Can you fix our good problem?

I know there are several different types of people who read this blog from time to time, and this morning I want to solicit some help from those of you who are pastors.

About 4 years ago, the church where I'm a pastor built a beautiful new building. One of the things the church was most excited about in the new building was having a large foyer where people could connect before and after the service. The previous building allowed for virtually no connection, because people had to be moved out quickly to make room for the next service.

The new building has a huge foyer that is perfect for people to stand and visit before and after the service, and people are taking advantage of it. Meanwhile, we've fallen victim to the law of unintended consequences. People are using the connection space so well we have a hard time getting them to the service on time.

Currently, our 2000 seat auditorium is around 20 percent full when the service begins, and around 80 percent full when the service ends. Most of the additional people aren't late to church - they're just visiting with people in the connection space.

It's hard to gripe about people connecting with each other, but it's a significant challenge when you view the situation from the eye of a guest who shows up early (often, guests are easy to spot because they're the only people who show up to your church early). Their first impression is of a crowded foyer and an empty service - which is not what we want to portray.

We've tried everything we can think of to move people in early. We've tried countdown clocks, dimming the lights in the foyer, moving important parts of the service to the beginning to celebrate those who are on time, and asking/inviting people to make being on time a priority. So far, it's not working.

So, I know some of you have faced similar situations in the past. Some of you haven't, but have a good idea nonetheless. How would you handle this situation? It's a good problem to have people connecting too much with each other, but we need to fix it. Any ideas?


Catherine Banks said...

Lock the doors into the worship center when services start.


Graham said...

I just met with a High Caliber Leader today, and at his church they are making living room spaces in the atrium areas with big LCD TV's that broadcast the service... that way people can actually attend the church by sitting in a comfy couch outside the large auditorium. It is an attempt to make unchurched people feel more at ease attending church and a step towards the corporate worship environment. maybe instead of fight your "good problem" you embrace it.