How can we make the best use of church furniture? Reform’s panel shares creative ideas
We use it most of the time we’re in church, but rarely think about it. Is church furniture just somewhere to park yourself, something that actively helps your worship and mission, or an obstacle? How can churches make the most of our furniture? We ask the experts for their advice.
Ask: “Do we need it?”
Use it and look after it. If it isn’t used, ask: “Why isn’t it used?” and “Do we need to keep it?” Some furniture forms the fixtures and fittings of the building, defining the space and its function. Some furniture is redundant – the castoffs from people’s homes or the clutter and accretions that no one quite has the guts to get rid of.
Be rigorous – less is more. If your church replaced the pews with chairs so as to make the space more flexible, don’t commit the sin of leaving the chairs out in serried rows just like the pews were for week after week!
Andrew Mottram is co-author with Nigel Walter of Buildings for Mission: A complete guide to the care, conservation and development of churches (Canterbury Press, 2015, £29.99)
Embrace the flexibility of chairs rather than pews so that your worship area can be transformed regularly to give a cafe-style feel. Make use of multimedia equipment so services and meetings can include film-clips and pictures. Drink good quality fair trade coffee and tea from real mugs, and provide homemade cakes and biscuits at every opportunity. If we offer comfortable seating, stimulating visuals, and memorable refreshments our message might seem more relevant for the 21st century. Even better if we can do some of this away from our buildings!
Trish Davis is Fresh Expressions Minister at St David’s United Reformed Church, Eastham
Reflect God’s love
A church is there to reflect God’s love to the community and beyond. The building and furniture should assist in this calling, not hinder it. Everything can play its part in being a good witness. The building outside and in, the facilities and the furniture should all be tidy, clean, comfortable and welcoming. Living with the furniture also involves moving and storing it. All too often folk forget about weight and storage when selecting new furniture. Perhaps one measure of a successful worship space is the furniture being cleared weekly for all sorts of regular community events. So think long-term and ask: “Who are we hoping to serve? And how?” A furniture contractor will help you discuss all this.
Paul Tomlinson is Sales Manager of Alpha Furniture. For more information call 01494 670600 or email email@example.com
Keep in keeping
The overall aesthetic is important, as the furniture needs to remain in keeping with the building and church heritage. However, quality and comfort are just as important, in order to ensure years of great use. As the market changes and propels the furniture industry in to the modern age, flexibility has become increasingly significant for our customers. This includes the need for chairs which are lightweight, stackable and easy to clean, so that church space can provide both community and worship areas. At Rosehill, we have been manufacturing and supplying specialist furniture to churches for over 30 years, so we understand our customers and their requirements.
Stephanie Maguire is Marketing Executive of Rosehill Furniture
Lose the pews
At the Free Church, St Ives, we’ve replaced wooden pews for comfortable cushioned chairs and find them great for their versatility of layout for all sorts of occasions. We can set chairs in a V shape so that people can see the screen and worship leaders better; they look between the people in front of them, rather than trying to see through the back of someone’s head! Moveable chairs enable us hold cafe-style services once a month, in which people sit around tables. They speak to each other and get to know one another better. We need chair movers, but it means we can use the worship space for all sorts of activities from small groups to fellowship meals.
Catherine Ball is Minister of The Free Church, St Ives, and Fenstanton United Reformed Church
Use the pews
Many churches replace pews with lots of chairs. This is an easy fix, but does not always make the best use of the space. Break your seating plan down into core and additional fill-in seating sections; factor in all the various uses, then research the market for the best furniture in the long term. Sometimes stackable benches for core seating, with high stacking fill-in chairs, can create a versatile layout. This provides seating for the congregation in the centre of the church with flexible cafe-style seating around the edges. Most churches never need to stack everything in one go and simply need more flexibility in their reordered church.
Russell Clynch is Senior Commercial Manager of Treske Furniture. For more information, call 01845 522770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was published in the March 2016 edition of Reform.