When the best seat in the house…isn’t…

By December 7, 2012Church, Culture, Leadership

I was at a dinner theater recently. We had “good seats”. At least that’s what we were told. What that really meant is that we were in a crowded room, with lots of people I didn’t know, eating, watching a play, while it seemed like every was looking through us (really at us) to see the play.

Stand out.

In front.

On the floor.

In the center of attention.


For the introvert in me…that “best seat in the house” quickly became the worst seat in the house.

That’s a silly illustration, perhaps, but it’s a good reminder for church leaders.

I remember several years ago, while meeting in a school theater, having a discussion about closing off the loge (balcony) section to force people into the center section of the auditorium. There was one big section apart from the loge. I struggled with that. I was with the people who resisted that change. It made sense to create more energy in the center of the room, but in the process, for some people, wired like me, we were making the “best seat in the house” the worst seat in the house.

That principle is true in other areas of ministry. When we plan activities and programs, even the welcome portion of our service, we have to remember that everyone is not wired like us. For some people, it is the best way to do something. For others, it is the worst. When we force people out of their comfort zone, simply to create what we think is better for others, we may be making things worse.

The best approach here is to always ask other people, people not wired like you, to sit at the table of discussion and invite them to speak into the process. And, value their voice.


Sometimes the best seat in the house…isn’t.

Am I alone? Is the “best seat in the house” sometimes the worst seat for you?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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  • Kirra says:

    My previous church posted greeters at every possible entrance to the building each Sunday. I hated having to interact with them. I just wanted to get in the building. I didn’t need a friendly greeting at the front door each week to feel welcome. I was overjoyed the day I discovered there was one random door that never had greeters. Sometimes I wonder if there was an introvert on the staff that insisted there be one door left alone for us introverts. LOL

  • Amy says:

    The church in which I grew up briefly experimented with seating visitors in the front row of the sanctuary. Predictably, it was a complete failure as the brave visitors got to the front row and then asked the usher for a different seat, while the less brave just never came back, or, in the case of one family, walked out during "meet and greet" time. (Also, there were some families who were a bit put out because the front row was "their" row…)

    • ronedmondson says:

      Wow! That's seems scary to me…seriously! I like the back row of the balcony as a visitor :)Thanks for sharing.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • This story is a great reason that leadership is more art than science. There just isn't a 'right' answer since some people need to be pushed–and may thank you later–and others are just not ready to be thrust into a new environment. Either way, it shows the need to be sensitive to others. I have too often been guilty of thinking "this is how I feel, therefore everyone feels that way…" which inevitably leads to a bad answer.

  • Tony says:

    Absolutely agree with you Ron. I visit a lot of churches as a result of my work and travel. As often as not, I'd prefer to remain pretty much anonymous. But there's also the fine line that I appreciate friendly churches. It's nice to be greeted and warmly received, but it's also nice to not be smothered.

    As an interesting coincidence, I'm right this moment sitting, *by myself* in the ROC cafe at Immanuel. Your staff greeted me warmly, gave me plenty of opportunity to interact, but also gave me plenty of freedom to be by myself. *PERFECT* I feel in complete control of the amount of interaction. That's very nice and a bit beyond the normal expectation.

    Even though this has nothing to do with weekend worship, it's a great example of being visitor friendly.

    Thanks to you and your staff!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Awesome Tony! Very cool. That's a great place over there! I hope we repeat that on Sunday morning!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • robstill says:

    Really good insight and a great story. People are wired differently. I think for the church, keep it simple – try to make it a good experience for your visitors.

  • Krista Miller says:


    What would you say if, as a leader, you knew that being forced to the center of the room was the best thing for the experience? That introverts perhaps need to be required to participate or they will “opt out” of communal experiences (and I’m speaking specifically of experiences which need to be communal in order to draw out the full value)? I don’t think the requirement is bad (sometimes people need to be forced outside their comfort zones), but it is helpful if there is an apparatus in place to help them process their discomfort. Thoughts?

    • ronedmondson says:

      As a leader, I am continually thrust into the center seat…the seat of attention. It's draining, out of my comfort zone, but I'm trying to be purposeful in all I do. (You might read some of my other posts about how I deal with Introversion in ministry if you haven't.)The point of this post is more about the one who is not the “leader”…but the visitor…the outsider…the one still checking things out.Great point. Yes, sometimes a leader needs to be required to get in the center seat.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • Steph says:

    As a fellow introvert, I’m often painfully aware of how easily introverts and their comfort get overlooked in a church setting. Especially for visitors, it can be overwhelming to walk in and have constant interaction with no ability to “hide.”

  • joanneviola says:

    Excellently put. I am much the same way – feel freer to worship when I am not in the front rows of church. Never thought of it with regards to personality (introvert vs extrovert) until reading this post. How important it is for us to remember it is not all about us or our goals. May we always strive to make people feel comfortable & welcomed not ill at ease. Thank you for sharing this!

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