When a church has a temporary meeting place it is often required to set up the chairs prior to each service. This task can and should involve new members of the church family as much as possible. This is a simple way to get people involved and accept some responsibility for the church. This simple task should not be taken lightly. Every chair should be in line with the other chairs. Ample room should be provided between rows, especially if the auditorium has plenty of room to accommodate those attending. A standard distance between rows should be at least thirty six inches from the front leg of one chair to the front leg of the chair in the next row. More than thirty-six inches can be utilized if the auditorium is especially large and the pastor doesn’t want the room to seem empty. The chairs can be placed side by side, however if there is plenty of space, a reasonable distance of six inches would provide comfortable spacing so that people do not feel crowded. If the flooring consists of tiles, the tiles can provide an exact guideline to align the chairs.
The tops of the chairs should align precisely both vertically and horizontally. A diagram should be established beginning with the first Sunday and each subsequent week the same pattern should be followed. Usually I would recommend having a center aisle with two banks of chairs. A center aisle provides access to respondents at the invitation, and the ushers will find the center aisle proves best for taking the offering. Failure to attend to this small task is a poor visible representation of the Lord’s work. Visitors will notice the sloppy appearance and some may not return because of it.
In addition to lining up the chairs, song books must be distributed. Hopefully there are enough so that each chair has a book. If the chairs have book racks, the books should be placed in them so that the label on the front cover is readable and right side up. If the books will be placed on the chair, they should be carefully placed straight on the middle of the seat with the front of the book facing up and in the same direction so that when guests arrive they will see straight rows of chairs with books aligned and straightened neatly.
A conscious effort should be made to make the rented facility look as much like a church as possible. A welcome table should have a table cloth on it that is neatly pressed. Visitor cards and welcome packets should be displayed carefully and neatly. The pulpit should be placed directly in front of the crowd. Runners could be purchased and rolled down each aisle for every service. A back drop could be built or a screen provided to hide unwanted clutter. Flower arrangements could be provided for a front table below or in front of the pulpit. A theme banner could be displayed emphasizing the theme for the year. Visitor signs should be placed at the main road with additional signs displaying the entrance and if necessary inside the building to find the meeting room.
Following the service, care should be taken so as not to rush people from the auditorium, but members should be trained how to properly take down and store all of the chairs, tables, and supplies. Perhaps all the church’s things can be stored safely at the rental facility, but if this is not possible a van or trailer will be needed to remove and store all of the church’s things.
Obtaining a permanent place will greatly reduce the pre-service set-up. However, most church planters will face this weekly task of properly setting up for the service. It will be a great day when a permanent residence is established.