After many years, I’ve finally uncovered the key to a healthy church-going experience: avoiding people. Not all people of course, but there are certain types of people you won’t see me hanging around on Sunday morning.
I know it may seem mean, un-Christian even! But trust me, it’s a necessity. A survival skill, of sorts. Avoiding awkward conversations, peer pressure, and distractions before, during, and after services has revitalized my whole church life.
This secret is something I’ve held very close to my heart, but now out of sheer kindness, I’m going to share with you my no-fail strategy on finding the safe zones at church.
Without further ado, here are the nine Christians you don't want to sit beside on Sunday morning.
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1. The Sneezer
These aren’t the people who sneeze into the crook of their arm. I’m talking the sneeze-directly-into-my-hand-and-then-wipe-snot-all-over-their-palms people. The Sneezer takes many forms: A mom with allergies, an old man with a common cold, or a kid with nose so runny it’s nicknamed “Old Faithful.”
The Safe Zone: While you’ll be safe from most airborne germs, you aren’t safe when it comes time to pass the peace. Make sure you put enough people in between you and The Sneezer to fill the entire minute. It’s a good idea to have a backup stash of hand sanitizer, just in case.
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2. The Unrequited Crush
Whether he won’t stop texting you or keeps asking you out on dates despite your polite declinations, it’s always a good idea to avoid The Unrequited Crush.
The Safe Zone: This safe zone is a lot less about where you are and more about who you’re with. Keep a safety zone of friends around and it’s much harder to get cornered. Bonus: by making sure you two are never alone, you don’t have to hear comments like, “You sure would make sure a cute couple!” Talk about an awkward moment.
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3. The Opera Singer
The Opera Singer has so much vibrato that there’s a rumor she’s the real reason the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. The great news is that God thinks this worship is beautiful. The bad news is you don’t. It can be quite the distraction during your time of worship.
The Safe Zone: You can sit as close as you’d like to the person, as long as it’s not directly in front of them. So you’re in the clear if you’re anywhere behind them, but I recommend a safe zone of three seats to their left or right.
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4. The Wannabe In-Laws
Steady job? Check! Love the Lord? Check check! No ring? Jackpot! You’re a prime target for parents with grown, unmarried children. There are few things they want more than their kids married off (especially if they’re permanent basement-dwellers).
The Safe Zone: Like a shark’s ability to smell blood, Wannabe-In-Laws can smell your singleness from a mile away. It’s best to stay out of their line of sight and to prepare an exit strategy. For instance, plans to meet your totally-real-and-not-made-up boyfriend’s family for lunch right after church.
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5. The Loud Whisperers
Loud Whisperers have this burning desire to comment on everything. Sadly, they were never probably taught to whisper. Unfortunately, Loud Whisperers tend to travel in packs so the occasional comment turns into a family discussion that’s almost as loud as the preacher himself.
The Safe Zone: Safe Zones may varies depending on a person’s volume but the only way to stay focused on the sermon is to stay out of earshot.
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6. The Walking Bottle of Body Spray
Too much scented body spray. Maybe these people don’t have sensitive noses, or they don’t believe that there can be too much of a good thing. While it’s okay to approach these people for a quick hug, sitting near these toxic fumes can lead to a headache lasting all the way to Monday.
The Safe Zone: Your buffer radius should be one chair for every spritz of body spray. Five spritz? Sit five chairs away. Taking a step outside to breathe fresh air will help too.
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7. The Volun-teller
Has someone ever volunteered you to do something without you actually volunteering? That’s what we in the church biz like to call being “volun-told”. Most churches have at least one person who’s always recruiting you to join their ministry without considering your schedule, gifts, or ability to serve.
The Safe Zone: No one is safe. I repeat: no one is safe! Volun-tellers can find you anywhere you are. They’re in the bathroom, the family room, even waiting next to your car. Always know where the nearest exit is and be prepared to duck into the supply closet.
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8. The Snacker
Despite being in and out in under 90 minutes, some people need to have a snack or two during the service. (No judgment here! I’m a girl who loves to eat!) The problem comes when their snacks of choice is overly loud, like carrot sticks or crisp apples, or overly odorous, like tuna fish.
The Safe Zone: I recommend sitting as far away from The Snacker as possible. Not only can the chomping be distracting (especially if they chew with their mouth open), but a scrumptious looking snack could steal your focus away.
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9. The Salesman
Under the guise of fellowship, The Salesman is constantly looking to pitch you on their newest pyramid scheme. Diet supplements, knife sets, and endless amount of Tupperware await you if you get caught. The only acceptable Salesman is a Girl Scout bearing cookies.
The Safe Zone: You should constantly be alert, especially during post-service coffee and doughnuts. The Salesman is swift and can have you coughing over half your paycheck before you know it. Pro tip: avoid parking next to a car with window decals indicative of a Salesman.
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Originally published Tuesday, 08 August 2017.