By: Shari Sammons
Your worship facility has worked hard to raise the funds to purchase church seating. There are many factors that will influence your decision-making process when choosing the right worship chair for your facility.
Church seating today is available in three typical choices: traditional pews, theater seating, and stackable chairs. The determining factors in which style is chosen is generally put in the hands of the pastor and a committee and is ultimately determined by congregation size, congregation needs, building codes, and the personal taste of the committee members. Due to the multiple use needs of today’s worship space, stackable chairs are the choice of seating for many churches and will be the main topic herein.
You not only need to consider the size of your congregation for your seating needs but also the physical size of your attendees. A few chair manufacturers offer chairs in sizes to fit toddlers for youth rooms, to standard widths of 16-20”, to wider chair seats that are 22-23” wide for larger attendees, to a 40-inch bench-type seat wide enough to seat a mother and young child. The availability of arms on chairs is well-suited for the elderly attending worship services.
The best value and quality in church seating are typically sold directly by the chair manufacturer and provide the greatest flexibility in purchasing a custom-made chair at a lower cost to match your décor in your choice of fabric and frame color. You will need to consider local building and fire codes and should consult the local fire marshall before the purchasing process begins. It is most important that you are aware of the codes you may be required to meet. Be sure to ask the sales representative for documentation regarding their chair compliance to the codes you need to meet.
Before you place your final order, be sure to request a sample chair from at least two chair companies. The reputation of the company and their chair warranty should be one of the most important factors in your purchase decision.
Comfort and support should be the primary factors. Sit on the chair and give it one-hour chair-seating test. Comfort begins with the frame design. To appeal to a range of human heights, the combined seat height and foam thickness should total about 18 inches. Less seat height or seat foam thickness causes uncomfortable pressure, no matter the cushioning materials. Cushioning used for church seating is different than you'd find in household furniture. To provide seating for comfort over a period of hours requires much firmer foam than would be found in a sofa or upholstered living room chair. In fact, cushioning should be about three times firmer than that which would be used in the home.
You also need to consider the support factor, which is the relationship of surface firmness to deep down support. Cushioning should have a minimum support factor of 1.9. That means that it takes about twice as much weight to compress the cushioning to half its height than required to compress the cushion surface. That extra amount of deep down support prevents "bottoming out" on the chair seat, eliminating the major cause of congregation discomfort.
In today’s economy, price is always a factor. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” never held so much truth. Quality and price go hand-in-hand along with a good warranty. Research and buy the best quality chair you can afford. The bit more you pay in price will pay off in the long-term use of the chair and negate the need to replace your purchase in a short period of time.
Now that we have covered the types of church seating, building/fire codes, sample chair test, warranty, comfort and pricing, here are the five most frequently asked questions about church seating.
1. Which chair style will best suit my worship space and how will I know how many chairs will fit into my space?
2. What are the chair options?
3. Are the chairs ergonomic and will they provide long-term comfort?
4. What is the chair warranty – what does it cover and will the chair frames need maintenance requiring tightening of screws or are they put together with welds?
5. How will the chairs be delivered? Are they in boxes that I have to take apart and dispose of? Will the chairs need to be assembled or will they arrive assembled and ready to use?