A church leader recently emailed us to ask whether it’s better to go to one Saturday night service or two. Here are some ideas I suggested.
Sunday night instead? Before deciding on Saturday night, make sure you’ve explored the pros and cons of Sunday evening. Twenty years ago many churches had a Sunday night service for the same crowd that came Sunday morning. For a lot of churches today, Sunday night is another round of what was offered Sunday morning. For example, Austin Stone Church doesn’t have Saturday night, but instead runs four Sunday services, two in the morning and two in the evening: may 9:00 am, 11:15 am, 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm.
Gauge for Saturday? Saturday services generally work best where other Saturday evening spiritual events are part of the culture. Look into Roman Catholic churches in your area: if Saturday night is their biggest or near biggest, it’s a good indicator it can work for you. Then after you start, be sure to monitor evangelism. In some communities people can readily invite unchurched friends to Saturday night, but for others it doesn’t work well.
Going from zero to two on Saturday? Generally for a Protestant church to do two Saturday evening services, it needs to be large and growing – having filled all the open Sunday morning slots, which gives a constant spill factor to bring new people to Saturday. For several years New Heights Church, Vancouver, WA ran THREE Saturday services, and three Sunday morning services. Today it does two on Saturday (5:00 pm and 6:30 pm), three on Sunday morning (8:15am, 9:45am, 11:15am), and then a special service called Ascent on Sunday evenings 6:00 pm.
Full program? A few churches try Saturday evening on a limited program basis, such as nursery only, but then it fades because the core people tend to come back Sunday morning as well, burning out over time, not able to sustain both Saturday and Sunday. Same with volunteer workers. I think it works best to be full-program so that people don’t feel Saturday is limiting their experience. Also for many churches, having TWO services is more sustainable than one (assuming they have critical mass of attendance) because then volunteers often serve at one hour and worship at the other, whereas if you have just one Saturday service, you can’t do that.
How to get people to shift? Appeal to groups to try the shift for six months. In other words, make the appeal to shift with your friends, since being with friends is a big factor of what makes church attendance fulfilling.
Guarantees? Stepping out on faith involves risk. As I’m working through the gospels in my own reading this month, I’m reminded at how many times God seems to invite us to experiment, such as the person who received an investment from God and sought to multiply it. The biggest praise was for those who found a good return. The biggest criticism was for those who fearfully buried the investment in the sand. That’s my interpretation of Matthew 25:14-30.
What are YOU learning about Saturday night church services? Please add to the conversation with your comments.