Making Room

People%20-%20General%20085 The incoming Spivey baby is technically due March 18. We're really excited for our baby girl to be born and believe she's going to make her first appearance sooner. Emily is ready to not be pregnant any more. I am ready to not have to have my cell-phone closely at hand at all times. But, we're all ready when the time comes.

We live in a three-bedroom house and thus had to move Anna and Olivia into the same room to make room for our future daughter. We had to build bunk-beds, teach them how to share even more, and go through the process of redecorating a room that was perfectly suitable before. It's all part of having a new baby…making room that is. Making room means doing without, working harder and sharing more for the sake of others.

In my experience, churches have a hard time making room for new people. Though this principle applies to more than attendance in assemblies and classes, we'll limit it to that for today's post.

Even churches I know desperately want to reach new people for Christ have a hard time making room. This is because people like being together and because it takes extra energy to add assemblies.

Ministry experts talk about the 80% rule, which states that assemblies generally max out at 80% capacity. Once an assembly is at 80% capacity, the congregation reaches a point of diminishing returns…and it will be very hard to attract new people. Translation: If your worship center has 200 seats, it really holds about 160…even though it seats 200. Special gatherings like Easter are an exception. Generally, however, the rule applies.

Insiders generally enjoy a full room. Outsiders do too…up to about 80% full. People who know everyone in the room don't mind squishing together a bit. Newcomers do. Hence, when it's overly crowded, people stay away. If this seems odd to you, consider the last time you asked for the middle seat on an air-plane…

You probably never have.

Some people have asked why we have four services at North County. Each of those services run 60-80% full on the average Sunday…It's full enough not to be "dead," but enough to leave room for newcomers to fit in comfortably. We've made room for newcomers…and hopefully will again. I hope you'll consider it too. It's certainly more work, but it's well worth it for the purpose of reaching people.

I was talking with someone recently who was rejoicing that the church they were a part of had moved back to two services from three. They were rejoicing because now both services were very full. "How full?" I asked. They said, "Not a seat in the house."

Uh oh.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Making Room

  1. Tim, I have no argument with this post. I discovered what it was like to be an outsider during my West Coast stint. I’m thankful for congregations & brethren who make room, even within a single assembly.
    That said, a thought & then a question. Now that I’m back in a congregation with multiple assemblies, I feel like the church becomes fragmented into however many different services it has. I have ongoing responsibilities at the 1st service, but most of my peers attend the 2nd service. The services seem to take on a different character, even if the songs, sermon, & communion emblems are basically the same. What can a congregation do to make sure it remains a unified, cohesive whole when it is physically divided into multiple assemblies on the Lord’s Day?

  2. Tim,
    I’ve heard the 80% statistic before too. I think it’s dead on. As much as I like a FULL auditorium, I know visitors are uncomfortable squeezing in next to people they don’t know. I know that I’m not a visitor and I still need my personal space. 🙂