The physical environment of your church says more about your ministry than you may realize.

Smart people in the business world recognize the importance of “place.” Apple gets it. Starbucks get it. And McDonald’s is currently going through a billion-dollar makeover to attract and keep more customers. They’re nixing the garish colors, the steel seats and the fluorescent lighting.

USA Today spoke with brand guru Philip Graves: “The environment is a massive influence on how we behave. Change the environment, and you change how people perceive everything else.”

Today’s churches would do well to take another look at their environs. Church architectural elements that were invented hundreds of years ago remain stubbornly attached today. Case in point: pews. And other types of fixed seating.

These long rows fight against the ambiance that would help today’s people connect to God and one another. Pews are:
…uncomfortable. It’s harder to focus on God when your backside aches.
…inhospitable. You don’t build community by staring at the backs of people’s heads.
…academic. It’s all about the sage on the stage. Not built for interaction with others.
…spectator-oriented. File in, shut up, and passively listen to the professional Christians.
…inflexible. Fixed seating kills options to rearrange seating for various worship emphases.

A story of de-pewing
Even though many may see the advantages to using comfortable, movable seating, what do you do when your church is sitting on pews that have been fastened to the floor for decades? A church in my hometown has just taken the bold step to successfully de-pew its sanctuary. How did they do it?

Senior pastor Kent Hummel communicated the needed change to the congregation. “If this is God’s house, the sanctuary is the living room,” Hummel said. “There are probably only five people here who have the same living room furniture they had 30 years ago. And just like our living rooms need updating, so does God’s.”

He explained that chairs are more appealing, flexible and functional, allowing for people to occasionally circle up to discuss a biblical teaching during worship.

Hummel said those who objected to the change voiced concerns of stewardship. The old pews were paid for and they hadn’t worn out yet. So, Hummel made sure the new chairs were fully funded before the change was made. But he didn’t allow old money to override today’s ministry priorities.

So, what’s the priority at your place?