By Sam Rainer
My church has five services on Sunday morning across two sites and in two languages. I preach three services in English, our Hispanic pastor preaches a service in Spanish, and our campus pastor preaches at our second site. Why do people choose one service over another? I’ll give you six reasons from the perspective of my church. However, I believe these reasons apply to many churches offering multiple services.
- Language preference. This reason is obvious. If you speak only Spanish, you’ll likely choose our Hispanic service. However, it’s not as simple as you might think. Children and students of those who attend the Hispanic service often end up in our children’s ministry and student ministry. Some of our bilingual members go back-and-forth between English and Spanish services.
- Time preference. Some people choose a service because the time slot works well for them. I have a friend who goes to the 8:00 a.m. service simply because he’s up early and likes that time.
- Style preference. Some pastors and church leaders believe style is the driving factor for service selection. It’s important, certainly. A monastic chant service is not likely to grow. But we should not fall into the trap of believing one service is more highly attended than another simply because of style.
- Group preference. A worship service is often the front door to a church, meaning people will attend a worship service before doing anything else in the church. However, once people decide on a church, a small group preference can dictate which service they attend. In our church, some attend the 9:30 a.m. service because their preferred group meets at 11:00 a.m.
- Family situation. We do not offer programming for children during our 8:00 a.m. service. The main reason is demand—simply too few children would be present to warrant year-round programming. Therefore, if you do not want to have your child in the service, then 8:00 a.m. at our church is not an option for you. I know of other churches that offer student ministry only at one timeslot. Therefore, families with students end up picking a service based upon ministry availability.
- Week-to-week decision. Believe it or not, there are some who select a worship service based on what is happening in their lives that week. If they want to sleep in, then they go to a later service. If they want to get somewhere before lunch, then they go to an earlier service. Personally, it does not bother me so long as someone is faithful.
Let me share with you two lessons I’ve learned from these six reasons: 1) Don’t assume people are attending a service just because of style, which is often the argument. 2) Having more options can benefit your church. In our case, we have multiple services mainly because of parking problems. We fill our parking lot long before we fill our worship space. But having these options enables us to reach more people and keep them.