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Thread: Replacing pews with chairs

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    Replacing pews with chairs

    Our church has had pews in the sanctuary for more than 50 yrs. No padding!

    We can see several advantages to replacing them with good chairs: flexibility, a better fit in the sanctuary (our current pews leave a very small aisle next to the exposed arches) and as we can sell the pews for something (to be determined) the net cost is reasonable.

    However, once we get rid of the pews there is no going back. Also, there is some obvious discomfort with changing pews out (they are in nice condition and our church looks like a church, we've always had pews, Jesus sat in a pew, etc). Most importantly, little kids will no longer be able to slide from one end to the other nor will they be able to crawl from back to front of the sanctuary without detection.

    What should we be looking for in chairs? Have you noticed anything in your travels that are particularly disadvantageous to chairs? eg are most of them broken after a few years? One thing I noticed is that church chairs are fairly inexpensive (~50/chair or less). At previous times when I have checked they were over $100/chair.


    Thanks for any help or suggestions...

    Doug K.
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    Site Manager G R 'Scott' Cundiff's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    We changed them out in Alvin and our folks never looked back. We really like the chairs.

    When we changed them, we talked about being able to rearrange them and that really came in handy last Christmas. We did a musical/drama in which the actors needed the platform. We were able to move the choir down to the floor level by simply moving some chairs around to face the congregation. It worked great.

    A negative is that if you have carpeting the chairs will be a lot harder on the carpet than the pews. After just a few weeks of use if you pick up a chair it leaves it's marks on the carpet.

    I'd say the more modern feel is a plus in our society - outsiders who we bring to church are more interested in comfort than they are with a "churchy feeling" sanctuary.

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    Senior Member Cynthia Prentice's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Praying you guys find the right chairs. I prefer pews to chairs for many of the same reasons that you listed. Our church at Houston Southwest had chairs and the kids did some of the things you mentioned....the biggest problem was that they were knocking the chairs around and we were constantly straightening them. I have a very clear recollection of two little boys running their bat mobile back and forth across the last row of chairs. When my children were young I preferred pews because it was easier to lay them down when they were asleep and also it seemed their restlessness was just a bit more hidden.
    "I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places...You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew... You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again." Isaiah 58:11-12 (THE MESSAGE)



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    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    We changed out the pews for chairs and it really changed the look and functionality. One benefit that we have found is that during times when our numbers are down we can pull out chairs and spread them out a little bit so that it doesn't feel so empty. Then in the fall we start adding them back in. It also now gives us another room where we can add in tables and have meetings.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Another advantage to chairs is that you can usually increase both your actual seating capacity and effective capacity. More chairs will fit than will conventional pews and chairs bring definition to seating. Each person gets one chair, not 1 1/2 or 2 as inevitably happens in a setting with pews.

    Churches have had chairs for years and they still look like churches. The black chairs in the upper balcony here are old enough that they have wire holders under the seats to hold the gentlemen's hats.



    The ladies, of course, would keep their hats on back in the day.



    And let me agree with Kyle as well. We are involved with a summer concert program that is held at a nearby AOG church. They have seating arranged for roughly 200 during normal services. Their attendance is roughly 150-175 so they achieve an almost full look to the sanctuary. When we hold a concert event there, the seats are re arranged with chairs added to bring the seating capacity to 300.

    I found this picture showing the lower capacity seating arrangement with wide aisles and plenty of legroom, just like first class.

    -Jim

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    Senior Member Wilson Deaton's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I probably represent a minority view but I would not buy "good" chairs. By that, I mean the substantial, heavy, chairs that look as good as pews. I would (and did) get inexpensive, lighter weight stacking banquet chairs. If you have to replace some every few years, so be it. The initial savings as well as the ease with which you can stack, move, and store them is worth the trade off. If the chairs are too substantial you lose part of the advantage of having chairs not pews.

    These are the cheap chairs we bought. We move them around a lot!

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I don't believe Westerville bought pews when they moved buildings. Instead they bought nice chairs that had wood backs so that when they were lined up they had a "pew" look. When we built the new multipurpose area, we redid the old chairs in the new color and added to them with chairs that do not have exactly the same look (no wood backs) but do have the same fabric - so we try to keep a section with the same chairs. They are harder to stack because they are the substantial chairs but it isn't too difficult. What is important when changing from pews to chairs is some way to mark the carpet to make the lining up of rows easier. In the old multipurpose room, there were Velcro buttons at the end of each row. In the new multipurpose area, I guess they are marked with something that is not visible to the naked eye but it shows up under a special flashlight. Typically they do need to be adjusted weekly.

    Alisa
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    Senior Member Dan Henderson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I've only had one opportunity to change from pews to chairs. My recommendation, which was accepted by the board was for the pew chairs mainly for their durability and their ability to connect. The between chair connections make a big difference when one wants to keep the configuration set as planned. Loose chairs tend to get re-arranged, a lot, by those who have no business re-arranging chairs.

    The pew chairs I have researched can last nearly as long as a pew (except that refurbishing might be not as practical).

    There may be other options these days. Whatever you do, do your homework. Weigh the options (price versus performance). I have found that "cheapest" is almost never true.
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    Senior Member Valisha Trammell Hall's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    BFC has nice chairs, but they are more like theater chairs, are linked together, with nice cushions and arms. I don't like chairs unless they have arms on them, it gets uncomfortable fast.
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    Host Fun & Prayer forums Gina Stevenson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Public seating has been a bane for quite some time, unless ~~ as Valisha suggested ~~ there are arms (& sufficient padding, or it leads to having to carry along w/one's "normal" things an extra cushion, too ... but then, already tend to carry a stool, often, as when the floor's not "high enough," that not-reaching-the-floor configures one's back miserably ... not good for one that's already been crushed).

    But then I'm not a good one to ask, probably ... miserable seating can help me miss a lot of what's being said .......... leading to, "When's this going to be over!?" so one can find a more comfortable seating arrangement.

    Cannot imagine, tho', the wooden/no-padding-at-all pews you mentioned, Doug ... I recall them from when younger.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Henderson View Post
    I've only had one opportunity to change from pews to chairs. My recommendation, which was accepted by the board was for the pew chairs mainly for their durability and their ability to connect. The between chair connections make a big difference when one wants to keep the configuration set as planned. Loose chairs tend to get re-arranged, a lot, by those who have no business re-arranging chairs.

    The pew chairs I have researched can last nearly as long as a pew (except that refurbishing might be not as practical).

    There may be other options these days. Whatever you do, do your homework. Weigh the options (price versus performance). I have found that "cheapest" is almost never true.
    The ability to solidly connect the chairs together is a real help. Much easier to keep the chairs in even straight rows and they tend to stay where they need to be.

    It also makes it easier to return the seating to normal after things are moved around for a one time event. We do a hymn sing/concert event at a couple of churches over the winter months. We generally move a dozen or so chairs from the floor to the platform. I'll take one chair from each row against the far wall to bring to the platform. Since they hook together, it's real easy to put them back exactly where we found them.
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

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    Host Theology Forum Dennis M. Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Jim,

    Is that Tremont Temple?

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I have a friend and colleague. Some of you probably know him. He's very particular about symmetry and everything looking just so. Some might even suggest that he's a bit AR.

    His church moved to chairs a few years back, and while he would probably tell you that he loves the flexibility, it took him a LONG time to come to grips with the fact that the chairs would not be perfectly lined up. I've heard reports of him going into the sanctuary on a Sunday morning and spending (probably too much) time nudging the chairs into place in order to satisfy his aesthetic sensibilities.

    Just something to keep in mind. If you move to chairs, you need to decide how important placement is, and who's going to invest the time in lining things up carefully.
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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I think the best way to go might be those interconnecting chairs. The congregation my inlaws pastor has them. You can set them up in rows, very much like pews - they won't move easily and stay relatively aligned (people have to be intentional about moving them any great distance). Yet they can still be moved and rearranged as needed. It might be a good compromise.

    However, all of my best under-pew crawling memories are from those very pews, so there's always nostalgia.
    ...just my $.02.
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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson Deaton View Post
    I probably represent a minority view but I would not buy "good" chairs. By that, I mean the substantial, heavy, chairs that look as good as pews. I would (and did) get inexpensive, lighter weight stacking banquet chairs. If you have to replace some every few years, so be it. The initial savings as well as the ease with which you can stack, move, and store them is worth the trade off. If the chairs are too substantial you lose part of the advantage of having chairs not pews.

    These are the cheap chairs we bought. We move them around a lot!

    Attachment 5634

    Wilson
    Oh, I wouldn't do that. The "pew chairs" that have no gap between the chairs are great for putting your arm around your wife and for laying sleeping children across.

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    Senior Member Charlene Clevenger's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I don't think chairs with arms would be comfortable or practical. You couldn't spread out, or sit close together, or lay a sleeping child's head on your lap. And they would be very uncomfortable for overweight people.

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    Host Fun & Prayer forums Gina Stevenson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlene Clevenger View Post
    I don't think chairs with arms would be comfortable or practical. You couldn't spread out, or sit close together, or lay a sleeping child's head on your lap. And they would be very uncomfortable for overweight people.
    Maybe a mix of the two ... perhaps a couple of chairs at each end with arms (for those where bearing some of the weight on their arms helps take some of the vertical weight/pain off the spine), with those in the middle of the rows being without arms ???

    Even with pews, there are those who will try for the end seat, & not slide in when someone enters the pew, so they can have this weight-bearing arm on the end.
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    Senior Member Lucas Finch's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Gina Stevenson View Post
    Maybe a mix of the two ... perhaps a couple of chairs at each end with arms (for those where bearing some of the weight on their arms helps take some of the vertical weight/pain off the spine), with those in the middle of the rows being without arms ???
    That's exactly we we have in our sanctuary.
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    Senior Member Jim Chabot's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis M. Scott View Post
    Jim,

    Is that Tremont Temple?
    Why yes sir, it is. I've been spending a whole bunch of time there as I'm working on upgrading their sound system. There are a whole gaggle of wires in there!

    It's been a welcome distraction, since things at our church haven't been going very well.

    If you would like a behind the scenes tour of the place, let me know!
    -Jim

    To know and to serve God, of course, is why we're here, a clear truth, that, like the nose on your face, is near at hand and easily discernible but can make you dizzy if you try to focus on it hard. But a little faith will see you through.

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    Senior Member Gary Creely's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Chabot View Post
    Why yes sir, it is. I've been spending a whole bunch of time there as I'm working on upgrading their sound system.
    I remember that place. If you need any gear or design work- I know a guy.

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    Senior Member Rich Schmidt's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Kitchen View Post
    What should we be looking for in chairs? Have you noticed anything in your travels that are particularly disadvantageous to chairs? eg are most of them broken after a few years? One thing I noticed is that church chairs are fairly inexpensive (~50/chair or less). At previous times when I have checked they were over $100/chair.
    I wish I could be more help, but my personal experience has been rather limited. We have the cheaper chairs, not too different from Wilson's, but that works well for us because most of our seating is around tables. The bigger, pew-style chairs might look odd around tables.

    If you're replacing pews, and if most of your chairs are going to be in rows, and you're not going to be rearranging them frequently (maybe just a few times a year), then going with the bigger, pew-style chairs that lock together is probably a good thing. For those who love pews, they'll still kind of feel like them... but much more cushiony.

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    Senior Member Dan Henderson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    There are a lot of options with pew chairs. The end seats with an armrest have been mentioned. There are also "seat and a half" chairs one can buy. If you have people in your congregation that oppose losing the pews, the end-chairs will go a long way in winning them over. A few seat and a half chairs in the mix will help you also. If you go that route, get a few of the seat and a half chairs, even if you don't need them right now, you may in the future. Don't overlook the under seat book racks or pockets in the back of the chair. You may not use hymnals now but that does not mean you won't in the future.

    One big advantage of pew chairs is the ability to create a wheelchair gap anywhere in the sanctuary versus limiting them to the back row. Accommodation for unique needs was the deal maker for me.
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    Senior Member Rich Schmidt's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Henderson View Post
    One big advantage of pew chairs is the ability to create a wheelchair gap anywhere in the sanctuary versus limiting them to the back row. Accommodation for unique needs was the deal maker for me.
    Advantage over pews, correct? It's not an advantage over cheaper chairs.

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    Senior Member Dan Henderson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich Schmidt View Post
    Advantage over pews, correct? It's not an advantage over cheaper chairs.
    true. The advantage over cheaper chairs are sturdiness, comfort, and appearance (from a church perspective). Its much like selecting carpet for your sanctuary. You can buy residential carpet cheaper than commercial carpet, however, when it comes time to replace that carpet you may not have the money, cheaper as it may be.

    Commercial carpet is designed for high traffic and is worth the money. Buy right, when you buy. If you don't have enough money to buy what you need ... wait.
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    Host Fun & Prayer forums Gina Stevenson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Now, since you mentioned the chairs are around tables, Rich, that makes a big difference as to whether you need arms or not ... if around tables, then some of that weight put on the chair arms if they sit "alone-in-space" is then put onto the tables instead, when necessary.
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    Senior Member Gary Creely's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Those chairs are what I would call banquet chairs, IMO they are not a great choice for places that previously had pews. Decent church chairs seem to start just under $50. Many are light and stackable. The sky is the limit on how nice some chairs get.

    I agree that spending too much on chairs quickly enters the realm of diminishing returns, I do like them to at least interlock. Like these-


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    Senior Member Bill Morrison's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Whatever you do....don't go with theater seats in a church.
    God loves people with wide rear ends too you know and desires they attend worship.

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    It's interesting how worship seating has trended for the past few decades. I've been in the business of church furniture (and involved in churches in these business decisions) for almost 30 years now at ChurchPlaza, and I've been able to see the trends from pews, theatre seating, to chairs. There are a lot of advantages to chairs over pews - the flexibility of using the space for multiple things is always nice.

    Just a fun stat: the average pew user takes up 24 inches of lineal seating space, while the average worship chair is only 20 inches wide. You get about a 20% increase in available seating AND it's much easier to accommodate handicapped worshippers.

    I realize this was posted in 2013, but as for $100/chair - I'm sure some models run that much, but many of the most popular chairs I sell are less than $50 (closer to $30) a piece, and they're made to last. Hope you found the best chairs for your space!
    Last edited by Tom McElheny; February 18th, 2015 at 09:36 AM. Reason: formatting
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    Senior Member Eric Frey's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Didn't read the whole thread, but FWIW I don't see a significant difference between chairs and pews. The significant difference for me is between kneelers and no kneelers.
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    Senior Member Dan Henderson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Frey View Post
    Didn't read the whole thread, but FWIW I don't see a significant difference between chairs and pews. The significant difference for me is between kneelers and no kneelers.
    They come with kneelers if needed.
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    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I am looking at getting rid of our pews. They are solid wood, but do not have a lot of design elements so they aren't that useful for other churches. Once the weather gets nice, I am looking at taking the wood from the pews and making tables and benches out of them and selling them to raise money for chairs and tables. I shall call it the pew table. Design will be similar to a farm table, but the benches will be pews with the backs cut down shorter and reduced in length if needed.
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    Senior Member Jeremy D. Scott's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Borger View Post
    I am looking at getting rid of our pews. They are solid wood, but do not have a lot of design elements so they aren't that useful for other churches. Once the weather gets nice, I am looking at taking the wood from the pews and making tables and benches out of them and selling them to raise money for chairs and tables. I shall call it the pew table. Design will be similar to a farm table, but the benches will be pews with the backs cut down shorter and reduced in length if needed.
    We have a church pew in our kitchen for two seats at the dinner table. I love it.
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    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    An interesting thing happened on the way to dumping our pews... I had a big meeting with our 20 somethings and asked them what we needed to do to create church that they would bring their friends too. We covered a ton of topics but when the topic of pews came up I was surprised at their response. (Which is why you actually need to ask people not assume you know the answer) They had some sense that chairs would be nice but really liked the pews. They thought we should recover them into more modern colors but they didn't think the pews hurt us with their generation. Then they started listing all the things they didn't like about chairs...

    This stunned me. My generation (tail end of Baby boomers) was all about getting rid of pews. 20 somethings really didn't seem to care. Given the fact that we have a sloped floor so putting in chairs would mean a major remodel to an otherwise great worship space it now looks like it will be pews until we build our next building.

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Craig, I recently spoke with a millennial who expressed a similar sentiment. She said that she preferred the pews, stained glass, and a church looking like a historic church. However, from the trends of my sales for the past 20 years, chairs are by far the most popular seating for churches these days. Who knows if it will swing back to pews in the future. It's definitely interesting to watch the trends!
    Tom McElheny, CEO & Founder of ChurchPlaza
    Connect with me on LinkedIn.
    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

  35. #35
    Host Fun & Prayer forums Gina Stevenson's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Laughlin View Post
    Then they started listing all the things they didn't like about chairs...
    Could tell you a thing or two ... or three ... or ... ?? about chairs, too. Public seating is one of the "banes of my existence." Hard to pay attention when the mind's thinking, "When will this be over so I can get off this uncomfortable thing!?" (but then I have back issues ... feet don't reach the floor, so must carry a stool or suffer that problem ... etc)

    With a pew (padded, of course !!!), one can sit on the end, with a back-supporting-arm-to-lean-on, and bring their stool. With chairs, you have no such support available ... anywhere.
    Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. ~ Stella Adler
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    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

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    Senior Member Bill Morrison's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Laughlin View Post
    An interesting thing happened on the way to dumping our pews... I had a big meeting with our 20 somethings and asked them what we needed to do to create church that they would bring their friends too. We covered a ton of topics but when the topic of pews came up I was surprised at their response. (Which is why you actually need to ask people not assume you know the answer) They had some sense that chairs would be nice but really liked the pews. They thought we should recover them into more modern colors but they didn't think the pews hurt us with their generation. Then they started listing all the things they didn't like about chairs...

    This stunned me. My generation (tail end of Baby boomers) was all about getting rid of pews. 20 somethings really didn't seem to care. Given the fact that we have a sloped floor so putting in chairs would mean a major remodel to an otherwise great worship space it now looks like it will be pews until we build our next building.

    - Stunned baby boomer who is feeling old.
    Craig:
    You raise an excellent point.
    Some of the changes the church has made to please "young people" probably won't be successful forever (if they ever were).
    The young people we have now are not the same as the young people of 20 years ago.
    I am impressed by that in what I observe after 34 years of teaching students at MNU.
    Our leaders need to start being sensitive to this issue.

    BILL
    Thanks Craig Laughlin - "thanks" for this post

  37. #37
    Senior Member Craig Laughlin's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom McElheny View Post
    Craig, I recently spoke with a millennial who expressed a similar sentiment. She said that she preferred the pews, stained glass, and a church looking like a historic church. However, from the trends of my sales for the past 20 years, chairs are by far the most popular seating for churches these days. Who knows if it will swing back to pews in the future. It's definitely interesting to watch the trends!
    We have a gym in our future and when that happens we will remodel our worship center, put in a flat floor and chairs. (I'll have to give you a call then that happens, we my buy a lot of chairs at one time) Multi-purpose is the name of the game when buildings are so expensive. I don't really see a future for pews but I no longer see them as hurting us either.

    BTW - Welcome to Naznet and thanks for joining us!
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  38. #38
    Senior Member Kyle Borger's Avatar

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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    I had considered just reducing the number of pews to make the space more manageable, but it didn't work with the overall feel. Perhaps I will keep a few for the hangout spaces. I was thinking comfy chairs and a couch, but who knows maybe a pew could be retro cool!

    I have time since it may be a while before the switch happens.

  39. #39
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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Laughlin View Post
    We have a gym in our future and when that happens we will remodel our worship center, put in a flat floor and chairs. (I'll have to give you a call then that happens, we my buy a lot of chairs at one time) Multi-purpose is the name of the game when buildings are so expensive. I don't really see a future for pews but I no longer see them as hurting us either.

    BTW - Welcome to Naznet and thanks for joining us!
    Would look forward to it! Thanks for the warm welcome.
    Tom McElheny, CEO & Founder of ChurchPlaza
    Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  40. #40
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    Re: Replacing pews with chairs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Morrison View Post
    Some of the changes the church has made to please "young people" probably won't be successful forever (if they ever were).

    BILL
    Some of the changes made to 'please young people' were probably based more on the opinions and tastes of the 'change-makers' than on those of the 'target' audience.
    Thanks Craig Laughlin, Gina Stevenson, Jeremy D. Scott - "thanks" for this post

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