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Pushing the 80% Principle


When Saddleback Church was beginning to grow, Rick Warren discovered that long term you can only fill a worship center to about 80% of capacity. While there are many different factors involved in this principle, including how multiple services impact it, the principle holds. Here are some strategies that will help you maintain 80% capacity and possibly exceed it short term.

1. Aggressive ushers
The most important factor in filling every seat is your usher team. There should be an usher in every aisle from the time the doors are opened to encourage attendees to please move to the center of the row before sitting down. The middle seats are the hardest to fill & it is much easier to move people to these seats prior to their being seated. This happens as a result of proper training of your usher team and their actually using “words” in carrying out their responsibilities as opposed to being an immovable object in the aisle that guest have to maneuver around to find a seat.

2. Spacing of the seat rows
If there is ample space between seats, it is much easier to get people to those center seats. The occupancy of the extra seats that are gain by having the rows super close together is outweighed by leaving ample room between rows so people have room to maneuver without stepping on those already seated who, by the way, no longer have to worry about smelling the breakfast breath of the person behind them.

3. The order of worship
When people are standing it is very difficult to see empty seats in the interior of the rows. Be creative in the early part of your service to have people sit for a brief period of time to give your usher team time to seat people. If when we get to heaven we find Angels singing while seated…..some just won’t be able to handle it.

4. Lighting
Extremely dim or low lighting is often planned at the beginning of a service to create an “experience” or, the new term, a “moment”. The “experience” that is often created is a late arriving guest being held outside the worship center & missing said “experience” or an on time worshipper needing to go to the emergency room to have their toes X-rayed.

5. Closing rear sections until the front sections are
I know sister “I been sitting here since Jesus fed the 5,000” may be upset that that you won’t let her go to “her” seat 30 minutes before the service begins. But by using ropes or stanchions to control where & when people sit, you will be much better at filling every seat. You may loose dear sister “my seat will only go in my seat”. But if you are have capacity crowds & are not doing everything possible to find a seat for every person, you are loosing people every week already.

6. Opening your worship center
Set a specific, uniform time to open the doors to the worship center. Rather than allowing people to enter at any time, keep the doors closed until you have done your security check, the worship team has finished preparations, and your ushers have met & prayed for the service. This will allow you to control where people sit and be more efficient.

These 6 ideas will help you maximize your worship space, but they won’t just happen by emailing them to your volunteers. The answer is to properly train your team to realize that every occupied seat is a place for someone to have an encounter with the living God.

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