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Selecting Your Seating Style

June 1, 2017 jill Blog
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By Amanda Opdycke & Jacob Hauter

When renovating or installing new furniture, there are important options to consider. Various seating options can fit well in the church. Depending on the floor layout of the building, some seating styles can be the perfect fit for the congregation.


The classic look and comfortable feel of pews provide authentic, quality seating. The right types of pew ends, wood finishes, and fabrics complement the three styles of pews: all wood, upholstered seat and wood back, and upholstered seat and back.

The most common pew structures are straight and radial (or curved) pews. Straight pews are the classic setup for the church; they are available in a high-back design for safety and modesty screening.

Radial pews, with their curved, elegant design, create an open environment for any spacious worship building. Radial pews can help direct the entire congregation’s attention to the front of the sanctuary by maintaining direct sight lines.

Curved pews also have the ability to make the parishioner part of the congregation community. Because the message is the focal point of the service, attentive comfort for parishioners is important. Whether the pews are wood or upholstered, the seat should include an ergonomic curve, which will help support the parishioner’s back during the service.

Accurate seating capacity is an important part of designing the seating layout. Two unique seating designs for pews can be used to help with accurate seating capacity. There are pews on the market that provide individual seat cushions that both gives people equal space and better measures a church’s seating capacity. This style of seating can include wooden dividers for enhanced structure as well as wood or upholstered back options.

A second unique pew style of seating incorporates the traditional back style of a pew but instead of a bench style seat, its seat has the flip-up auditorium style. Some churches are finding that using both styles of pews provides the greatest level of comfort and accurate seating capacity.

Pew frontals can be an addition to the pew seating arrangements. Pew frontals are designed for support, modesty screening and kneelers when needed. The panels on a frontal come in various designs to fit the look of the pew and can include pew frontal ends that replicate the look of the pew ends to ensure the interior design of the sanctuary is consistent throughout.

Worship Chairs

Worship chairs are intended for a congregation to set up and tear down easily. The mood of the environment, age, and type of worship facility all play a role in finding the best chair option.

Worship chairs built using ply-bent construction are some of the strongest wood chairs in the market. With their ergonomic design, they are designed to provide the highest level of durability, quality and comfort. Wood chairs are designed to include a variety of options such as thicker seat foam, wide seats, front and rear opening book racks, interlocking capabilities and kneelers.

Flexible wood chairs provide a high level of comfort; they are easy to move from one layout to another and their accessories provide easy access to hymnals and Bibles.

Another wood chair option to consider is chairs that resemble pews. This style of seating can be interlocked together for an even, unbroken flow.

Wood pew chairs often come in a variety of sizes such as 20”, 40” and 60” lengths. The variety of lengths increases the flexibility options, especially for renovation projects.

If a worship facility is undergoing a renovation to increase the use and flexibility of the worship space but still like the look of pews, selecting a wood pew chair design will certainly achieve the look and flexibility desired.

Traditional, stick-built style chairs have a timeless, authentic look. The overall structure of the seats and backs are built using traditional tongue-and-groove joints. Stick-built chairs are available as both side and arm chairs and include a wide variety of accessories.

Auditorium Seating

Auditorium seating is a contemporary seating style that includes flip-up seats. Auditorium seating provides a clean, spacious worship environment.

Many auditorium seats are produced with internal mechanisms that can break down over time. It is important to work with a seating manufacturer that utilizes a flip-up seat with a quiet, mechanism-free operation that is ensured to return to the flip-up position seamlessly.

A variety of back options helps reflect the interior design of the sanctuary while fabric, finish, and accessory options can make auditorium seats fit well for both formal and informal atmospheres. Accessories can include stationary or flip-up arms, wood, or upholstered back panels, as well as book holders and drink holders.

Platform Furniture

Platform and sanctuary furniture is an essential part of the worship service. These platforms provide a place for pastors, reverends, or priests to deliver their message to their parishioners.

Depending on the needs of the service and congregation, the variety of furniture can include pulpits, ambos, lecterns, baptismal fonts, reading stands, altar rails, altar tables, communion rails, communion tables, clergy chairs, narthex benches, prayer benches, memorial desks, register desks, flower stands, crosses, hymn boards, register boards, and wedding kneelers.

Platform furniture styles can include Traditional, Gothic, and Colonial. Traditional style is often defined with clean simple lines but can reflect the unique character of the worship facility through the use of routs and appliques. Gothic style is a more ornate, decorative tradition that includes pointed arches, trefoils and quatrefoils. Colonial style is graceful, refined, and elegant. It can be less ornate than Gothic, but once a rout or applique is incorporated into the design to reflect the interior of the worship facility, the decorative features enhance the furniture.

Lounge & Café

Lounge and café furniture is intended for gathering spaces and provides a comfortable setting for people to relax in fellowship with each other.

The biggest decision to make with gathering space furniture is whether to select renewable or traditional lounge seating.

Renewable and traditional lounge furniture pieces are equally comfortable and provide a great place for parishioners to socialize, but the difference lies in the day-to-day activities of the worship facility. Renewable lounge furniture enables the church to update or replace the upholstery covering as needed, whereas traditional lounge furniture functions more like sofas, loveseats and ottomans in the home.

Whether renewable or traditional lounge furniture is selected, it is important to create a gathering space where members of the community and parishioners are able to relax and work on church projects in collaborative and comfortable settings.

Amanda Opdycke is the worship market manager and Jacob Hauter is the worship market assistant for Sauder Worship Seating,

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