by bobby williams
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you; You have one worship service time and by all accounts, it’s pretty full each Sunday. There’s not much room for any more people. You have heard all the talk about “if it’s 80% full it’s full” talk and so in order to make room for new attenders, you want to add a new service time.
BUT….you’re scared. You’re afraid your church will kick back because “we like to be able to know/see everyone” is being heard in the halls. You also fear no one coming to the new service time, so you’ll be hearing crickets when you preach. Trust me; these are real fears when contemplating adding a new service time. But you don’t have to give in to them.
At the church I pastor, we have added a service and failed. We have also added a second service and succeeded as well as a third service time and succeeded. I have made some mistakes and have also learned a few things along the way.
Talking with other church leaders, a few of the the questions that I get are:
- How do we know it’s time to add a service time? When it’s 70% full? 80% full?
- Do we need a bigger building or should we add a service time?
- Will this help our church or hurt our church?
- We barely have the volunteers to run one service. How do we add more volunteers for a second (or third) service?
- I feel like we will not be able to get our people to show up for an earlier service. How do we do this?
Those are all very valid questions and if I’m being honest, questions that I myself had to ask others before stepping into the multi-service venue.
There is much to learn about adding a worship service time. It’s one of those things you don’t learn in seminary (but should). In my experience of both failing and succeeding in adding service times, here are a few best practices to consider:
1. Start With Why
This is critical. You must start with why. (Thank you Simon Sinek) If you do not know why, when things get tough (and they just might at first), knowing why will keep you in the game. So why are you starting a new service time?
- Are you out of space and need more room for new attenders?
- Do you have a vision and desire to reach the unchurched in your community? Does your church?
- Are you anticipating new growth due to the time of season/new series, etc?
- Are you willing to change and sacrifice in order to reach those far from God?
There are a lot of very good reasons to add worship service time, but because it seems like the sexy thing to do is not one of them. And that’s not something your church will get excited about.
Let God set your heart on fire with a vision that needs more service time options and share that.
Let that vision inform your why.
2. Give Yourself Proper Time To Prepare
How long should you prepare? As long as it takes to get ready.
The truth is, you’re never fully ready. Andy Stanley said once, if he can be 80% sure, that’s good enough. That principle is true for adding a service. Good enough trumps perfect when there is a real need.
However, this doesn’t mean you should announce tomorrow that you are adding a service time. Give yourself time to prepare your volunteers, people, community and systems to add a service time.
The timing is up to you, but I have seen this time be anywhere from 3-6 weeks.
3. Talk To Others Who Have Done It Before
Before we added our first extra worship time, I bought a special course from a well-known church leader to learn “how-to” do it. I won’t say that I did not learn anything, but the take-aways were small.
Rather, I learned much more by having a few conversations with other leaders who had done it before. I brought my questions, sent a few emails, had some phone conversations and bought a few lunches. All together, I learned much more from other leaders when I talked to them one-on-one.
4. Prepare Your Volunteers
If you want to add a new service time, it would be beneficial to also add to your volunteer base. Let’s be honest; it’s never a bad idea to ask people to serve. In fact, it’s healthy.
If you are adding a service, it’s a win/win because people can serve one, attend one. If you are adding a third or more, it gets a little more difficult. People can still serve one, attend one or even serve two and attend one. Regardless, you’ll need more volunteers and you’ll need that culture to be healthy.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Start recruiting volunteers BEFORE you actually need them. There is not such thing as TOO many people serving
- Every season is recruiting season. I heard a football coach say once, “you’re always recruiting.” That’s true in football as well as in the church
- Evaluate the health of your volunteer culture by asking your volunteers what it’s like to serve in your church
- Drip the vision to your volunteer teams steadily over time so that adding a service time doesn’t come as a shock
- Have a plan to care for your volunteers and their kids. Multiple service times can mean that some volunteers are showing up super early. This also may mean that their kids are going to be there for multiple hours too. Find small ways to care for them by possibly providing a light breakfast or snack, a place for volunteer kids to chill between services and/or during one of the service times. Especially with the kids, make it fun for them to be there. The last thing you want
5. Have a plan to care for your volunteers and their kids
Multiple service times can mean that some volunteers are showing up super early. This also may mean that their kids are going to be there for multiple hours too.
Find small ways to care for them by:
- Providing a light breakfast or snack
- Providing a place for volunteer kids to chill between services and/or during one of the service times
- Make it fun to be at church all day. The last thing you want is for your volunteer kids to hate church. Lose the kids and you will likely lose the volunteer
6. Timing Is Everything
When you are adding a service time, timing is everything. There are certain times of year you want to take advantage of and other times of the year you should avoid like the plague.
You have two windows to operate in: Mid-January to early February or August to mid-September.
- Do not start a new service time the first Sunday in January
- Do not start a new service time AFTER Easter
- Never ever start a new service time during the summer (June-July)
- When you add a service time, change all your service times. This makes everyone move to a new service. For example, if you have an 10am service, instead of doing 10am and 1130am, do 930am and 11am. If you don’t change all the times, more people will consider staying in the service time they’ve always attended, especially if you are going from 1 to 2 times.
- Avoid, if possible, anything that starts with 8 in front of it (8am, 830am etc).
7. Adding A Service Will Not Fix Problems
Adding a second, third or whatever number of services will not fix the problems in your church. If anything, it may just multiple and make visible the problems you already have.
For example, if you have a bad volunteer culture, adding a service time will expose those problems. If you are declining in attendance, adding a service time will not make your church grow. Instead it will make your church feel even smaller.
Adding a service time is only a good idea if you are already out of room, it is part of your DNA and vision to reach your community and it is something that you are willing to invest time, energy and sweat into.
There are lots of variables that play into when it’s a good time and if you’re ready to add a new worship service time. Seek wise counsel, pray, and pray some more to get a clear direction on what you and your church should do.