by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2/21/16.
Recently a student asked if their church should solve their Sunday morning crowding problem by adding a Friday evening service. I replied that Friday evening worship times offering a similar convenience as do Saturday evening options. But, my experience has been that they (Fri. and Sat.) must begin before 7 pm and be done by 8 pm. This is my research from client churches, but it does cover several hundred churches. Here is an extended explanation of how many services should offer and when: How many worship services you should offer and when.
The student then asked why Saturday services don’t usually meet expectations. I responded that a reason many Saturday evening worship options fail, is because leaders expect them to be as well attended as Sunday morning services. However, in my observations, Sat. only garners about 20% of the attendance of Sunday mornings. This may be because there are so many competing activities on Saturday nights.
Therefore, if a church is running 250 in attendance on Sunday morning and they start a Saturday service, then they should only expect to run about 50. Usually churches feel this is a failure, when actually in my case-study research it is proportionally the same size. Remember this is just my research among clients, which is a skewed sample because my clients are usually evangelicals. But, it does indicate a testable hypothesis (any of my DMin/PhD students listening?).
Sundays also appear to be the best time to offer services to reach non-churchgoers. When I interview non-churchgoers in connection with consultations, for 20+ years I have heard the following response to the question, “If you were to attend church, what time during the week would be most convenient for you?” Their most frequent answer: “Sunday mornings.” My guess is that Sunday mornings continue to be the time during the week when people don’t (yet) have a full schedule.
So based upon the above, it is usually better to offer multiple services on Sunday (by even making them shorter) than by trying to reach out at less convenient services such as Sat or Fri.
For more on this, here is my ranking from case-studies of the best times on Sunday to have services: Worship & the best times on Sundays to have worship services.
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