Your church might be considering adding a second service on Sunday morning. Many churches take this as a first step to growth and outreach. Recently I was asked by a friend to share my experience in doing this. These are my random thoughts and suggestions.
We added a second service shortly after opening our church and a third service during our building project. We currently function with two morning services and are preparing to add a third. Again, I am no expert but have some practical experience in leading a small church through this process. There is no great research or scholarship in this writing, just the practical experience I have acquired as we have grown to 450 in Sunday morning worship over the past few years. Perhaps the Lord will use it as a blessing to you.
There are several reasons why churches do this. Let me list a few that I am aware of.
- Diversity –
- Ethnic – Some churches reach many different ethnic and cultural groups and so design a service in that language and cultural context. Haitian, Chinese etc…
- Demographic – Some churches attempt to reach a different demographic often this is geared for a younger crowd. Usually this is done more casual in dress and more contemporary in music and worship style.
- Something new – A church may feel that this is a way to get them off of “dead center” and decide to start a new service to create growth. Often this new service comes with new styles and practices. Often the old service is left the way it has been to satisfy those who don’t want to change.
- Space – When a church reaches it maximum space capacity in the sanctuary, parking or other facility measures it is left with a decision how to continue to reach people. The options at this stage are limited.
- Build a new facility. This option is both costly in time and money. You can plan on 1-3 years and $100 per sq feet plus the cost of land.
- Go to two services. This is a quicker and more cost effective way to expand your capacity.
When a church has decided to go to multiple services it can be a very exciting time for the ministry. If handled correctly it will inevitably bring growth and blessing to the church. When handled incorrectly it can be very divisive and destructive.
So let’s talk briefly about some reasons you may need to consider two services on Sunday morning.
You may need to consider two services if
- Your current facility is at or near 80% capacity. The statistics on this number are well proven in the church world. People will sit crammed together for Easter, Christmas and kids programs but not every Sunday. Our churches will grow to the size of our capacity and not more.
- Your church is nearly full and has little impact in the community. If your church is nearly full (even less than 80%) and is made up of mostly “churched” “homogenized” people there is no room for those who look, dress, act, talk differently than you. At this point it is not about seat space it’s about relational space. You need to create another service that is not dominated by a church-familiar, sub-cultural atmosphere.
So if you have decided to take the bold step of adding a second service here are some thoughts on what you should and shouldn’t do.
Let’s first look at a list of DO’S.
DO plan ahead at least 2 months for the launch! You need to promote it like a special day with a big launch.
DO advertise locally in the community. The purpose of this service is short and simple, the GREAT COMMISSION!
DO have a critical mass of people COMMITTED to each service! You cannot just start two services with hopes that it will even out. One church had a sanctuary of 400 and at 350 they went to 2 services without getting commitments. They ended up with 35 in the first service and 315 in the second. That’s a negative and they soon ended that experiment. You need a minimum of 35% capacity in a service for critical mass.
DO prepare your people for a different feel on Sunday morning. It is a commitment and sacrifice and will feel very differently.
DO teach your people that this is intentional and missional and that we are all doing this to accomplish our mission of reaching more people with the Gospel.
DO ensure that both services are 100% “up to par”. You don’t want one service to get the reputation that it is the “lesser” of the two. If you are simply duplicating yourself in both services as we do, we require all singers, musicians and special singers to appear in both. If you can’t make one we will get someone else for both and use you next Sunday. If you are doing different styles ensure that both are done with excellence.
DO require that all staff are at both services. This does not mean that they will sit through the entirety of each service, though most of ours do. This does require that they mingle with both crowds and keeps them from becoming disconnected from ½ the church.
DO expect special speakers and singers to perform in both.
DO give it your best as a pastor or staff member. No matter the “feel” or crowd preach and sing as though the church is full.
Now for some DON’TS
DON’T bail on the second service the first time you have two crowds that are small enough to fit into one. Give it time and tunnel through the difficult times.
DON’T expect that both services will have the same spirit. Remember God works in individual’s lives, and both services have different individuals in them. The work of God will therefore be different. Don’t try and replicate the unique moments in both services. Let God move as He dictates in each.
DON’T create a spirit of division. If you are doing different styles it is easy for one group to say “I like the 8:30 better because it is more traditional/contemporary…” Too many churches have multiple services because people can’t worship together due to their lack of respect and love for the “other crowd”. This is neither healthy nor obedient to Christ command for unity in the church.
DON’T start a second service to appease someone screaming for their unique style of worship.
DON’T start a second service because you want to do something that a group of “fuddy duds” doesn’t want to do so you just leave them in the old sanctuary with their old songs, while you go to the gym. That is called a church split.
DON’T start a second service to be cool or hip or because someone else is doing it.
BENEFITS OF 2 SERVICES
You will GROW. The fish always grows to the size of it’s bowl. You’ve just expanded your ability to grow.
You will INVOLVE more people in ministry. You have an abundance of people who can minister. If for one service you need 4 ushers, 2 parking attendants, 4 greeters, 2 nursery workers. For two services you double that. This opens up 12 entry level ministry opportunities.
You will give people more OPTIONS. When we went to 2 services it was about space but after we had done it we have realized it is about convenience and options. There are major people in our church now who would have never come if we would only had service at 11.
You will SAVE money. By doing this you double your seating capacity and your parking spaces for $0.
You will be closer to FULFILLING the great commission. It will force you to pray more, invite more people to church, put your people on a mission and open a place for the lost to find Jesus.
Now as you prepare to do this, you should also prepare for some to question this approach. Here are some of the most common objections I have experienced or heard.
COMMON OBJECTIONS TO 2 SERVICES
#1 “I don’t want to go to 2 services because I like worshipping with these people and it will split our church.” This is perhaps the most common objection.
ANSWER: Essentially what they are saying is that they like the status quo and they are not concerned about those who are not here now. Ultimately we are only associating with a certain number of people every Sunday. If they only want it like it is now then they are refusing to obey the Great Commission.
#2 “I am concerned that our staff is going to get weary”.
ANSWER: This morning a missionary in Africa walked 12 miles to preach, dodging snakes in the dead of heat. Our staff will be fine!
#3 “I don’t want to play the piano, organ, drums, guitar or sing etc… in two services.”
ANSWER: Fine, God will raise someone else up. Thanks, want to be an usher at 8:30?
#4 Oh No, what will we do about SS?
ANSWER: You can do the “Sandwich” approach. Service at 8:30 and 11 SS at 9:50-10:45. And yes believe it or not there are lots of people who come to church then go to SS and some come first to SS then go to Church.
You can also do the “Flip Flop” approach. Have services closer together 9:30 and 11 and have SS going on during both. Some classes meet during 9:30 and others meet during 11.
#5 “We will ever be all together again?”
ANSWER: Yes, In Heaven! Also if you are desperate to see them, if possible you can have a UNITED service in a larger location once a year.
#6 What if we fail?
ANSWER: You go back to 1 service. (boy that was easy)
#7 “What do we do during the part of the year where the crowd is lower? Aka Summer etc…
ANSWER: Some people successfully go back to 1 service for a targeted time. If you do this you need clean stop and start dates and the re-launch needs promotion. This will become more and more difficult as you grow. My suggestion is to plow through.