Church Seating and Pews

Providing a Comfortable, Functional Setup for Your Congregation's Worship

Did you know that many early churches did not have pews? Permanent seating only became common after sermons achieved a central role in church services during the Protestant reformation. Today, pews are the heart of your church's sanctuary. The arrangement of pews may be traditional, or it may adapt to the size and tone of your particular denomination.

Kinds of Pews and Church Seating
The first question is whether to invest in rows of pews at all, and whether their location should be fixed. This will largely be determined by your available space and how many attendees you have at different services.

***Tip: You can supplement pews with rows of stackable chairs, especially at times of high attendance such as Advent and Easter.

Pews may be "radius curved" which creates the effect of your parishioners being "arms" extending around the "heart" of your sanctuary. They may also be straight, which makes it possible to fit more rows into a small space. If you are designing a new church space or replacing your existing chairs or pews, consider the following:
  • Where is the pulpit located?
  • Will the dais be in the same location as it is today?
  • Are there fixed objects like a stage that you need to work around?
  • What books do you plan to store in the pews? Do members of your church bring their own Bibles or do they need hymnals, prayer books, and other appropriate materials provided?
  • How many people do your church pews need to accommodate? Be sure to provide access for those in wheelchairs or with limited accessibility or special needs, preferably in the front.

Think about the different ways in which the pews will be used and the primary functions that occur during services or meetings. Do members of your parish kneel during services? If so, provide kneelers, perhaps with padding for older congregants.

Does your service incorporate standing or walking? In that case, the pews should be spaced further apart to make it easy to rise and sit.

Don't forget to provide cushions! Comfortable seating makes the service more enjoyable, and frees people from distractions which may take them away from announcements and sermons.

Pew Materials
Pews were traditionally made of wood, which has advantages and disadvantages.

Wood can be expensive, but one of the reasons that wooden pews have endured through the ages is their sturdiness. It is possible to purchase previously used pews and restore them or customize them to fit your needs. Wood can be stained, polished, and carved. Unlike fabric-covered furniture, wood is relatively easy to clean after services and does not have issues in humid climates.

However, wood is heavy, which makes it less appealing if your church pews donÂ?t have a fixed location and need to be moved regularly. Hollow pews are available, as well as pews made from synthetic materials.

Wood is also stiff compared to contemporary furniture, which means you should consider purchasing cushions to make the pews more comfortable. When youÂ?re looking at pew cushions, consider the following:
  • Whether the covers can be removed for washing: This is a good idea, especially in summer, so that you donÂ?t have to wash the entire cushion to clean the outside.
  • The size of the bolsters: Smaller cushions can be used for sitting but also for back support.
  • Matching fabrics to other colors in your sanctuary, including curtains.
  • Reversible patterns double your options for color and visual designs.

In the end, your choice of church seating will reflect the needs of your congregation. Think about the most functional, comfortable, cost-effective solution for your church.

Written by: Diana Wynne