This is part 7 of a 9-part series on attending church from a visitor’s perspective. You can read the original post to get a better understanding of David’s experience visiting churches for the first time.
In my last article we left our church visitor trying to figure out where to sit. So far they have overcome the basic intimidation of coming to church in the first place and the apprehension of meeting a bunch of new people. If we can make it easier for them to find a good seat in our worship service, we will be doing them a favor by giving them one less thing to stress about.
If our visitor is lucky enough to arrive early they will have a good choice of seats, but the dilemma will not be any easier. Where will everyone else sit? You don’t want to be the only person sitting in a particular section. If you choose the wrong seat and everyone is sitting everywhere else, you will be immediately pointed out as a visitor–which is the kind of embarrassing situation you are trying to avoid in the first place.
Like most pastors my first church was a small one–where there was never a fear of exceeding the 80% rule. The least-attended service was always Sunday evening where everyone only sat on the right side of the sanctuary. When we would have the occasional visitor on Sunday evening they would inevitably sit on the left side of the church where they would sit alone the entire service. Not many of these people ever returned.
I realize the contradiction between what I am saying here and in my last article. On one hand we don’t want to be too cramped with people around us–we can tolerate about 80% capacity in a room. On the other hand we don’t want to be too separated from people around us. There is a fine balance between having enough people so we don’t stand out and having too many people around. I wish there was an easy solution here.
New churches and church plants have the hardest time with this problem. In every church plant I’ve ever been involved with, simply finding a place to meet is one of the most difficult challenges. When you find a place, you want to have room to grow so you can stay there for a while. Having a place with growing room will help you not only avoid the headache of having to find another meeting place too soon and help you have a consistent location for publicity sake. On the other hand, room to grow makes spaces seem empty and can sap the energy of an otherwise dynamic worship experience.
One of the most common ways I’ve seen of dividing a larger room is using some sort of divider. You can purchase a nice looking divider, but I’ve seen churches use home-built PVC dividers with nice cloth draped over them. If done tastefully, this can be a simple solution to make a room seem cozier, and they can be easily moved when the church grows. (It also can help with acoustics.) A cozier facility with fewer choices will give your visitors one less thing to be anxious about.
- Learn more about how to welcome church visitors with this massive collection of resources and blog posts.
- Walking into a church for the first time can be scary. Check out Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm for practical ideas and perspective on first-time guests.