The weekend experience is a strong focal point of the planning and thinking of a church leader. While we have other opportunities in the church, the weekends are still our primary way for telling others about Jesus. It holds a lot of power as God’s children come together to celebrate and praise Him. During my time as a church consultant, I have often seen that as a church experiences growth, their weekend experience does not grow alongside it. Instead, it lags behind and reflects the methods of it’s previous size.
While this is not always a pressing issue, it can prevent increased growth and, ultimately, contribute to churches getting stuck.
I recently spoke with one of our new Unstuck Group consultants, Sean Bublitz, regarding his church’s growth and the importance of weekend experience with church growth.
1. Did your growth in size as a church change people’s expectations for the weekend experience? If so, how?
I’ve found that people’s perception of the size of a church is almost always larger than the church actually is. So, it’s common for them to attend a church and have a certain expectation for how that church operates because of their perception. For example, I’ve heard often from attenders that they thought everyone on stage on the weekend is on staff or a professional musician that we hired. In reality, one reason most larger churches see growth is because they’re utilizing volunteers and volunteer leaders effectively. So, attenders often have a higher expectation of the quality of your church’s services and environments based on their perception that everyone serving does this for a living.
2. What were some of the key shifts you made in your weekend service as you moved from being a mid-size to a large church?
As a church grows, it’s more cost effective and efficient to add services rather than build larger buildings. So you have to be intentional about how you’re utilizing your volunteer teams when you have multiple services. If you have services on multiple days, you have to think through asking people to serve multiple days or dividing up teams. Having served in churches with Saturday and Sunday services, we were more likely to have teams like guest services and kids ministry serve on either one day or the other. For teams like our music and production teams, we would have them serve both days of the weekend. Having guest service and kids teams serve one day a weekend allowed them to serve more than one weekend a month and still kept them in a healthy rhythm. Because of the longer preparation it took for our music and production teams, we found it easier for them to serve for an entire weekend, but only serve once a month.
3. How did your systems and structures have to change to support your weekend services?
Because of the growth and addition of services, we had to find and invest in high capacity leaders. These were people who could lead teams and lead leaders of teams. We knew we couldn’t staff for the growth we hoped to have. So, identifying leaders of leaders and incorporating them into our structure was a must. This meant asking even more from some of our leaders. Often, high capacity leaders who are passionate about the vision are quick to jump in when asked to lead more. We also asked some leaders to become volunteer staff. They were invited to the same meetings and privy to the same information as the staff team. But they just led on a volunteer basis.
4. For where your church is today, how do you measure “wins” with your weekend experience? Has that changed at all through the years?
I’m finding more and more churches measure the “win” of the weekend service based off of steps that people take out of the weekend instead of the overall weekend attendance. It’s not that weekend attendance isn’t important. But, because people are attending less frequently, the strategy has shifted to a focus of getting them plugged into the church. People are more likely to see church as a high value when they’re a part of a small group, a serving team, or taking some step in their personal growth. Being intentional with communicating clear steps out of the weekend services has become a focus.
5.Any additional advice you’d give lead pastors as they’re navigating this transition with their churches?
I would encourage pastors to keep a close eye on their attendance to staff ratio as they grow. Growth often leads to more resources. It can be easy to just hire people to solve some of the new issues you’ll face as you grow. However, continuing to hire leaders of teams who do the ministry rather than those who just do the ministry themselves is important. If you’re not careful, you can begin to see your volunteer engagement slip. People feel less connected to a larger church because they perceive there isn’t a place for them to serve anymore.