Seven Trends in Worship Service Times

May 25, 2015

If your church has one service at 11:00 am on Sunday mornings, it is likely in the minority. In a recent reader survey we conducted with 1,649 responses, slightly over half of the congregations had only one worship service on Sunday morning, and the times of that single service varied.

The “sacred hour” of 11:00 am is no longer the worship time for a majority of churches.

Though we don’t have definitive information on the origin of the 11:00 am worship time, it appears to be related to an agrarian society. We started our services late in the morning so the farmers could milk the cows and do necessary farm chores.

So what are the trends in worship service times? Our information is based upon the survey we noted above as well as anecdotal data derived from our interaction with thousands of churches.

  1. Churches with multiple Sunday morning services will soon be in the majority. This trend, once more common with larger churches, is now taking hold in congregations of all sizes.
  2. The 11:00 am worship service is no longer the designated time for a majority of churches. The so-called sacred hour of worship is not sacred in most churches. This change started slowly, but it is pervasive now.
  3. Earlier Sunday morning services are gaining in popularity. Worship services with start times from 7:00 am to 8:30 am are growing in many churches. This trend seems to be related to the growth of empty-nest boomers.
  4. The growth in the number of non-Sunday primary services is steady but slow. There has not been a huge upsurge in the number of primary services on a day other than Sunday. The steady growth, however, is an indication that this approach will soon be common in many churches.
  5. The number of churches with concurrent worship service times is small, but will continue to increase. Concurrent services require either a video feed or different preaching/teaching pastors. As the trend in multi-site churches continues to grow, so will these service times.
  6. The most popular worship times start between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This mid-morning worship time attracts attendees in churches with both single and multiple worship services. As I noted in number three above, I anticipate a shift in popularity to even earlier services.
  7. Worship wars over service times will continue to wane. Though the worship wars have largely been about music style, there have been many wars over worship times as well. We will see fewer of these battles as more churches adopt varieties of worship times.

What are your church’s worship times for its primary weekly services? Has your church made any major changes lately? What have been the results? Let me hear from you

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151 Comments

  • Wayne Rhodes, PhD says on

    Thom,
    When I was called to my last congregation; they had one service- 9:30 to 10:30am. The pastoral staff became aware of a need for a contemporary service. We decided that if we wanted to reach a younger crowd, we needed the contemporary service to have the 11:00 am hour. In order to meet that need we went to 3 services

    8:15am to 9:00am was a semi-liturgical service. We found that many older people attended this service. We also found this service to be attractive to business, people; who wanted to worship without the pressure of engaging a lot of people. The male clergy would wear a coat and tie. The female clergy would wear a dress.

    9:30am to 10:30am was our liturgical service. It was concurrent with Sunday School. The clergy wore robes.

    10:50am to Noon was our Contemporary Service. The Praise Band would begin singing at 10:50am and the service would begin at 11:00am. The clergy would usually wear jeans to this service. This was also the hour that the children would sing.

    Our Sunday School teachers had the option of worshipping at the 1st or 3rd services.

    10:30am to 11:45am ONE FAMILY REUNION SERVICE. We would have this service whenever there was a 5th Sunday in the month. It was followed by a meal.

  • Most black churches that have two morning services:

    Traditional Service Style at 8:30a/ 9:30a
    Contemporary Style 11:30a, 12:30p, or 1:30p

  • I disagree about the service times other than the reference regarding services starting between 9:30-10:30.

    Service times for the black community, especially Baptist churches they start start at either 11 am or 11:30am. I have seen for some of the more progressive churches start time of 10am.

    The black churches that have two morning worship services start at 9:30am/ 11 or 11:30am.
    The black churches that has two services one, Morning, and the other in Evening. Times are 11a/ 6p.

    For the black community these times are popular due Sunday afternoon programs with special guests usually starting at 3 or 3:30. This gives way for the chance to have a church dinner for their gusts in their fellowship immediately following morning service.

    Sunday School at 9:45 am
    Morning Worship at 11 am
    Afternoon Special Program Service at 3 pm
    Examples: Mother’s and Father’s Day, Missions, Youth Day, Church Anniversary and Pastor Appreciation/ Anniversary, Midwinter and Fall Musical, MLK-Black History Program, Christmas and Easter Service and Play, and Veterans Program.
    Evening Prayer an Worship Service at 5/ 6 pm

  • This is great! However it needs to be updated please. 2018

  • Brad Lawson says on

    So our EFCA church is strongly considering going from two services to three as we no longer have room for people. Obviously every church has her own dynamics and “stuff” but I am looking for general advice.

    We currently have the same contemporary service at 9am and 10:45am and on a rare occasion we will also offer a class at one of the time slots but we don’t really do “Sunday School.” We would want to keep the third service as the same contemporary one. We have parking lot space/congestion issue already as folks who come to the 10:45 may struggle to find a slot if the 9am service goes long, so that is def. a concern. I am leaning toward doing an 8am, 9:30am, and 11am. Maybe not doing a closing song at the 11am so the worship band can leave early (long day). An 8am contemporary worship service seems like it would lack a lot of energy but not sure what else to do.

    We really don’t have a second space we could do a serve or live feed in. Any thoughts or resources you have would be much appreciated. God bless!

  • We are a Breakout Church. Once a very small, formal and traditional congregation in a small town. We are now fully contemporary and have experienced significant growth to the point we now provide 2 Sunday contemporary services. It’s the second time we have done this and neither time has it worked. We are now discussing once again about going back to 1 service and finding creative ways to make our limited space work. Do small town churches succeed at more than one service? I don’t know of any. We have remodeled, bought another building but no matter what we did we filled up. We are financially equipped to build a building large enough so we did 2 services for the second time and its just not working. Any information about this could be helpful.

  • “We’ve always done it this way….” has been the phrase I have heard for the 40 plus years I’ve served as music minister at various churches. The church I’m serving has an average attendance in the 9:45 a.m. Sunday School classes being 90. The 10:55 a.m. worship service has been averaging 110 for the past 5 years. Our Sunday 6:00 worship service has an average of 15 and the Wednesday Adults prayer and Bible time is averaging 3. We have a large youth turnout on Wednesday for the Youth Ministry and a nice amount of children for their Wednesday evening for the kids activities. We are a typical Southern Baptist Church in a town of only 16,000. There are 31 S.Baptist Churches within 50 miles of each other. This, I think, is a problem too big for us to conquer…so, we are relying on God to help us all survive.

  • Numbers of attendees at a worship service matter only to the extent that you need money to keep the building maintained and to pay the pastor. I’ve read all the responses and have noted very few, a couple, who say that attendance increased because of time changes. The risk of losing attendees would seem to outweigh any change in the mere hope that, thereby, attendance and money would increase. The congregations I have studied do not increase income by changing the time of worship service and more than the type of music does so. Nevertheless, I found this thread very helpful to the extent that I would not recommend a change in worship times.

  • thanks for this post! any updates for 2017? related things we are discussing

    1) to keep sunday school / bible study hour on sunday or not
    2) offering a PM option (ie sunday or sat night…

    currently we have a very traditional service at 10:15 on sunday am with bible class / sunday school at 9

    we are adding a contemporary service …. trying to decide
    both on sunday AM with BC/SS or not (ie sundays
    optio. 1: 9:00 trad and 10:30 or 11:00 cont)
    option 2: (8:30 trad, 9:45 bc/ss, 11:: cont)
    or option 3: 9: trad and 10:15 bc/ss and 5:00 or 5:30 cont)

    we are in a sub of austin tx (professional – family and retired community)

    do you have any related updates posts or research?

  • Joel Dryden says on

    We’ve been running a Saturday service for about 6 years now, very little growth. As a multisite church, this is our venue to capture sermon video for other campuses. I’m finding most churches that offer a Saturday service do so in the evening as we have done, is there any research on a Saturday morning service, like a 9am, in contrast to an afternoon or evening?

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