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Why churches need more than a Sunday morning service

Consider the needs of those you are trying to reach and offer new ways for people to connect with Christ and the church. Photo by Hannah Busing, courtesy of Unsplash.
Consider the needs of those you are trying to reach and offer new ways for people to connect with Christ and the church. Photo by Hannah Busing, courtesy of Unsplash.

Churches recognize the power of in-person events, but not everyone will or can attend Sunday morning worship services.

 

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For years, church membership and attendance have been on a steady decline. In 2020, Gallup reported that fewer than 50% of Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. 

Of course, the COVID-19 crisis continues to be a huge factor. More than a year into the pandemic, there remains a gap between those who typically attended church pre-COVID-19 and those who do so now. 

While the coronavirus may be the easiest excuse for poor attendance and membership, it is certainly not the only one.

In a 2017 survey, more than 60% of respondents said that their employers expected them to work over the weekend. A 2019 survey conducted by Pew Research found that more than 70% of non-farm laborers work in the service industry, which includes fields such as health care, entertainment and transportation, for which the traditional weekend does not exist.

Since many Americans no longer consider Sunday a day of rest, here are some ways your church can offer more than one Sunday-type service.  

Offer more options

In light of COVID-19, consider offering more services with fewer attenders. In addition to Bible studies, small groups and Sunday school classes, consider how your church can conduct condensed or duplicate versions of the traditional Sunday morning service at various times throughout the week:

  • An early-morning service on Sunday and again once during the week.

  • A lunch service on a weekday or Saturday.

  • An evening service during the week and again on Friday or Saturday.

More services require more work and resources, but offering them will open the doors for more people to attend while still allowing for social distancing if need be. 

To begin:

  1. Conduct a survey to determine which days and times are most popular.

  2. Commit to one alternative service and do so for a set length of time. Monitor attendance to determine if you should continue after the initial trial period has ended.

  3. Seek volunteers to serve at alternative times. Child care may not be needed for a weekday service, but you might need greeters, ushers, sound technicians and musicians. With more options to attend a service, you may find it easier to recruit volunteers.

  4. Don’t be afraid to chop and change. It may take a few tries to determine what works best for your church and community.

Offer online worship

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Many churches are using a variety of virtual meeting platforms to reach more people than ever. Don’t be tempted to drop the digital services your church has worked so hard to establish. Continue by offering a hybrid of worship services.

  • Offer live-stream Sunday morning services.

  • Make sure that church videos are easy to locate. Potential viewers who miss the live stream shouldn’t have to hunt for the replay.

  • Establish online small groups and opportunities for face-to-face interactions for those who are unable or unwilling to attend in-person services.

  • Develop relationships with your online attenders. These viewers are an important part of your church and ministry.

Consider out-of-the-box changes

As you assess the needs of your congregation regarding worship services, consider some unconventional ideas such as these:

  • In-home worship services. Think spiritual in-home visits where a pastor or volunteer leads a family in prayer and worship and provides a scriptural reading or sermon.

  • Viewing parties. Encourage several families who are comfortable with one another to join together to watch and participate with an online service.

  • Snail-mail sermons. Not everyone has internet access or a great signal. For home-bound seniors, those in rural communities or those who suffer economically, think about mailing packages that include a sermon DVD or sermon worksheets that can be used for individual Bible study.

  • Service sharing. If your church is too small to offer consistent service alternatives, consider partnering with other UMC churches in your community. Participating churches could take turns offering alternative services or work together by sharing staff or campus space.

  • Service Sundays. Take the concept of Don’t Go to Church Sunday one step further. Incorporate mini worship experiences into outreach efforts. For example, if your church feeds the homeless on Tuesday nights, have a short time of prayer, preaching and praise while they eat.

Traditional worship is important, but the way in which it takes place continues to change. Instead of staying locked into a single-minded Sunday-only approach, consider the needs of those you are trying to reach and offer new ways for people to connect with Christ and the church.


Tricia Brown

Tricia K. Brown is a writer, editor, keynote speaker and Bible teacher. In addition to being a wife and mother of four sons, she is the sole proprietor of The Girls Get Together, where she and her team provide women's event programs for churches and other organizations. Her latest book, A Year of Yearning: A 12-Month Devotional to Help You Study God's Word More, is available from Amazon.