When simple wooden pews were the standard seating in most churches, comfort was not a high priority. However, as we have learned more about ergonomics and how poor seating can actually lead to discomfort, churches have begun to invest in seating that will provide quality support and comfort to their parishioners. With this new focus on comfort, it is important to be aware of some of the ergonomic features which can affect a chair's comfort.
The human spine is not really a straight line, but curved. The lower part of the spine is known as the lumbar region, and tends to curve outward slightly. Many chairs are designed with a flat backrest, which causes the lumbar to flatten while seated. When purchasing new seating for your church, look for chairs with a slightly contoured backrest and lumbar support. This will help your congregation focus on the service rather than on their aching backs!
Another important factor in comfort is the shape of the seat itself. If the seat remains flat at the very front edge, or curves down only slightly, the edge can put pressure on the back of the knees. A waterfall seat has a thick, rounded edge extending beyond the frame, reducing pressure and improving circulation in the legs.
One of the most obvious contributing factors toward the overall comfort of a chair is its cushion. When sampling church chairs, look for a dual-density foam cushion that is both soft and dense. Inquire about the exact density of the foam padding. A higher number indicates a denser cushion, which will provide a higher level of support and comfort for a longer period of time. Many church chair manufacturers will have the density measurements on their websites. If not, be sure to inquire for this information.
A familiarity with ergonomic terms and measurements are helpful for narrowing down your seating choices, but don't forget the most important test - actually sitting in the chairs. Ask for samples of church chairs and have several members of your congregation sit in them for at least fifteen minutes at a time and give their opinion. After all, these are the people who will be sitting in these new chairs for years to come.