I haven’t done a FAQ post in a while, so I thought I’d tackle one we often get around this time of the year, which is, “will we go to one service over the summer?” While we’ve been asked this question over the past couple years (since we’ve moved to two services), we were also asked the same question when we moved into this space last fall; “now that we have a bigger space are we going back to one service?”
Now the quick answer to that question is, “No, we’ll stay at two services through the summer.” I thought I’d take a few minutes and explain why we’ve come to this decision. Now, there are 4 weekends each year where we have one service (New Years’ weekend, Memorial Day weekend, July 4th weekend, & the Sunday after Thanksgiving), because we do see a value in gathering together at various times throughout the year, however, on a regular basis, we see far more value in offering two services.
So, why do we offer 2 services, even when everybody could fit in one? There are a number of small reasons, but really 2 big ones. The first has to do with our children’s ministry. In the past when we had one service, we would have teachers rotate on a regular basis in and out of the classes, so that they were not consistently missing out on being part of the main worship service. Unfortunately, that also meant they weren’t consistently in the classroom. Over time however we found that the kids do much better when they have a consistent adult leading their class. And as you might guess, that is a pretty solid commitment on the part of the teacher, but it really helps things go so much smoother in every aspect of the kids ministry. If we only offered one service, that would make in extremely difficult for our teachers and kids workers to make that type of commitment. So our kids ministry is a big reason we continue to offer 2 services.
The second major reason is having more than one option makes a difference for some people. When the movie theater shows a movie, they offer several times to make it easier for people to find a time that works for them. While it might seem like just picking one time should work for everybody, it simply doesn’t. Let me give you an example. Last fall, before we moved into the new place, we had to switch to one service for our final month at the school. Now for the three weeks when all of the students were back and we had two services, our average attendance was 266. For the weeks when we were at one service the attendance dropped to 207. Once we were able to move into the new place, & get back to two services, attendance was back up an average of 246.
[note: there are on average 12 – 20 people each week at both services, so that accounts for some, but not most of the drop]
I know that when we go to one service people always think, “it was so great to have everyone together!” And it feels that way because that one service is larger than normal. But the fact is, any time we go to one service, our attendance drops dramatically, which means that for some people it was difficult to come. Now you might think, “well, when you listed the weekends we normally switch to one service, you pick holiday weekends that would be lower anyways,” So, one more example as we wrap this up.
In March we held a special service with a baptism. It was a normal, non-holiday/no school break weekend. And we want it to celebratory and have everyone together for one service. Attendance for that Sunday was about 50 people below the previous week and over 40 below the following week.
Now let me say, I really don’t like talking about attendance all that much. This isn’t about how many people are showing up on a particular Sunday. BUT…what we have seen, and what we have heard in talking to others as well is having one service will for various reasons makes it more difficult for a number of people to get to church every week. And that really does matter to us.