Always sitting in the same seat at church

My dad started a Southern Baptist Church in New England. And according to bylaw 67.8.B of the Southern Baptist Convention, “a pastor and his punk kids have to sit in the same seats every Sunday, preferably stage right, first row if at all feasible given the architecture of the church in question.” It’s weird that the convention made a point of saying “punk kids” in the official bylaw, but trust me, it was a phrase well deserved.

But even though I’m longer under the watchful eye of my folks, I find myself sitting in the same section at church every week. I go to a massive church so it’s not that I only have a few spots to sit in. I have literally thousands of seats to choose from. But I sit within the same three rows, week after week, month after month. Why do I do that?

I have a few theories.

1. The Santa Claus Theory
Kids at Christmas sometimes get afraid that Santa Claus won’t be able to find them if they go out of town for the holidays. Like maybe Santa doesn’t know where Aunt Maude’s house is and will show up where Timmy is 364 days a year and finding him not home will head back to the North Pole without delivering his presents. Maybe we think the same thing will happen with God. We’ve connected with Him before in seat 4 in the front middle row and if we move to the balcony one Sunday we’re afraid God will show up to our old seat and say, “Whoa, you’re not Mark. My bad. Where is Mark? This is his seat. Weird. I guess he doesn’t want this blessing. Adios.”

2. The Scoot Theory
One of my top five days ever was spent riding scooters around on Martha’s Vineyard with my friends. The scooters were called “Cobras” so we rode with our helmets and our little “meep meep” horns waving to Harley riders all day. We pretended we were the Cobra Kai from the Karate Kid move and yelled things like “there is no pain in this dojo!” But despite how much I loved that day, I realize we looked like complete dorks. It’s nearly impossible to look cool on a cheap scooter. And it’s not random coincidence that the thing somebody that comes late to church asks you to do so they can take your seat is to “scoot.” Scooting over is the worst. You’ve got all your stuff out – bible, notebook, coffee cup, laminated numbers that indicate which kids belong to you in Sunday school, etc. You’re not in a seat. You’re in a dorm room. And then here comes “I completely forgot that for the last 7 years church has started at the exact same time” dude and he wants you to scoot. So you have to either find a section to sit where late people can’t get to you, like the front row. Or form a death grip on your seat and just shake your head “no” when someone asks you to move. Or you could just scoot over and love your neighbor by being gracious. I guess that would work too.

3. The Visitor Identification Theory

At small churches, maybe people sit in the same seat so that it’s easy to identify the visitors and show them some love. For instance, if you know that the first row, third seat down is affectionately known as the “Larry Shaw” because Mr. Larry Shaw has sat there for fourteen years straight, when a fresh faced young man sits there one Sunday, you’ll know he is a visitor.

4. The Clear Line of Sight Theory
I don’t know what happened, but last Sunday my wife and I found ourselves in a forest of giants at church. We must have missed our normal section by a row or two because there were about a dozen sermon blockers forming a wall on every side. During worship, I couldn’t really see the stage or the video screens that well and thought I would be forced to watch a reflection of Andy Stanley off the forehead of the sweaty scalped man in front of me. Maybe that happens to other people too. You realize where in the sanctuary you can see well, factoring in things like angle to worship, visibility of pastor, visual access to the baptismal, possible cameraman obstacles etc. And then, on a piece of graph paper or perhaps an engineering program like AutoCAD, plot out your best possible seat. Then you sit there for the next 30 years.

I know that being anal about where you sit at church isn’t the greatest way to welcome visitors, but as I confessed, my wife and I hang out in the same area every Sunday at church. It’s not because of any of the theories above. We figured out the perfect spot for seeing the stage and making a lightning fast exit to get our kids after it’s all over. The avalanche of parents trying not to be the “guy that was last to pick up his kid” is 2 fast and 2 furious. (You’ve just witnessed my last reference to that art film, which seems as good a place as any to end a post.)

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  1. Travis and Michelle says

    Discovered your blog and have been working my way through the old posts. Hilarious stuff, Christians sure are a funny lot, myself included.

    My wife and I pulled a fast one at the church she had attended since childhood. After getting married we decided that we would sit in a different pew every Sunday. We methodically worked our way through a good portion of the sanctuary before moving away. We definitely got a few funny looks, but no requests to ‘Scootch’. Great way to get to know everybody. We got a lot of ‘are you new here’?


  2. Anonymous says

    Sermon Blockers (aka tall and big-haired people) tend to move their heads a LOT. So you position yourself to see through that tiny, narrow window, only to have them move keep changing positions, forcing YOU to have to change positions, wow that is frustrating! (This happens at places other than church)

    When I was a teenager, the youth at our church sat in the smack-dab front of our church, the 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes 4th pews in the middle directly in front of the pulpit. We'd pack in and just fill 'em up. It was great because we were involved and paying attention (for the most part). Now that church has hardly any youth attending, the few who do sit in the BACK row of the BALCONY and pass notes, while most of the front is empty. That makes me sad.

  3. Aaron says

    I know this is an old post but…

    There's a man who has gone to my parents church for as long as the building has been standing..his name is Larry Shaw. He sits in the same seat every Sunday morning.

    I almost freaked out a little when I read that.

  4. Cate says

    I used to ALWAYS sit in the 2nd row on the left side right next to the center isle-ALWAYS. People knew NOT to sit in my seat…and even left it open when I was in Ecuador on a mission trip! One time while talking to my pastor(who's like a father to me, more than my own) I told him how I came across a "You know you're Southern Baptist when.." list and that one of them said "you know you're southern baptist when you have a little old lady beating you with her came because you're in her seat" and my friend that saw it told me as soon as she read it that it reminded her of me and could see me becoming that in the future(I'm 18) my pastors response? "uhm..that already is you!!" haha Well then I decided to do something crazy and made my new years resolution, which the entire church found out about cause they all somehow find out everything that goes on in my life, but it was that I would sit in a different seat EVERY sunday for the year 2010..its April and I can say I haven't died from "Seat Seperation" LOVEEE this site btw…seriously AMAZING!

  5. says

    guilty. i have my seat, behind the pillar, in the direct path of an air-conditioning vent, left side. in the winter, i plan to change things up. i don't want that heat blowing on me.

  6. Nathan says

    Is it sad that I’m more impressed that you know what CAD is than by anything else in this post? (Note: I’m not insulting the post, it was quite funny, I’ve even been fussed at when visiting a church and “sitting in so-and-so’s seat.” This was more to the fact that I am actually a huge nerd.)