Church Chairs v. Pews: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Churches, especially start-ups, must decide between using church chairs or pews in their sanctuaries. But what’s the difference? What are the pros and cons of each choice?  Here are some thoughts that I hope will help make your choice easier.

SPACE/LAYOUT     How your sanctuary or meeting room is laid out and how much space you have is an obvious consideration.  Would long pews fit and give the attendees in every pew/seat a good view of the pulpit?  Is there space for an aisle and walkways if you use pews?  If you are using the space for multiple functions, would the flexibility and mobility of church chairs be a better fit for the space? If your location is not a permanent location, then adding pews could be high risk if you move into a new facility that doesn’t support a similar layout or functionality.  Church chairs can be moved out of the way, stacked for storage, and easily set up in different configurations or ganged together (with the included ganging brackets) for the ultimate in convenience and choice when it comes to space and layout.  Pews, on the other hand, cannot.

COST     The upfront cost between church chairs and pews differs greatly.  Church chairs are much less expensive for the initial purchase than pews, which are often hand-crafted from wood.  However, church chairs often need repaired or replaced before a long-lasting pew, so there could be additional costs after the initial purchase.  For a start-up church though, the initial budget is probably a little tighter and cost could be a deciding factor.

COMFORT     If you have a lot of young families in your church, pews make it easy for the kids to sprawl out (or squish together) and offer a surface to color in their coloring books or play on while keeping occupied so as not to disturb the rest of the congregation.  If you have a lot of older members in your church, a soft, padded church chair is going to be very comfortable during the hour -long sermon.  Where pews can have a hard back and sometimes a hard seat, chairs are much softer.  Church chairs give each person a pre-defined amount of space and wiggle room.  For adults, this might feel more comfortable, because we tend to want a set amount of personal space.

BOOKS & BULLETINS     Pews and church chairs are tied neck-to-neck on this consideration, because there are typically book racks attached to the back of pews, and church chairs offer a book rack beneath the seat and a pocket in the back, as well.  Both options offer the convenience of holding your Bible, hymnal, and program/bulletin during each service.

STYLE/AESTHETICS     When it comes to style, it is usually left to personal opinion.  There’s no denying the old world style and ultimate beauty of rows of wooden pews in a traditional style church.  However, church chairs offer a more modern and contemporary feel to a church’s setting.  Aesthetically speaking, both can be arranged in a neat and orderly manner, making either choice a beautiful edition to your sanctuary.

For churches looking to purchase church chairs or pews, please feel free to post your additional questions or comments below to help add to this debate.

Coffee Cafes: A Hot Trend for Churches

A church buying up cafe table tops, bar stools, and dining chairs?  Yes, it does happen!

Building community and attracting new audiences are two very important objectives for many churches, regardless of denomination.  Many churches across the U. S. (and globally) have acted on a growing trend to help address these goals:  open a cafe or coffee house inside the church.  Depending on your church community’s own goals, a coffee house could also be a much-needed revenue stream for a declining membership or growing capital needs.

We live in a Starbucks world

Chances are, when your congregation walks out your chapel doors on Sunday morning, they are heading to the nearest Starbucks or local coffee house to get their fix before the rest of the day.  Or perhaps, they came to church holding their white to-go cup adorned with that famous green mermaid.  Younger generations, especially, feel comfortable in a cafe atmosphere and often include a weekly, if not daily, visit to a cafe or coffee house.  Bringing this atmosphere to a church can make the Sunday ritual a little less intimidating or threatening to some, and can offer a convenience factor to those coffee connoisseurs in your congregation.  If you’re reading this, you are probably already tasting your drink of choice – whether it’s a chilled frappuccino, a frothy cappuccino with your favorite flavor shot, or a bold cup of espresso.  Even tea drinkers find comfort at a cafe, and many serve up smoothies for those looking for a fruity taste instead (which is also a great kids’ choice for younger families).

Coffee hour can build community

Imagine your sermon ends, and people don’t rush out the door.  Instead, they chat with their neighbors over coffee in your narthex, or a church-run separate cafe.  Imagine Bible Study ends, but the conversation continues over a cappuccino or hot tea.  Imagine a pastor reaching out to get to know someone in his fellowship, and being able to offer a cup of joe in a relaxed atmosphere while trying to do so.  Having a resource of this kind inside your chapel’s walls can be a great boost to your own congregation and provide ample opportunities to bring people together and inspire people to truly connect.  Cut out the small talk about the weather and the “I’m good” automatic responses, and really get to know your church-goers a little better.

Integrating technology will modernize your church

Coffee houses don’t just sell coffee.  They have Wi-fi, promote new music, and keep people connected – in a more global way than previously mentioned.  To do a cafe right, you need to offer free Wi-fi to your customers, so they can bring in their laptops and surf the ‘net or do other work in the peacefulness a church cafe can inhabit.  You can also stream contemporary Christian hits and perhaps offer free downloads of your own choir’s musical performances.  At times, bring in local musicians to host live events and draw more customers.  If your church’s bookstore is flailing, consider linking up with an online book retailer to bring the great written copy onto someone’s Kindle or Nook.  (Coffee houses can also inspire people to sit down and actually open up that book they’ve been meaning to read, and could work well in conjunction with a church bookstore or lending library.)  If your church is too conservative to try to bring in modern elements to its sermon, a cafe can be a great extension of your services and attract a less-conservative crowd.  If you’re already breaking down barriers with A/V additions to your Sunday mornings, then a cafe will fit into your personality and be a smooth transition for your audience.

Sundays aren’t the only days people can come to church

Does your church have activities throughout the week?  Do you want to be more visible all week long?  Having open cafe hours can not only just attract outsiders for some coffee (and money for your church’s revenue stream), but it can be a great perk to your staff, volunteers, and people coming to church throughout the week for activities or private confessionals/prayers.  Many churches recommend hiring a few key staff who are responsible for the cafe, but others can operate it solely through the hands of volunteers.  Finding what works for you, your church, your goals, and your budget will be beneficial.

If you can envision a cafe in your church, already enjoy the aroma of the beans wafting through your chapel, hear the clink of coffee mugs and friendly conversation, and begin to see the benefits of how a church cafe could promote a happier congregation, attract new/younger church-goers, and boost your fundraising efforts, then we hope this article was helpful and wish you success in your exciting new venture!