A reader created his own adaptation of the film script I posted recently, “How to Sit in Church.” For those who want to do it on stage, here’s his alternative version!
How to Sit in Church
By John Cosper and Matthew Byerly
Football Player (Title Card Holder)
Parents of College Girl
Pew or Bench (2)
Old-Fashioned Flip-style Chalkboard (with chalk and eraser)
COACH should be in uniform/track suit/jump suit. Wearing a whistle, towel hanging off his waist (both whistle and towel are used as props).
FOOTBALL PLAYER in full uniform and helmet.
All others costumed as appropriate for name/description of character. Modern dress, appropriate for church gathering.
Title Card Signs (lettered as noted in script)
swaddled baby doll
Set the stage with two benches center, one resting just behind the other. Just upstage of these, centered, is a doorway, symbolizing the door into the sanctuary. Space should be left off to one side for an area where the COACH can talk, and space should also be left behind the door, to provide an area for movement.
Sound Effect: Car pulling into a parking lot, with screeching tires. Doors open and shut, hastily.
Enter from offstage a married couple, Guy and Marsha, racing up to the doors of the church, as we hear Organ Music in the background.
MARSHA: Come on, Guy, we’re late! Hurry it up! This is so embarrassing, running behind like this…
Interior church. They walk in the back doors, and stop, a look of fear in their eyes.
MARSHA: Honey, where are we supposed to sit? GUY: I don’t know. Why does this have to be so hard?
Sound Effect: Ominous tones (“dun-dun-dun”).
GUY and MARSHA stand frozen in their spots. A college fight song starts to play in the background, replacing the organ music. Coach enters from opposite side of stage, wheeling in chalkboard.
COACH: Finding a seat on Sunday morning can be more intimidating than solving the West Coast Offense. But it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m going to tell you something I’ve kept to myself for years. I’m Coach Honeycutt, long-time football coach, and, though I don’t often freely admit to the fact, a frequent Church attendee. Yes, yes, even the rough-and-tumble of the world need to seek respite and offer worship at a temple other than the one on the football field. Let me tell you, there was once a time where I was just as confused as anyone as to where I should plant myself during a service, seeing as I was more comfortable in the land of touchdowns than in touching heaven, and that caused a great deal of discomfort….worse than athlete’s foot, in fact. Over time, however, I learned to apply my coaching skills to figuring out how to properly handle these benches, with the least mental intimidation possible. And I’m here to help you learn the rules of the game.
FOOTBALL PLAYER runs across, carrying a sign reading “Coach Honeycutt’s Rules of the Game: How to Sit in Church.” Stops Center stage, crosses himself holding the sign, and continues to run off to the other side of the stage.
COACH: Churches are like football teams. There are hundreds of different churches, but every one of them runs one of a few formations when it comes to seating patterns. If you want to get a good seat in church, all you have to do is figure out what formation the church runs.
COACH has drawn a set of pews on the board.
COACH: One of the most common seating patterns is the I Formation. This is the kind of seating arrangement you’ll find in older, more traditional churches. With the I Formation, people sit in the same seat every week.
COACH marks X’s on the board.
COACH: Some sit on the ends. Some in the middle. Some in the front, and some in the back. And woe be unto you if you sit in someone else’s seat.
GUY and MARSHA unfreeze; they sit down in an empty pew. OLD LADY is sitting on the end of other pew. OLDER MAN enters, stands next to GUY and MARSHA.
OLDER MAN: I’m sorry, but this is my seat. GUY: But there are dozens of empty seats in here! OLDER MAN: So find one and get out of MY seat!
COACH takes over dialogue. As he is speaking, GUY and MARSHA stand up, move offstage. At the same time, OLD LADY exits through the doors.
COACH: The I Formation can be intimidating, but once you learn the patterns, you’ll not only avoid taking someone else’s seat, you’ll establish your own. Choose carefully, because you’ll likely be sitting in that seat a long time.
OLD LADY (V.O.): No, I will not sit in another seat. This was my momma’s seat, and it was my grandma’s before her. I don’t care what you say, I’m not moving! MARSHA (V.O.): But this seat’s not even in the sanctuary any more.
Sound Effect: toilet flushing; stall door opening.
OLD LADY (V.O.): I can hear it all over the intercom.
FOOTBALL PLAYER runs across, carrying a sign reading “Second Play – Flush Analysis.” Stops Center stage, crosses himself holding the sign, and continues to run off to the other side of the stage.
COACH draws a set of pews where the end seats are filled with X’s and the middle of the pews is empty.
COACH: Another common strategy found in older churches is the Wishbone formation. In the Wishbone, people take the aisle seats here, and here, leaving the middle wide open. If you have a tendency to run late, this can be a tricky formation to deal with. And if you show up with a large family, you better hope to find a friendly face on the end.
GUY and MARSHA re-enter through Church door. OLD MAN and OLD WOMAN are in front pew, on opposite ends. COLLEGE GIRL and LONELY GUY are on second pew, more centered, obviously not leaving enough room in center or on ends for the couple to sit down. GUY and MARSHA walk up to OLD MAN on the end of the aisle.
GUY: Excuse me, sir, can we—
The OLD MAN growls like a dog. GUY and MARSHA back away.
COACH: (clears throat to call attention back to him) The Wishbone is also known as the field goal formation.
FOOTBALL PLAYER runs across downstage, carrying a football; suddenly cries out “HAIL MARY!,” and tosses the ball between the people sitting on the pews, who promptly jump up and lift their arms in the air signaling a good field goal. FOOTBALL PLAYER does a little dance, crosses himself, and continues to run off to the other side of the stage.
COACH: (casting a sideways glance, rolling his eyes at the action onstage) Or, the spread offense. (pronounce as in taking offense) Heh heh, sorry, I mean the spread offense. (said like the football term) The best way to beat the spread is to arrive early – and sit in the middle.
As COACH is speaking, GUY and MASHA find their way to the middle of the pew, as others in scene sit down slowly.
FOOTBALL PLAYER (V.O.): Omaha, Green 80, Green 80, Hut-Hut!
A football flies onstage and hits MARSHA in the face.
MARSHA: Oh, my nose!
OLD LADY: Funny….don’t you remember the same thing happening to Jan a while back?
FOOTBALL PLAYER runs across, carrying a sign reading “Options Open” Stops Center stage, crosses himself holding the sign, and continues to run off to the other side of the stage.
COACH makes another drawing on the on the board. There are a few X’s spread across a pew.
COACH: If you want something simple and easy, look for a church that runs the Option formation. The Option is much easier for the new attendee to navigate. Here’s how it works.
COACH draws lines on the board to indicate patterns – lots of arrows, circles, etc., delivers dialogue as drawing
COACH: The guests enter the back room, walk down to the pew. The people sitting in the pew go in motion. Young couple slides down, causing the lonely guy mid pew to slide over, where he meets nice young college grad girl sitting with her folks. The result of the play, the new folks get a seat, and mom and dad get a break on lunch when lonely guy asks their girl to go to the buffet.
In speeded up motion, we see GUY and MARSHA walk down the aisle. The people seated jump up, shuffle seats, and end up bunched in the middle, with the COLLEGE GIRL sitting beside or on the LONELY GUY’s lap. Once everyone’s seated, LONELY GUY gives the crowd a thumbs up.
COACH: (blows whistle to call focus) ahem….Some churches run a variation on the option package designed for families with small children. In this pattern, the back pews of the church are bypassed by the majority of attendees, leaving them open for people with young children or crying babies who are prone to disruptions or may need a quick trip to the potty. This pattern is known as “backfield in motion.”
In church setting, GUY and MARSHA sit, in front pew. A man sits on the other side of GUY. MARSHA holds a baby. The baby cries. The man on the end hops out as if blocking for GUY. GUY races around the pew. MARSHA hands off the baby. GUY runs out the door, runs into the lobby, lifting his arms and the baby in the air. He goes to spike the baby like a football….
COACH: Stop!!!! (blows whistle)
COACH draws a stick figure on the board holding a baby stick figure in the air. He draws a circle around the drawing and a line through it.
COACH: Remember, never spike the baby. Again, sir, NEVER SPIKE THE BABY!
GUY tucks the baby in his arm and walks on offstage. COACH walks to front of pew as he speaks, takes a seat.
COACH: So there you have it. Every church has a different way of doing things, but the better you learn to identify the seating strategy in your own church, the less intimidating Sunday morning will be. Sometime, when you’re up against it and the breaks are beating your seating options, tell yourself to go out there with all you’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. As for those who cause bench anxiety for others seeking space in the pew, remember that little things matter. You don’t know who’s coming to your church for the first time, or what kind of day they’re having, or how your actions may affect them. We can all be a little more welcoming by accommodating others, and knowing where and how we pick out seats in church. I’m Coach Honeycutt—
ANGRY GUY: Hey! Get outta my pew, ya jerk!
COACH: — reminding you to, in dealing with others, ALWAYS PLAY FAIR, and never just throw in the towel!
COACH throws towel at ANGRY GUY’s face, gets up, runs out of church, as ANGRY GUY runs after him.