9 Reasons Not to Sit in the Front Pew at Church

By July 28, 2014My Thoughts

The front pew in the sanctuary is closest to the action. It is the best place for seeing what is going on and hearing what is being said from the pulpit. Is the front pew the most coveted seat? Is it the ideal spot for the easily distracted person? Could it be that the front pew is the closest to God?

And yet, in many sanctuaries around the country, the first five (or more) pews are empty week after week. Church-goers are packed together in the back half of the sanctuary like too many people crowding around the perimeter of an elevator.

At first glace, the empty front pews may make it seem like the congregation is disengaged. A visitor to the church might wonder if the pastor spits too much when he/she talks, or chooses volunteers from the front to come up and help read Scripture. The empty front pews might seem off-putting to those seeing it for the first time, but there are very good reasons to avoid the front few rows of the sanctuary.

1. Jesus said the first will be last, and the last will be first. Why not practice this posture of humility every Sunday by choosing the seat closest to the exit?

2. If Jesus is the Gate, he could use a few gatekeepers. The usher handing out bulletins is an excellent first-responder in the event that someone shows up for church who really doesn’t belong there. But, in the event that the usher is busy or could use some help turning people away, having reliable people sitting nearby could be helpful.

3. Church services are messy. Bread crumbs during the Lord’s Supper, grape juice (or wine) being poured into a chalice, water splashing during a baptism, all of these things could mess up your crisp, clean Sunday clothes. Sitting at least three rows back provides a nice buffer zone.

4. The closer you sit to the preacher, the more likely you are to get “the look.” You know the look. When the preacher talks about sin and looks right at you, it’s very uncomfortable. It leads to self-reflection, and maybe even life change. If you avoid the front of the sanctuary, you will be less likely to receive “the look,” and less likely to feel uncomfortable and have to consider making a change.

5. When you sit up front, they will know you aren’t singing along. The closer you are to the front of the sanctuary, the more likely it will be for the song leader or praise team to notice you just aren’t that into the songs that morning. The song leader may give you a look – though a very different look than the preacher’s look of conviction – and the extra-wide smile on the song leader’s face will make you feel as though you have to join in and sing along.

6. You can leave without being noticed. There are all kinds of good reasons you might need to leave before the blessing at the end of the service. But, it is really awkward to leave the service when you are sitting up front. In order to avoid the “walk of shame” as you leave early, sitting in a back pew can help with a discreet, early exit.

7. Everyone else sits in the back. Worship services are much more enjoyable when you have someone to talk to – in a hushed, church whisper, of course. And, because everyone else is sitting in the back, if you move up to the front, the rest of the congregation will be staring at the back of your head…for the entire hour.

8. You can catch up on much needed sleep. Let’s face it: church services are early. And, after a long, stressful week, it’s hard to stay awake for the whole hour. If you sit towards the back, no one will notice if you doze off for a minute or two. Besides, even the Apostle Paul had people fall asleep during one of his sermons. It happens to the best of us, but we should still try to keep our snoozing to ourselves.

9. There will already be money in the offering plate when it gets to you. The closer to the back of the sanctuary you sit, the more money will have been placed into the plate by the time it reaches you. When the plate comes your way, no one will even notice if you don’t put anything in.

There are so many compelling reasons to avoid the front few pews in the sanctuary. Go ahead. Sit near the back. There’s no shame, and everyone else will be sitting in the back with you.

Do you sit near the front? If you do, what are your reasons? If you don’t, what reasons do you have for sitting near the back?

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Olga

    April, this is great! I read it aloud to my girls at Rocky and we all had a good laugh. One said you should definitely publish this.

    • Thank you for sharing this with them! And, please tell them “thank you” for the kind words 🙂

  • This is very fun to read, Bye the way, I sit in the back because that’s where my husband wants to sit. it looks bad on our marriage when we don’t sit together 🙂

    • Thank you! And…I had to chuckle at your comment. Sitting together is nice for sure! 😀

  • Tim

    I taught the high school class at church and if the closest people were in the second row I would wait until I was about 15 seconds into the lesson and then start folding up the front row chairs and set them aside. Voila, now I had people in the front row.

    • Haha! Love it! 🙂 Do you think I can convince my church to go for folding pews?

      • Tim

        I just wrote a post on my folding chair youth group time, April. Should be up in a week or so, and I linked here in the piece. Thanks for priming my thoughts on this.

      • Excellent! I look forward to reading it!

  • Julie

    Sitting in the front row was hilarious as a guest once. I didn’t know when to go up for communion or stand up and say things everyone else was saying. Then I had to put out a small fire caused by an acolyte! Never again will I sit there in a new church when I don’t know the routine.

    • Oh yes! Being up front as a visitor can be uncomfortable! We need to make sure the regulars don’t take up all the room in the back 🙂

  • #3 sounds like you’re sitting in the Splash Zone at a Shamu show! Maybe if you handed out complimentary rain ponchos like they do, more people would sit up front! 😉

    • Hahahahah! Yep! Kinda like Blue Man Group, right? The front row needs complimentary rain ponchos. 🙂

  • Well, in the summer, the back of the church is the closest to the fans pulling in supposedly cooler air from outdoors.

    The other reason I don’t like the very front row is because I like to use the back of the row in front of me to pull myself up.

    The third reason is because most of the year, I’m in the front row of the choir, and the back of the church is such a nice change…

    • Perfect! 😀 There *are* good reasons to avoid the front. I just think it’s funny how everyone picks the back 🙂

  • Pingback: Doesn’t Everyone Want A Front Row Seat? | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another()

  • Karin

    I prefer to sit at the back so that I can have a great overview as I prefer to watch others rather than be watched. I work in a nursing home and am the staff supervising the worship service – I need to be observant and quick to help. I have excellent distance vision and don’t like things that close; I want to be proactive in case I personally need to make a quick getaway to a washroom – I know TMI. I also need to sit at the end of a pew, never in the middle; I’ll stand up and let you through rather than move over! I come early enough to select where I would like to sit and prefer sitting to the left of the pastor rather than in the middle or the right side. It’s funny that even in a nursing home where folks are wheelchair and walker dependant, in their 90s and over, everyone still has their favourite place to sit. Yes, we’re funny that way!! Enjoyed your blogpost!

    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your reasons! 🙂

    • Paul Dawes

      It’s very thoughtful of you. Great work to keep a watch over them, I like what you said

  • Anna Marion Howell

    Re: #6 — You know who else left right after receiving the bread and wine? JUDAS. That’s who.

    • Bahahahahahahah! Oh, that’s hilarious!

  • Ivy Queen

    My daughter and I sit in the second row. When we first started we sat in the back but she wanted to move closer to the front. I’m glad I listened to her. It keeps me more focused on the service.

    • Awesome! My kids love sitting near the front 🙂

  • JESSICA P HUGHES

    I sit on the front row, if ur fav. Band comes to town don’t u won’t front row tickets? Well l get them every weeek, l don’t care if someone is looking at the back of me, l would hope they were listening to the message and taking notes, pastor johnson can give me the ur the sinner stare it would make me a better person, if lm doing something wrong then l need to be corrected and change, If ur there to sleep, then u mine as well stay in the back, the Bible speakers of first will be last in the terms of thinking ur someone special over others, if a poor man or women, walked to the front and there was no were to sit then l would GLADLY give them my seat, and sit in the floor, there shouldn’t be whispering in church, can u really not talk for a hour? As for some one coming in that’s not welcome and ushers needing ur help, ALL ARE WELCOME IN THE HOUSE OF JESUS! EVEN IF THEY WERE THERE TO KILL US, WHERE BETTER TO DIE THEN IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE! l thought u called ur self a pastor and if that be so, how do u speak such horrid things, but do u want some scripture bcs in the new testament the word of God says that a women is to remain silent in church, This world may have changed but God does not nor does Hospital word, it’s a Living Word for a reason, l will pray for u and ur blasphemy. Oh and the scripture for a women to not speak in church is found in. 1 corinthians 14:34 .

    • Tim

      Jessica, April wrote this as a humorous satire. It wasn’t a serious article urging people not to sit in the front row or to fall asleep in church. She did a very clever job in writing this post and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

      Blessings,
      Tim

      • JESSICA P HUGHES

        I thought it might be a joke bad one at that, but it nvr said it was, but l am glad that ppl. Can see my post incase they belive what was wrote, now they have food for real thought

      • Tim

        People had food for real thought with the original post too, Jessica.

      • Thank you for your post, Jessica. You make some excellent points! I find that when I sit in the front row, I am better able to listen, participate, and interact with what is going on. The farther back I sit, the harder it is to remain focused. So, I’m a big fan of the front pew.

      • JESSICA P HUGHES

        I find that hard to believe by your post, l found it very offensive, ur friend said it was a joke, however l found nothing funny about it, l hope it was a very distasteful joke, however I don’t believe Jesus laughed. I do believe that Jesus has a sence of humor seeing as we are made in His image, l stand by all my points and hope ur humor gets less offensive and l say all this from love not hate.

      • Thanks, Tim 🙂

    • Paul Dawes

      Jessica, nothing wrong with satire, I think let the ladies speak up, we have them underpaid, overworked and marginalised. It’s time for the ladies to lead, lead from the pulpit, in government and politics.