Seven Trends in Worship Service Times


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

Posted on May 25, 2015

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Michael Barnes says on

    My argument has been that we need an 11:00 service because new residents, visiting for the first time, will show up at 11:00. Now, apparently, that is no longer the case, because they can check the church’s website.

  • Collin says on

    Our church does 8,9:30, and 11
    They all do the same worship set list and everything. You could go to all three services and nothing changes. In our church the 8 am is actually the lower attendance, and 11 is usually the most packed, but the 9:30 is a close second. I think in our area it’s safe to say the 11 o’clock will usually be the most packed. Our family life groups along with youth are during the 9:30 so it’s just easier on the family to get to church at 9:30 and worship at 11

  • We had always started at 11:00, however when the 11:00 began to grow we started a 9:00 AM Power Hour and moved the traditional family worship to 11:15. The attendance at the 9:00 varies its up and down but the 11:15 is steady. They call it the microwave service. We have a choir at 11:15 and we just sing hymns at 9:00.

  • A few years ago when I was on staff at another church we moved the 2nd service start time 15 minutes later to allow the parking lot to clear and avoid unnecessary traffic jams so it would be easier for guests and our 2nd service attendees to find parking. Until then I didn’t know people held their service times so near and dear to their heart!

  • We moved ours to 10:30 so we could beat the Methodist to the buffets for lunch…just kidding.

    Our current pastor made the change when he started. There was some grumbling from the older folks but they have adjusted. Personally I like it. Wouldn’t mind earlier.

  • Saturday 6 – starting w coffee and dessert
    Sunday 8 & 10:30
    10:30 is largest followed Saturday with 8 being the smallest. Ave attendance for weekend is 450

  • Stephen Arp says on

    In 2006 our County Seat FBC moved to overlapping dual SS/Worship (one traditional, one contemporary) times at 9a and 1030a. Growth demanded a third Worship, changing to 815a, 930a, and 11a (first and third were traditional). The 11a slot died a slow death, and community/visitor perceptions were of a declining church (but SS and the first two services continued growth). Two years ago we moved to 0815 SS One, 0930 Traditional/SS Two, 11a Praise/Contemporary. We have experienced continued growth in this model.

    My question would be: How much longer will churches persist in Sunday Evening programming? Our people are voting by non-attendance on Sunday evenings, while Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings continue positive trends. Thoughts?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Stephen –

      I wrote a blog post on the topic of Sunday evening services. We also did a podcast on it. You can see all the content and comments at this site. Simply put the topic in the search box.

  • I have served churches along the Mississippi Coast for more than 30 years as a Music Minister and Worship Leader. The trends in the deep South seem slower than molasses, but they are finally catching on. Ironically, the ‘older generation’ and typically more traditional churches are embracing a pre-11am start time more readily than startup churches. I believe it has more to do with a ‘generation’ who rise early and simply want to get on with their day. Then, in our culture, there are the water sports fanatics who want to ‘hit the islands’ as early as possible; but still regard Sunday with some level of ‘honor’ for for the Lord’s house. Then, there are those very missional minded and attractional churches whose houses are packed, and mutli-service options are simply a necessity in order to accommodate their increasing crowds. The ‘catch’ with most churches along our MS Coast is — Discipleship. Yep, that ‘D’ word. Discipline. Regimen. Daily habitual time with God. Crowds are fairly east to attract. Connected and faithful #Disciples … that’s a whole nother ball game!

  • We meet at 11. We brought it up as a staff a few years ago to move it to 10.30. Met very stiff opposition. Made for a great business meeting!

  • I haven’t seen 11:00a.m. in a very long time. Had to move back to 10:30 to get people out by 12:00 for the lunch rush. 8:30 is very popular for early services as it allows people time to get on with their busyness which has taken over society. In the late 80s – 90s I served in a very Spiritual church, we started at 10:30 and went till whenever. 12:30 – 1:30 however the spirit of the service led. We retained 0% visitors, I was in charge of visitation, we mostly got horrible feedback for long services that messed with their busy schedules. I also knew a SBC pastor fired for taking services till 12:15.

  • We do 9:15 & 10:45, and those times work well for us. We’re looking into starting a Saturday night service.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Let me know how your Saturday night service goes, Jeremy.

      • I too am thinking about starting Satrurday night service to the 5 Sunday services we are currently having. Suggestions on time? 5 or 6pm?

      • 6 pm or 6:30 this gives adequate time for dinner and people who get out of work at 6 can make it to the service. I am currently looking for a church that does this. We would love to go to a service that is not on Sunday morning. Many families work on the weekends, including ours. We want to go to church every week but have found it impossible bc not enough churches in our area offer times that would be convienent for families that have to work on the weekends.

      • I would go with 5pm. If your service is about 1 hour long this would give the perfect oppurtunity for people to do something social right after church, such as go out to each together, go to small group, etc.

      • Constance J Mill-Shaw says on

        I would love to come.

      • Hey Thom, our leadership is wrestling through adding either a Saturday or a Sunday evening service. You have any advice?

  • 8 am Rite I, no choir
    9 am Rite 2, family service with choir
    11 am Rite I, with choir

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, Mark.

    • Marjorie says on

      We recently moved our later service time from 10:00 to 10:15 so we could have Sunday School between the 8:00 and 10:15 services. Previously, Sunday School had been after the 10:00 service, which carried into the noon hour. It meant a later lunch and a later start to the rest of the day’s activities.

      Our 8:00 service has been growing and that is where we are gaining new parishioners. They tend not to be young families with children, but singles or older couples.

      Our later service has seen a serious drop in attendance in recent years, especially since this past winter.

      • We started a contemporary service a few years ago, although we do have a consistent following every week, we’re not growing. Our service is at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon, the committee informed us that if the service doesent grow by May they will terminate the service. The people who attend the service love it and the fellowship and music is incredible. Any advice would deeply be appreciated.
        Thank you and God bless

      • 1 p.m. does not strike me as a “convenient” time for most church goers and seems especially inconvenient for a non-church person. Not to be rude but I can see why that time isn’t growing. Have you considered moving your contemporary service to later in the day, like maybe 5? That has the potential to reach a different demographic that aren’t morning people, enjoy their afternoon naps, or perhaps even have to work nights so they are sleeping in the day. Our church is looking at adding a new 5 p.m. service on Sundays for that very reason. Blessings.

      • We’re on second shift jobs and would LOVe to find a service at 1:00! Maybe target these 2nd shift places

      • Ended up having to find a new Church several years ago, the saying 11:00 was because of an agrarian culture is no doubt true, because we couldn’t get the chores done to get to Church at 9:30. Now I’m hearing rumors our current church wants to change the hours of worship too. I realize it could boost attendance by 10% maybe, but this Church will loose near 20% of it’s attendance if they make this move.

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