How Best to Use Overflow Worship Space on Easter


Tom Berlin describes strategies for encouraging your regular attenders to worship in overflow spaces outside the sanctuary when additional seating is needed on Easter so that visitors will feel welcome and have a quality worship experience.

Increased worship attendance on Easter Sunday requires some churches to set up spaces beyond the sanctuary for overflow seating. Sometimes this is space just outside the sanctuary in the narthex or perhaps in an adjacent chapel. Other times churches have to use a fellowship hall or classrooms and transmit the service electronically.

If you need to use overflow space, make sure that the people seated there are not visitors, but regular worshipers.

Often, when overflow space is needed on Easter, it is the visitors who are placed there, because they may be the last ones to arrive. This is not the best way to ensure your visitors feel welcome and have a quality worship experience. If you need to use overflow space, make sure that the people seated there are not visitors, but regular worshipers.

Handling overflow seating well is difficult but very important. You start with the disadvantage that no matter what you provide for overflow seating, it is not the preferable seating people expected in the main worship area. Everyone would rather be in the sanctuary. How are regular worshipers encouraged to choose the overflow space?

One way to do this is to ask members to “own” certain overflow spaces. Some Sunday school classes and other small groups can be asked through their leader, “You have 12 people in your small group. Could you ask them and their families to ‘take over’ one of the overflow spaces for Easter?” One good feature about this arrangement is that when people in the overflow space know each other, they enjoy the camaraderie, sing better, and do not complain as much about not being in the sanctuary. The whole experience becomes more meaningful for them, and they have the satisfaction of knowing they are contributing in an important way to the church’s mission to reach others for Christ.

In addition, having hosts for each of the overflow spaces is important. If there can be refreshments available in the overflow areas, this provides a bit of a treat for those sitting there not available to everyone. This gesture shows that the church recognizes the overflow seating is not ideal and wants to make the experience as fulfilling as possible.

This material is adapted from Overflow: Increase Worship Attendance and Overflow book coverBear More Fruit (Abingdon, 2013) by Lovett H. Weems, Jr., and Tom Berlin and used by permission. The book is available through Cokesbury and Amazon.

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About Author

Tom Berlin is bishop of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. Previously, for over 25 years, he was senior pastor of Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia. His books include Defying Gravity: Break Free from the Culture of More, The Generous Church: A Guide for Pastors, Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess and Courage: Jesus and the Call to Brave Faith.

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The Be the Welcoming Church Video Tool Kit will help you develop a congregation-wide ethos of hospitality and institute best practices for greeting newcomers, making them feel at home and encouraging them to return. The resource includes engaging videos, a Study and Discussion Guide, and more. Be the Welcoming Church may be used for hospitality training or in adult classes or groups. more. Learn more and watch introductory videos now.