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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  • We have one service, 10:30 and this is informed by our ecclesiology. We want our members to worship together, fellowship and serve one another; to live as a community. This is a challenge of course. But it would be even more of a challenge if our membership worshiped at different times, many people never knowing their fellow members. We have an average Sunday morning attendance of 250 with the capacity to hold 330. If our growth continues, we will plant a church (with funds and personnel ready to go) rather than go to multiple services. We just preached through the reasons for this in April/May as so many good, solid churches in our area have multiple services and even satellite locations. We don’t criticize those who do it differently but simply want our people to understand why we do it the way we do it.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you, Kyle. Your church is certainly not alone among those that hold an ecclesiological position of one service.

  • We are an Inner-City Church Plant, right at 2 years old from the start of our core group (18 months doing Sunday worship) and we started our services at 9:30a out of necessity. However, we have seen success with slight slow growth in attendance as well as high participation in outreach activities that we do on Sunday’s. Is this the trend with earlier times for African-American churches as well?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I wish I could help, Neal, but I don’t have information on the topic specific to racial and ethnic groups. Obviously, your trends are good, so the time seems to work well for your context.

  • Luke Cole says on

    We have one service at 9:30 and classes after that begin about 10:45. We just announced this yesterday that we are switching and having classes at 9:30 and worship at 10:30. The primary reason for this change is because we feel it would encourage people who don’t attend church to come with a later time. If that makes sense.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Makes sense to me.

      • What are your thoughts on the reverse of this response? Moving 10:30 worship to 9:15 and SS to 10:30? The thought would be to start with the big group, and then give visitors the immediate opportunity to go to a small group. Starting earlier could be an issue, especially getting everyone in place on time. It would enable us to use SS to discuss the sermon topic at a more in-depth level, create immediate opportunities for fellowship with lunch after SS, and open the door for future SS growth with an early SS (especially for our seniors).

  • Our 9:30 traditional service has about 200 more than our 11:00 contemporary. Interesting to consider if the lower attendance is because of the time or the style. From your post, I’m guessing it might be the time.

  • Brian Johnson says on

    As a general rule what service times do you consider to be the most attractive to unchurched or dechurched people? Often it seems we decide on worship service times based on what’s best for the people on the inside, without giving careful consideration to those we are trying to reach. Thoughts?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Brian: It depends on the demographics of the groups. For example, unchurched and dechurched Millennials would likely gravitate toward a mid-morning time. Boomers would likely split between mid-morning and early morning. I can’t see either group preferring a late morning time such as 11 am. If my church had one service, I would prefer a time of either 9:30 or 10 to reach those groups.

  • We have one service at 10. It’s too late for families whose kids are in hardcore sports, and too early for some of the older people whose mobility is limited…but it’s basically good for the majority of the congregation. Bonus: it rarely falls into infant/toddler nap time.

    I think I would take issue with the idea that churches of all sizes are going to move toward multiple worship times. I find this highly unlikely in smaller churches, because we are also seeing trends away from full time paid church staff and pastors. To ask part time staff to do multiple services (especially if they need to be different, though even leading two identical services is much more work than just one) means they will spend less time doing other things. Add in the loss of energy/atmosphere/critical mass that comes with halving an already smallish congregation–*especially* if they are one that worships in a too-large space–and multiple services can be a recipe for death rather than growth. Very few people want to come back after a visit to a church where 40 people sit in a 300-seat sanctuary, led by an exhausted part time pastor, no matter what time the service is.

  • We have 24 campuses at and all of them have a different quantity of services depending on their size. However, our larger campuses have 8 services and here are their times:


    10:00a (most popular)
    11:30a (second most popular)

  • We still meet at 11:00 most of the time: July 4th through Labor day we meet at 10:00 am and nobody seems to mind getting up a little earlier. But I imagine that if I tried to change the time year-round that there would be a revolt. When these folks say “We’ve always done it this way”, they don’t really mean always – just since 1881.

  • How do you know when to start a second? In other words, is the philosophy of thinking to be to have one so people have options, or is it because of growth and space needs? I realize this is a simple question, but we are wanting to start a second and if anybody would like to give input, I’d be grateful 🙂

    • Thom Rainer says on

      All of those reasons are used at times, Eric. Let’s see if other readers have input.

      • When I first started attending my church it was having a growth explosion. They had to go to five services. One was on Saturday night which was popular with families. Then Sunday mornings there were four services staggered. Two were in the regular auditorium with two more staggered slightly in the gym. They eventually settled on the gym getting the live teaching and those in the more comfortable auditorium getting the video.
        We then built another auditorium that had room for seating to grow and went back to the 9am and 11am services.
        The 9am is the fuller service. In the toddler area that I work parents often choose based on their children’s nap schedule.
        I’m not sure why the university kids pick that time most often. You would think they would sleep in. It is definitely noticeable when summer break comes and they are gone for three months. The 9am is not close to full then.

  • The previous church I served with grew to 3 services. On Sundays we had south campus worship center services at 9:00 and 10:30, and a north campus family life center service at 10:10. That building housed that service in the gym and adult discipleship in classes directly across the street. I would preach after worship at 9:00, walk across the street and begin preaching at about 10:15, after a welcome and one praise song. The message there ended after I received a call from our head usher across the street when the 10:30 service had one song left in the set (on vibrate of course). Wrap up, then walk back over and (usually) come into the auditorium as they were having their greeting time. This worked well for the last nine years of my ministry there. The drawbacks (as seen and voiced by a handful of vocal people), was that newcomers didn’t get to meet the Sr. Minister. Just recently the church dropped the 10:10 service for a Saturday night offering. Don’t know how that is going at present. We fixed just about every complaint about the set-up, other than spending tens of thousands for a real time video feed. The entire multi-service effort was to do what we could to fit people’s schedules as well as maximize our facilities, without spending millions on a new, large auditorium. But I think that idea has gone the way of all flesh with the new leadership. Thanks for the article Thom. I look forward to these emails and appreciate you and your team, and what they mean to the Kingdom.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you as well, Jeff. It’s people like you in this community that make the blog and podcast so insightful.

  • Thank you for this article. For over 18 years we had an 8 am contemplative service with little music (45 min. in length) 9 am Liturgical service and a 11 am contemporary service. With Sunday School at 10:00 am When 8 am service was decreasing in numbers because the elderly who attended it were dying off. We went to two services.

    People wanted fuller services so we eliminated the 8 am service and now have a 8:30 am Liturgical service and a 10:30 am Contemporary service. With Sunday School at 9:30 am. Problem remains not enough time for Sunday School. Change has not been easy. Another church like us has their 10:30 service at 10:45 am However, I have long resisted any times for anything on the quarter hour.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      That’s an interesting point, Mark. I would love to hear from readers about service times other than on the hour and half-hour.

  • 8:30 & 10:50 a.m. Traditional worship in the sanctuary
    9:30 a.m. “Contemporary” worship in the fellowship hall
    Same preacher preaches all three services

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