One of the most frequent questions I get relates to choosing service times. Here’s a list to help you work through some of the key decision factors to consider as you’re evaluating adjusting your service times.
Get to critical mass.
This is going to depend largely on the seating capacity of your sanctuary or auditorium. In many instances, at least half the seats need to be filled for the room to have energy and engagement. Less than that and people are wondering, “Why aren’t people showing up?” Reduce the number of services, remove seats, or use pipe and drape to shrink the room if you don’t have critical mass.
When you are consistently more than 80 percent full in all your services, it’s time to add services.
I understand that you have more seats to fill, but my family of six will likely have a very difficult time finding six seats together. And, especially if we are guests, we’ll assume you don’t have space for us.
Shift people first before you start adding services.
The shift begins with being more intentional about seating people prior to services with well-trained, friendly greeters and ushers. Then, as one service consistently bumps over 80 percent full, you need to routinely (at least monthly) encourage people to attend the services that have more seats available.
Move to multiple service as soon as you have the opportunity.
This move will save you millions of dollars on facility space in the long run. Additionally, you create opportunities for people to attend a service and serve a service. With only one service, it’s very challenging to build essential volunteer teams for children’s ministry and guest services.
Move Sunday School classes so they don’t compete with service times.
Don’t eliminate the Bible studies and Sunday School classes, just move them to another night during the week. If you don’t, there will always be an unnecessary competition for space and volunteers. Growing churches maximize the use of their space and volunteers for reaching new people on Sunday morning. After all, that’s when new people are most likely to attend a service.
Move student large group gatherings to another time during the week.
The objective is to allow students the opportunity to attend a service and serve a service as well. Adding students to your services forces you to program for a younger audience. (That’s something most churches need.) It helps you get to critical mass. That adds energy and engagement. Also, getting students serving is most likely what will keep students engaged in ministry as they transition to becoming adults.
Avoid starting services before 9:00 a.m. or after 12:00 p.m.
Older people may show up before 9:00, but you will not reach many young families. If you start services after 12:00 p.m., you’ll be competing with many other family and extracurricular activities.
Add a third service on Sunday morning before you try another time.
Try 9:00, 10:30 and 11:59 before you add a service on Saturday or Sunday evenings. Yes, you might have to shorten your services to 60 minutes, but that will give you the opportunity to reach more people on Sunday morning. Again, that’s when new people are most likely to attend. If you aren’t concerned about reaching new people, don’t mess with your service times. Stick with what you’re doing.
Don’t add Saturday or Sunday evening services until you can encourage most staff and volunteers not to come on Sunday morning.
This is particularly a challenge for Saturday evening services. Now that my kids are in school and engaged in activities on Saturdays, I wouldn’t work on any church staff or volunteer if you required me to be at services on both Saturday evening and Sunday morning. At least one weekend day needs to be sacred for families.
Once you are consistently full on Sunday mornings, you still have options.
Unless you’re in a college town, you’ll likely get more people to show up on Saturday evening rather than Sunday evening. If you’re trying to reach families, know that Sunday evenings will be a challenge. That’s when families gear up for the new week. I’ve seen churches have success with Thursday evening and Monday evening services. You have options…though they aren’t ideal.
Hope that helps you consider next steps.