As you think about the kind of seating you would like your church to have, you should also think about what kind of layout would make the best use of space in the church. If you are opting for lightweight, stackable chairs, then you have the opportunity to experiment and try different layouts that best serve the needs of your event, while more permanent seating may require you to make a universal decision.
Regardless, you should give some thought into how you want your church to look, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain layouts.
Different layouts change the degree of accessibility, the way the congregation is able to view the stage, and the general experience of those attending the service. You may be surprised how much the seating can affect the way the worshippers relate to the service, and the way it can change their entire experience.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few examples of church layouts that will maximize space while having a unique effect on your congregation:
1. The “Classic” One-Path Layout
This layout creates a wide, accessible path that is open to everyone. However, having just one path may also lead to mild disruption should latecomers arrive to the service. If you are working with a wider space, the seats become a little too long to be practical.
It is a striking layout, partially because of how the long path leads directly to the altar, which directs all possible attention to the pulpit. It is even more effective if you are working with a highly vertical space, because the long, linear path emphasizes the artful verticality of the space, creating a dramatic effect on the viewer. This also relies on the chairs all facing perfectly forward toward the stage, and not at an angle.
Of course, this way there is no way to view the priest head-on: everyone’s head will be slightly tilted the whole time, since there are no seats directly in front of the altar. However, if you are working with the specific kind of space, this layout is the best way to maximize the number of chairs you are able to hold.
2. The Small but Efficient Layout
Though you may be working with a small space, you can still maximize the area and create an appealing look. This layout utilizes angled chairs to create a line of focus directly to the altar, allowing people to more easily look at the pulpit without distraction. Like the first single-aisle layout, it utilizes one big lane, which may suffice nicely for such a small space. People can easily access the seating, and will have little trouble coming or going from them.
3. The Multi-Lane Layout
If you are working with a space that is a little more wide than vertical, you could consider adding multiple lanes, with two longer sets of chairs flanking the middle lane and two thinner paths separating them from the smaller rows at either end. Depending on how wide your space is and how many chairs you may want to put down, you may be able to fit in two very small paths at either end as well.
This layout is optimal for churches that are more square-shaped or wider than long. There is still a large lane for processions and general ease of access, but there are also two other significantly-sized lanes that divert some traffic.
It would be more impractical to use the first, single isle layout on this kind of space, because there would be far too many chairs in a row to allow people to easily access the middle. This layout, however, maximizes a wider space well and allows you to add more chairs while still providing multiple lanes for accessibility.
One issue with this layout may be the presence of columns in the worship area. Many churches, especially older ones, are built with arches and columns that are planted in sometimes-inconvenient areas. Chairs can easily go around the columns, but it may lead to some members with a more limited view of the stage.
Take this into consideration, and consider either building a wider space around the columns, or, instead, lining some chairs along the far walls instead of putting normal pews there.
4. The Circular Layout
This is an innovative design that is all but unheard of in older churches, but is slowly growing in popularity. It is partially inspired by the Quaker’s meeting of worship, which typically take place in a rectangular layout where the person speaking stands at the center. Some designs, however, are fully in the round.
This layout tends to change the atmosphere of the service Some may argue that it feels more collaborative and welcoming, and while everyone has a direct view of the one officiating the service, there can often develop a greater feeling of community in this kind of space.
You can also have a semi-circular design that does not go all the way around, but still adds a feeling of togetherness and community. This may be more idea for some spaces than a complete circle or rectangle around a center.
Hopefully, these layouts have inspired and enabled you to think about which style might best fit your specific space. Every church is unique, so don’t be afraid to do something a little bit different, so long as the layout works well with the space and with your congregation.