Calling From the Center Seat
by Rev. Shonda Nicole Gladden
Vibrant Faith C3 Coach

I travel a lot; and by a lot, I mean A LOT!


Coaching congregational teams, preaching, teaching, being present to family and friends across the globe, all involve me accumulating more frequent flyer miles than one can imagine. When traveling though, I generally do everything imaginable to avoid being seated in the center seat.
There’s something about being seated in the center seat, especially when it means being seated between strangers, that I find to be less than desirable. Perhaps my biggest frustration about being seated in the center seat is navigating the usage of armrests. 

My lived philosophy is that in exchange for the discomfort of being sandwiched between two people for an hour or more, of the four armrests provided in a row of seats on a standard aircraft, the center seat passenger, is rewarded with two armrests – one to the left and another to the right.


It has been my experience, however, that not everyone holds this philosophy in common.

The passenger seated in the “aisle” seat, aptly named, would seem to be invited to use the armrest closest to the aisle. Likewise, the passenger seated in the “window” seat would seem most likely to utilize the armrest closest to the window. These tenets of logic seem unconventional and unlikely when I have the unfortunate experience of being seated in the center seat and I’m faced with an opportunity to be annoyed, become aggravated, or adapt. 

When creating a culture of call, occasionally leaders can find themselves thrust, sometimes uncomfortably, into the proverbial center seat of congregational culture. Sandwiched between the norms of what has been the modes operandi for decades, and perhaps even centuries, and the call to become something different, presents leaders with similar opportunities – annoyance, aggravation, or adaptation. 


We at Vibrant Faith recognize the challenges of being stuck in the middle seat of discerning calling and helping others to do so too. It is our goal in ministry to help guide people through and into this discomfort in ways that they may grow and God may shine. If you are stuck in the middle seat of your ministry, we hope that you will be able to ride through this portion of your journey with new insight and new understanding. May the elbows you bump be opportunities and may the conflicts of who should have the armrest open pathways for communications and conversations.
For more information about our C3 ministries, please check out our webpage on the C3 Initiative.

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