Why A Lady at Church Told Me to “Get Out of Her Seat”


On to today’s new post…

People are creatures of habit.

When I was about 25 years old, my wife and I walked into church one Sunday morning and took a seat. I remember where we sat — middle aisle, about 5 rows down, right on the end of the pew. The service was to begin in about five minutes when, unexpectedly, an elderly woman walked down the aisle, stopped right at our pew, and said,

“Excuse me, but you are in my seat.”

I was unprepared for this type of interaction. Luckily, the sign outside the church said, “Where everyone’s welcome.”

I guess, unless you sit in someone’s seat.

Now, of course, I wasn’t sitting in “her” seat. This wasn’t a ticketed event! There were no seat numbers or names, for that matter. The sanctuary was also about 50% empty. There was plenty of room for her to find a seat. The pew in front and behind me was empty!

We could evaluate some essential Guest Services and Christian behaviors in this pleasant interaction, but I want to think more about why she said this.

It’s interesting how habitual we all are. When I attend meetings, I like to sit in the same place. I remember walking into high school and college classrooms, taking a seat, and then sitting in that seat the entire semester. Every student sat in the same seat that we selected on day one.

This behavior extends well beyond church pews and classroom seats. Most everything in our life functions from patterns, rhythms, and habits. That’s a good thing. Our brain is wired for patterns, thus creating habits.

We can get back on track when a habit is interrupted, but a new pattern forms if the routine is interrupted long enough. New behaviors take over.

Perhaps this is why people aren’t coming back to church.

Let’s consider the implications of how habits can affect our ongoing behaviors, including church behaviors.

Before the pandemic, many church attendees, even those who were consistent and engaged, followed a pattern and rhythm more than the mission and vision. Hang tight — don’t close this blog yet! The mission and vision certainly helped them engage. It no doubt inspired their initial participation. Over time, however, giving, serving, and attending became habitual.

Every one of those habits was destroyed during the pandemic. Every church attendee took months and months off, and these weeks were long enough to obliterate their church pattern. Church was a habit for so many, but it’s not any longer.

Habits don’t automatically return. You know what I mean if you’ve ever quit going to the gym and tried to start again.

In place of the church habit, other Sunday habits took shape. These new habits created new patterns and behaviors that keep people from church.

It’s a real problem.

Try all you want, but getting your church people “back” to church is relatively futile at this point. They’ve either gone to another church or decided church isn’t relevant for them.

Here is my suggestion:

It’s high time you restart your church by replanting it.

Thriving churches in a decade will look back to this season with immense gratitude that they were willing to remodel their dying church model. Yes, some elements of our previous successful methods will still work, but only if they are retooled and refocused.

Let’s stop remembering the good old days of cultural Christianity and begin working now to make the future church better than ever.

How do you ask? That’s a great question.

Never forget that hope is not a strategy. No mission comes to fruition without great intention.

Let’s get to work…

I’m working with dozens of churches to remodel their church model. This work isn’t for the faint of heart. But it’s what leaders do. Leaders look at problems and decide to adapt to the opportunities.

Check out these church remodeling resources today.

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