As families gear up for the school year you might discover that there are too few seats in your church for your congregation. As families get back to routines and some families develop new ones, churches often see an influx of familiar and new faces at the beginning of the school year. If your church is running out of church seating, developing new routines with your church can help make the best of it until you can get new church pews to accommodate more people.

Churches with seating problems run into trouble when people save seats, pile coats and purses on the pew between them, or just leave a good bit of space between themselves as they enter the pew.

Feelings might be hurt when someone sits in another person’s regular pew. Many people lay claim to certain areas inside their church, sitting in the same pew every week. Sometimes the “regulars” have carefully chosen their spot in the church, and sometimes it’s the way they keep the feeling of attending church with loved ones who have moved or passed away. For some people, it’s just hard to accept change. Understandable as it is, this can turn problematic when there’s an influx during back to school time.

The best way to avoid upset regulars (and even confrontations, as one church experienced) is to bring the subject out into the open. Ask members to move closer together, to welcome people who sit in “their” pew into their group, and to think twice about asking people to move. 18% of people surveyed said they’d been asked to move out of pew before, and that can easily be the thing newcomers remember about their visit to a new church.

During worship services towards the beginning of the school year, it might do your church some good to remind them during a sermon about how important it is that we welcome newcomers into our churches and shake up our old routines, even if it means moving to another pew to accommodate a large family. 1 Peter 4:9 is a great passage to use to remind your church “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”