“We were there every time the doors opened — Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.” So goes the conventional every-time-the-doors-opened saying of many a churchgoing family. But in some churches today, if you were there every time the doors opened, you wouldn’t be doing much but going in and out of doors.
Many churches have a wide variety of programs, meetings, groups, and activities. Every day of the week, and sometimes every hour of the day, is filled with some type of thing going on.
Some churches have chosen to hold a service on Saturday evening. Traditionally, Saturday evenings were times when the church was closed up and quiet. Why would a church have a Saturday evening service? Should your church do the same?
When a Church Might Have a Saturday Evening Service
Wait. Don’t Hate.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Saturday service model, I know what you might be thinking right now. Let me try to explain.
• This is not about the Seventh Day Adventists. If your church is not part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I’m not suggesting such a switch. As an editorial side note, I hold the belief and practice that Sunday (not Saturday) is the day that is to be set apart for worship and gathering.
• This is not about neglecting Sunday. Though I’m suggesting that you be open to the idea of a Saturday night service, I’m not suggesting that you abandon Sunday!
• This is not an excuse to get church out of the way to have a “free Sunday.” In a day when some churches shunt services to make way for ball games, I’m not proposing Sunday as a service-free time for Christian mallgoers, lakegoers, or football gamegoers.
So, what is this all about?
The Idea of the Saturday Evening Service
In the mid-1970s Willow Creek Community Church was instrumental in pioneering the “seeker” model of doing church. The idea was that church is to be an instrument of evangelism, rather than simply a gathering place for believers. Thus, in their viewpoint, church should be conducted in such a way to make it inviting to those who are “seeking” the truth. Everything — musical styles, architectural design, seating, sermon topics, and other details — was carefully planned to avoid offense to the unbeliever, and to welcome them into the service.
One such adaptation was the Saturday evening service, designed to welcome those who may not be inclined to attend a traditional Sunday service. Thus, the Saturday evening service was started in some churches to welcome those who are interested in learning about church or the Christian faith (just not on Sunday).
Should you have a Saturday evening service?
Many churches today hold Saturday evening churches. The churches that do so are mostly those that follow the megachurch model, or who are interested in reaching out to the unchurched in the community. Here are a few of the reasons why a church might be interested in starting a Saturday evening service.
• You’re aware of an interest in your community from nonbelievers for such a service. If you as a church leader have been approached about this from non-Christian people, there is a chance that there could be community reception. The Saturday evening service doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. It can be a simple Bible study or discussion group centered around the Christian faith. The idea, again, is not a Sunday worship replacement. It is, rather, an evangelistic tool.
• You’re interested in launching a community evangelistic effort. The Saturday-evening model is, or should be, evangelistic in nature. That is, the service on Saturday isn’t for believers who gather for corporate worship, edification, and instruction. It is, instead, for ministering to those who do not hold to the Christian faith. Though most churches want to do “outreach,” some don’t quite know how. The Saturday evening service may be a great start.
Advice for the Saturday Service
Something as significant as a Saturday evening service needs to be thought through carefully before it’s launched. Here are a few suggestions if you are considering the start of your church’s Saturday service:
• Do you need it? The churches resources should be leveraged in order to render them as useful as possible. Time and money will be expended upon a Saturday evening service event. Will this Saturday evening event serve a need in your community? Does it fit with your evangelistic strategy? Do you have personnel to help in the leadership of the event? Consider the needs of your community and the support of the church as you make your plans.
• Make your purpose clear. Go into things with a well-defined sense of purpose. Be sure to remind your people that this service isn’t to let them check church off their to-do list a day early. It’s not a provision for Sunday sleep-in. It’s for evangelism. Evangelism is for the purpose of reaching those who do not have faith.
• Make it different. The Saturday evening service is not a dress rehearsal for the Sunday service. In fact, it’s almost wrong to call it “church,” since church is the gathering of Christians. This service, if carried out with a clear purpose, is not for the gathering of Christians. It is for the proclamation of the gospel among those who are not Christians. For that reason, it’s going to look different from Sunday worship. There won’t be an offering. There might not be “congregational” singing. There might not be a “sermon” as such. Evangelism looks different than edification.
A Saturday service isn’t for every assembly, and it may not be for yours. Nonetheless, it may be that God can use this as a tool in your community, to allow for the greater spread of the gospel.