MT3 – From Seating Capacity to Sending Capacity

Missional Transformation is a process where believers align themselves (passions, desires, behaviors, habits) with the missionary purpose of Jesus.

Missional Transformation requires significant shifts in the way you participate with Christ and His kingdom.

SHIFT 3: From Seating Capacity to Sending Capacity

Most churches that are growing must sooner, rather than later, deal with issues of seating capacity. This is the natural consequence of numeric growth. There are a limited number of seats available. Often this problem is overcome by setting up more chairs, repeating the same service at another time, or building bigger buildings. Typically, churches that are growing will keep on building bigger auditoriums/sanctuaries. They’ll keep on adding service times and they’ll maximize their available space

Recently there has been a growing trend to offer overflow rooms where a video of the worship service can be seen on a monitor or large screen. Some churches have even offered more “casual” environments as video venues to increase their seating capacity. Most pastors understand that in order to sustain numeric growth, churches need to offer the largest number of seats at the best possible time. Churches that fail to increase their seating capacity will often plateau or even decline in attendance.

One common church growth principle was known as “social strangulation.” If a church is unable to expand their seating when they reach 80% of capacity, they often fail to grow to fill every seat. Many worshippers desire an amount of open space (empty seats) around them. As capacity is nearly reached, the lack of open space can make people feel uncomfortable. In order to avoid this predictable problem, churches often focus on adding seats, adding services or constructing new buildings to increase seating capacity before 80% of the seats are occupied.

How did the early church deal with this problem? How did they accommodate more than 3,000 believers starting from Pentecost – Day One? Did they set up more chairs? Did they offer more services? Did they have overflow rooms with video? Did they build bigger buildings? Obviously not. They didn’t have any seating capacity issues because they met from house to house. They had an infinite capacity because of this. As Neil Cole has observed, “If we could figure out how to do church without needing buildings, we would be better off” (Organic Church, p 37).

Imagine not having to build a bigger building. You wouldn’t have to hire an architect or initiate a capital campaign or pull permits or endure inspections or install fire sprinklers or argue over the color of the carpet. Imagine having a limitless capacity for growth because the church didn’t gather in one place on Sundays – but gathered all over the place all week long. By empowering believers to worship together in homes, a church’s seating capacity becomes less important. The focus shifts from seating to sending.

The task of pastors is to equip the saints. If believers are meeting in homes all over the place, then the need to equip becomes a higher priority. Pastors can’t be focused only on preparing a message, they must focus on preparing messengers. Those who are being sent in community to reach those in the culture with the gospel need to be equipped for the task.

By focusing on their sending capacity (the ability to equip an increasing number of local missionaries), churches will quickly exceed their seating capacity. The great news is that it won’t matter. Money can be utilized to train and equip more missionaries because it’s not being consumed on creating more seats. That’s Missional Transformation

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Author

Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
3 replies
  1. Miguel
    Miguel says:

    Bro Dave,
    I am looking at planting a network of house churches (called by a different name to avoid ‘baggage’ that comes along with the term) in the San Fernando Valley for just this reason. I was a pastor on staff at a church struggling with the very things you describe in your blog, and it never sat right with me.

    Now I am looking at how to keep the church intentionally small to grow intentionally big Christians. I do not want to add to a central location where we can shine our flashlights in a well lit room, but multiply these churches in every city, neighborhood and “tribe” in L.A.

    Where the traditional church model is bound by one culture, house churches are able to reproduce in a variety of different areas, with different people, yet the same results.

    The goal is not a Bible monologue by the dynamic teacher and/or Christian superstar, the goal is scriptural dialogue on ho to actually do what it says, thus leading to true discipleship.

    May your tribe increase!

  2. Bob Carder
    Bob Carder says:

    Imagine a movement that grows without buildings, pews and big budgets that need more and more resources to keep her going.

    This a great post.

    In our Mission District work we want to create a disciple multiplying movement not dependant on buildings, budgets and more bodies.

    As the movement grows and it is we anticipate an “out of control” spreading out movement of God. As we grow to a level maybe of (?) maybe a hundred we’ll spin out another church and she will grow to (?) and before long we will see another and another. We will equip and train movement leaders who will raise up and equip an army of movement leaders. While we are not doing house churches we are doing weekly meetings (Discipling/Bible studies) in homes and we gather as a group twice a month or now.

    I’d love for God to bless us with 200 churches of 100 each with no buildings or dependancies on bigger and more money and people to support it.

    Imagine 2000 people committed to being incarnational disciple multipliers all across the metro St. Louis region. How about 5,000 in every large metropolitan city in America infiltrating every nook and cranny. Imagine how much we could invest in others.

    Jesus met people where they were and He asked this question. “What can I do for you?” He asked that of blind Bartimaeus, the lepers, the lame man at the pool.

    What would happen if we incarnationally went out and asked the unreached, “What can I do for you?” And then wouldn’t it be great to meet that need because we have the people freed up to serve and the millions of resources to give out in Jesus name.

    Seating capacity will will never catch up with our potential sending capacity.

    Miquel, let’s talk: bcarder@centurytel.net

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