Church seating layouts can have a surprising impact on the way it feels to worship. Wooden pews, lined in straight rows, provide a familiar church environment with the pastor at the head of the congregation. But other seating arrangements have risen in popularity, starting with straight-row seating using padded church chairs in the 70’s and 80’s, and extending to modern styles that help bring more liveliness and engagement to your place of worship.
Your choice of a church seating layout can change the way your congregation approaches worship. So how do you choose the right one? What layouts are even available to choose from?
Read on to learn about three common church seating layouts, and how each one can enhance the worship experience at your church.
Traditional Straight-Row Church Seating Layouts
Though it’s the traditional choice, straight row seating hasn’t been around for as long as you might think. In Church Architecture: Building and Renovating for Christian Worship, author James White notes that churches did not typically offer any seating at all until the fourteenth century!
Wooden pews were the first addition, placed in fixed rows facing the front of the church in order to maximize the use of space. In fact, the connection between traditional church service and wooden pews is so strong that some churches have a small chapel with wooden pews dedicated as a place for traditional Christian weddings.
In a modern church, however, you’ll typically find straight row seating that uses padded, comfortable church chairs. These chairs come in all sorts of colors, sizes, frames, and amounts of padding so you can find the right fit for your congregation. Church chairs have become the preferred choice because of their durability, flexibility, and cost effectiveness.
These padded chairs can withstand several years of use in a busy church. And though you can arrange your chairs in traditional straight rows to mimic the traditional pew seating style, you’re also free to move the chairs into new seating arrangements, or to store them away to clear the floor for a big event, or even to rearrange them into small groups for Sunday school events. And finally, where wooden pews are uncomfortable, expensive, and difficult to install, church chairs can be bought in bulk for surprisingly low prices.
Straight row seating offers a few advantages.
The first is that it’s a proven method. If you’re not sure where to start with your church seating layout, it’s tough to go wrong with straight rows.
And this leads directly to the second point: your congregation will already be familiar with the layout and can settle comfortably into their preferred seating area. New or unorthodox layouts can be less comfortable, as churchgoers must decide where they would like to sit and take part in worship.
Finally, if you prefer the congregation to all focus their attention forward to the pastor, and you don’t need a lot of back-and-forth with the audience, then straight row seating can serve this purpose well.
Platform or Fan Church Seating Layouts
Many modern churches have large congregations that come worship each week. For these congregations — ranging from hundreds to thousands or even tens of thousands of people — straight-row seating often simply won’t cut it. The people at the back of the room won’t be able to see the pastor!
One solution is to preserve the regular flow of seating, but to place the pastor on a raised platform. This makes sure the entire congregation is able to participate and see what’s going on, but some churches feel that the elevated platform can send the wrong message.
Joe Druckemiller, a senior director at Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana, described their choice for a low platform seating arrangement:
““Having the stage at the same level as the congregation as they enter definitely brings a sense of community, of being the same level as worshippers.”
Another way to address a large congregation size is with theater-style seating, where the rows reach up level-by-level like an auditorium. This allows the entire congregation to see the pastor, and can remain flexible if you use padded church chairs. However, maintaining seating for a large congregation can become messy quickly, so you might want to try padded church chairs that attach to one another.
New Seating Styles
In recent years, a newer style of seating has emerged that tries to combine the easy viewing and comfortable experience of straight row seating with a more engaging worship style.
It’s called the “semi-circle”, or the 180-degree seating arrangement. In this church seating layout, the congregation is arranged in a large semicircle around a central platform. This lets members of the congregation see one another across the platform, and from any point on the semicircle they can see other people. Churches with this seating arrangement feel it helps people engage more with the pastor and with the rest of the church, as they aren’t simply looking past the back of each other’s heads.
For modern churches with a square floor, this can be an interesting new layout to try — yet familiar enough that your congregation will still feel comfortable. Try arranging your church chairs in slanted rows fanning out from the platform, with gaps every twenty to thirty feet to make sure people can get out of their rows if they need to go to the bathroom.
For churches with narrow, rectangular floors, this seating arrangement will be more difficult to pull off.
At Advantage Church Chairs, we can help provide for whatever church seating layout you settle on, with the best prices on bulk church chairs and church seating. If you’d like help settling on a layout or with deciding what chairs might best serve your needs, try giving our friendly specialists a call today. We’d love to assist you!