Your church may be utilizing a space that wasn’t specifically designed for worship services, so there may be obstacles to using the building for this purpose. Your space may be too large or too small for your congregation, or the space doubles as a shared hall or gymnasium between services.
Whatever the case, your church can make it work with the help of these tips for furnishing non-traditional worship spaces.
Use Flexible Seating
Pews that are permanently attached to the floor probably aren’t the best furniture choice for a church in a non-traditional space. Light, stackable chairs will make a big difference if you transform the room into a multi-purpose space after your Sunday services each week. They’re easy to stack, move, and store out of the way, and you still get comfortable seating for the congregation.
When installing new seating, be sure to check with your local building and code offices to ensure your seating plans will be in compliance.
For Small Spaces
If you need to order new seating, make sure to get accurate measurements of your church, excluding any areas where people won’t be sitting. The chairs should fit in a manner that won’t make people feel too crowded in the space. And people need to be able to easily access the exits for you to meet building codes, fire codes, and ADA guidelines.
In certain instances, all you need to do is rearrange the furniture you have. Different seating layouts will work for different buildings. If you’ve been setting up your chairs in straight rows, try a semi-circle or full-circle layout around the pulpit, altar, or stage area.
For Large Rooms
Having some extra space can be nice, but you want to make sure everyone is seated close enough to hear and see the minister.
With the help of partitions, separate the area of the room you aren’t using for worship services and give it a different purpose. You might use it as a workspace or meeting space.
Include Technology in Your Layout
You might use different types of technology for a church service — video, audio, lighting, or music. When you’re furnishing your church, don’t forget about the space you need to use and store this equipment. Also, make sure the building’s electrical setup can support the technology you want to use.
Depending on your building’s layout, you may have to use multiple rooms, preventing people from directly seeing the minister. Or maybe there are large poles in the space that obstruct certain people’s views. Consider how you can utilize technology to your advantage, such as a video display so every worshiper can view the service.
Use a Stage
Most traditional church buildings have a raised altar or pulpit so that the congregation can see the minister during the service. An alternative solution for a non-traditional worship space is including a moveable stage in your setup.
If you’re sharing the space with another organization, you can easily fold up the stage and roll it out of their way.
Consider Your Worship Style
Each church has its own style of worship to engage its specific congregation, which could impact what you need to furnish your church. You may have:
- Wider aisles for a service with altar calls
- Chairs arranged in rows for a quiet, traditional service
- Instrument storage, choral riser, and stage for a more extensive, louder service
Decorate the Church
When people are trying to block out the distractions of daily life and focus on their spirituality, having the right design aesthetic can make a big difference. Decorations provide an easy way to give a non-traditional worship space the feel of a traditional church.
If you don’t have money in your budget to buy decorations, gather together bright fabrics and materials and some skilled crafters from your congregation for a DIY project.
With a temporary space, decorations are also incredible because you can take them down when you move out of the building.
Put Up Clear Signage for the Church
People can easily recognize a traditional church when they’re approaching the building. That may not be the case if you’re repurposing a gym, schoolroom, shopping center, grocery store, or old movie theater as a worship space. Putting up clear, easy-to-read signage will help visitors find the church and other key areas of your facility.
We hope that these tips help you transform your building into the ideal worship space for your congregation. With the right furniture and design, you can make a non-traditional church venue fit the needs of your congregation while also saving the money it would take to construct a new church building.
Dr. Tom McElheny has served as an elder and director of Christian education for three Sarasota, Florida, churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education, and is CEO of his company, ChurchPlaza (www.churchplaza.com)