Metal chairs are usually less expensive than wood chairs, and they can be stacked together without worrying about scratching the finish.

Wood chairs have a more elegant appeal, and they can add to the overall look when matched with similarly styled pews. Churches with limited budgets and limited space will benefit most from this versatile piece of furniture.  

Theater seats, or auditorium seats, usually require the largest financial investment, but they are particularly attractive to churches with large congregations. Theater seats are normally constructed with a plastic frame, a metal base, and durable upholstery fabric. 

High-quality seats should have silent mechanisms to minimize noise when standing up during worship service. Extra care should also be taken to ensure that hinges are safe for young children and their fingers.

Theater seats also allow ushers to quickly move people to their seats and estimate total capacity of a small section or the entire sanctuary. 

The most traditional option is probably the church pew, often viewed as the “icon” of church seating. Pews come in a variety of styles and shapes, from old world gothic designs to the more modern, curved style with cantilever leg supports.

Pews are normally constructed from a composite material or solid wood, and may either be left with a wood finish or upholstered on the seat or back. Fire code allows for 18” per person in a pew; however, a more realistic number is probably 21” per person.

The most costly part of a pew is generally the end panel, and so the longer the pew, the cheaper the cost per person.

When considering pew designs, keep your budget and goals in mind. While veneered pews may be less expensive, it is often hard to repair this type of material should the pew become damaged.

Solid wood pews are generally more durable; however, the finish will require more regular maintenance over its lifetime. Padded and upholstered pews have an obvious comfort advantage, but they may need to be periodically recovered as the fabric stretches and wears.

Pews are permanently affixed to the floor and should be installed by furniture installation specialists to ensure a safe and sturdy piece of furniture. 

This article is courtesy of Covenant Church Furniture, www.covenantchurchfurniture.com.

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