Hold on! Did you read that title? Wow! Chopping church services?! Sounds pretty intense. Well, it is. But isn’t chopping church services like tossing key doctrine, or ignoring people’s spiritual needs?
Chopping Church Services – Seven Reasons Why It’s a Good Idea
First, let me clarify what I mean by “chopping church services,” and then I’ll tell you why it may be a good idea. First, I’m not speaking about churches who have multiple services to accommodate more attendees. Second, I talking about churches which have different “styles” of services (e.g., traditional, contemporary). Both of these topics warrant a separate discussion. What I’m considering is churches that have several services on Sunday, and people are expected to attend all of them. Often, it looks like this:
- 10am – Sunday School
- 11am – Sunday Morning Worship
- 2pm – Sunday Afternoon Bible Study
- 6pm – Sunday Evening Service
Kind of looks like a typical church sign, doesn’t it?
Here are some reasons why chopping church services may be a good idea:
- The additional services may be more input than people can process. Have you ever gone through a Sunday of services and thought at the end of the day, “I have no idea what the pastor preached on today.” Before you feel spiritually guilty, think about it this way. Maybe you heard so much that you can’t sort it all. How many passages, how many points, how many applications? In chemistry, this is called supersaturation. Supersaturation happens when a solution contains more material than it can actually process or dissolve. Cognitive supersaturation can happen when you hear more Bible messages than you can possibly process. When this happens, the teaching and preaching you experienced was merely heard and not processed. Having Fewer services may actually highlight the importance and significance of the weekly worship service, not dilute it. Less might be more.
- The additional services may be nothing more than a cultural Christian fixture. Contemporary Christianity is intricately bound up with the fabric of tradition and culture. This presents dangers to our Christianity. In fact, some features of our “faith” may simply be fixtures of our tradition. This plight makes it difficult to extricate the unnecessary (extra church services?) from the essential (assembling together). It could be that multiple church services are doing nothing more than upholding a relic of Christian culture—a relic that perhaps has no biblical warrant. When we strive to protect culture instead of Scripture, we run the risk of worshipping idols. That’s dangerous.
- The additional services may turn the day of rest into a day of weariness. Often, Sunday becomes the day of weariness, not a day of rest. Often, the reason it becomes so tiring is because of the multiple services, events, and activities. Rather than looking forward to a restful Sunday, people dread the day full of meetings. Chopping church services may be a helpful way to create a more restful Sunday. There is no spiritual gain in burning out for God, especially on a day that should be restful. Do you look forward to a restful Sunday, or do you fear a wearying one?
- The additional services may be a waste of time. What is happening during the church service? Yes, there may be preaching, singing, and learning about God, but are you really using time profitably? Or, is your effort simply to put on another show because you feel like you have to? Think of the time constraints an additional service puts upon a family. Your evening service may only last for one hour. However, a family (particularly one with small children) may spend an hour beforehand getting dressed, going potty, fixing hair, getting in car seats, and finally travelling to the church building. Then, there’s the commute home. That’s a lot of time, especially when it happens twice or more in one day. Ephesians tells us to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16) or “make the best use of” it. What can your church do (or not do) to make a better use of the time?
- The additional services may encroach upon family time. In our frenzied, fast-paced culture, families have precious little time together. For some families, spending some time together may actually feel kind of awkward, because they’re not used to it. It feels weird. Often churches, perhaps with good intentions, separate families with their exclusively age-graded approach. After a day of age segregated church activities, the family hasn’t spent much time together (if any). I have a friend—a father of four grown children—who took his family to church their whole lives. Although the churches he attended held evening services, he and his family did not attend. Why not? Was he depriving his family of essential spiritual nutrition? No. Instead, he recognized the importance of family togetherness, and Sunday evenings were a protected family time. He recognized the importance of both church and family, and made a decision that was best for his family. Perhaps all the additional Sunday services are preventing families in your church from spending time together. How could you correct this error?
- The additional services may be exhausting to your pastoral staff and church leadership. Consider your church’s leadership team. In most churches, services just don’t spontaneously occur with no forethought or preparation. Many hours are invested in the preparation of music, the rehearsal of music, studying, planning, cleaning, creating bulletins, designing media, etc. Hard work and long hours aren’t a bad thing, but be are you wearing out your volunteers and leadership by the additional services? Preparing just one Bible message takes a lot of concentrated thought and study. Perhaps, when the pastor is called upon to prepare three messages for one day, he is forced to sacrifice quality for quantity.
- The additional services may be replaced by something more beneficial. Admittedly, the previous six points are negative. So far, I have not mentioned a solution. Here it comes. In the first place, the absence of church services may by itself provide a respite, refreshment, and nourishment. In addition, a local church may also design a small group approach where a few families and individuals gather in people’s homes for prayer, Bible study, or accountability. This could replace an evening service or midweek service. Another option is for the church to have regular meals, perhaps a noon meal, on Sunday, rather than have an evening service (for example). I know of some churches that do this every week. Everyone has to eat, and most worship services end right around lunch time. In the New Testament, we read that the church held regular love feasts. Why not? But again, perhaps the best “solution” is not adding more activities or services, but just having less. And profiting from it.
Please understand, multiple services are not inherently time-wasting, fatigue-inducing, family-shattering, tradition-worshipping, evil events. There are pros to having lots of Sunday services (maybe). But there are also cons. As you carefully consider your approach, keep in mind the priority—glorifying God, whether by having forty services on Sunday…or just one.