Shrink the Auditorium

When the church where I'm a pastor built our current facility 7 years ago, they built it with a vision toward what God could do in the future. Our auditorium is big enough to sustain a significant amount of growth in the future while our education space was built to sustain about half as many people. There were lots of strategic reasons for that decision but the byproduct is that although our education space is maxed out, our auditorium is half-full.

For the past three or four years we've had conversations as leaders about the energy level in our worship services. We've tried several things to try to ramp-up participation with varying degrees of effectiveness, but recently stumbled on something that has made a huge difference.

We had a small group of leaders in our auditorium for a time of encouragement and vision-casting. We pushed the whole group toward the middle of the auditorium so the space wouldn't swallow us. The result was phenomenal. We had a time of singing that was one of the most powerful times I've experienced in a long time. That evening, several people said, "We've got to figure out how to do this every Sunday."

So, we roped off a significant portion of our auditorium, pushing people toward the middle.

Several people have had to give up "their seats." I've received a few nasty emails about the change, and we've had a few anti-establishment rope-jumpers who are testing us to see if the ushers will pass the offering plate to the forbidden area, but nobody who sits toward the front is complaining about the change.

As I told the congregation on Sunday, we've never been a church that was much for trying to make an auditorium look full. We've always been a church who wants to worship together. And it's hard to worship together if we're not together. We've tried to make the change in such a way that doesn't sacrifice comfort but in a way that makes it clear: we value corporate worship much more highly than we value the comfort of having 8 seats between you and the nearest person.

If you want to kick-start some energy as the people in your church worship together, consider shrinking your auditorium so they can worship, together.


Kim said...

My guess the reason the worship time was more intense was not the proximity of the people to each other, although close proximity is nice. I'm guessing it had more to do with the personal holiness of the people doing the worship. If you gather a group of people who love Jesus together and worship together, it will be intense. If you gather a group of people together who know Jesus very little ... no matter how close together they are... it won't be intense.

All that being said... I like trying to make our space smaller. I also like that your preaching is challenging us to grow closer to Jesus. I believe it comes out of your personal walk with God. I read something the other day from Kevin DeYoung about what we need from our pastor...and it made me think of you. He said, "What people need from their pastor is personal holiness. They need to hear from someone who has been with God." I thought...we've got one of those. I am thankful.

The Kinley's said...

I totally agree, it was different feeling. I noticed that it helped some more reserved souls feel a little more relaxed to "dance before the Lord."

My only complaint.....I have to time my feeding schedule of the baby a little better so as not to interrupt those in the same row as me when trying to make my exit...we can't always get an isle seat these days....that's a good thing! That's a small price and short time frame to deal with....