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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  • Our church has two campuses and a smaller chapel. We have a Saturday service at 6PM at the main campus, and Sunday services at 8:30 (chapel, only traditional service), 9:30 (Downtown), 10:15 (Lakeside), and 11:00 (Downtown). Nearly the entire worship team and the pastor for that morning travels between the Downtown and Lakeside campuses each morning. I don’t believe it will sustain this for much longer as the growth of the church will require a second Lakeside service, and I’m pretty sure that nobody wants to start at 11:45. It’s probable that we will move to some kind of video venue in the near future.

    Our pastors and staff are fantastic for being able to do this as long as they have. My concern is that it will eventually lead to some burn out. Sunday mornings are quite hectic.

  • Donald Reid says on

    We are a small church (125 Sunday Mornings) our Sunday school starts at 9:45 am and service starts at 11:00, no exceptions. They Idea of changing the service time come up a few years back and was voted down by a very large margin. The 11:00 hour has been the hour of worship since the church began in 1984 and I believe it will always stay that way.

  • We have a very traditional schedule, but it works for us. Sunday School (which we’ve FINALLY just started calling “Bible Study Groups”) is at 9:45 (nobody shows up until 10.) and morning worship @ 11. What has amazed me is our Sunday night worship attendance @ 6pm. Honestly, I joined the staff as worship leader ready to have conversations about the advantages of not having Sunday evening worship, but the church quickly showed me by their attendance how much they enjoy it. We will typically have just under 300 people on Sunday mornings and 2/3 of that back on Sunday nights. I don’t know of another church like it. I’ve enjoyed being proved wrong about my initial thoughts on this.

  • Your churches don’t worship at 11:00? Buncha liberals! You people need to get saved! 😉

    I’m kidding, of course. People often forget that the 11:00 was a classic form of contextualization. In the old days they often had worship late in the morning so people could have time to do their farm chores. In some rural areas that might still make sense, but I don’t see why it’s become so sacred in urban areas. Our church currently starts at 10:45, but I’m toying with the idea of switching the times for Sunday School and church one Sunday just to shake things up a little.

  • One church I studied had an 8:30 service, 9:45 Bible classes, and a 10:45 service. Two thirds of the congregation, and the vast majority of the families with kids, attended the 8:30 service. The advantage they saw was that schools start their days earlier than they used to, and kids were accustomed to lunch time during the week falling between 10:45 and 11:15.

    Sermons are hard enough to sit through when you’re seven, but when you’re seven and hungry it’s just this side of impossible.

  • Tammy D says on

    The article and comments have been very interesting to me. We left our beloved church family (10:00 start) and moved to FL several months ago. We have visited churches of all shapes & sizes – and denominations! We attend the traditional service (if there are options) so our start time is not always a matter of personal preference. Our experience has been quite varied but out of probably a dozen or more churches (sometimes visiting 2 in one morning!), I can recall two with a starting time of 11:00 – and one was RC Sproul’s church! 🙂 Typically if there is a single service, it starts in the 10:00-10:30 range – and I have seen several start on the quarter hour. Our earliest kickoff was 8:30 and it was not particularly well attended. The dynamics here are such that I would’ve expected an “the earlier the better” sentiment because the population tends to be older, especially during snowbird season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. All of the later services have had a larger crowd. One church had a Sunday evening service that was a repeat of their Sunday morning service, it was just an additional time offering. That was the first time I’ve seen that, wondered how it was attended. Of the others, probably half had a typical Sunday night service and most, if not all, had a Wednesday night service. One peculiar thing to FL is that most churches curtail their activities in the summer. Bible studies, small groups etc meet from Sept-May but take a haitus during the summer months. Yes, I know it’s hot but it’s not like you’re meeting outside. It’s just funny to me, it’s a FL thing! 🙂 Thanks for your articles, many have been particularly helpful to me during this very uncomfortable period of wandering and church homelessness. Your insight has often been my manna! 🙂

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks so much, Tammy. Blessings as you find your church home.

    • jonathon says on

      >One peculiar thing to FL is that most churches curtail their activities in the summer. Bible studies, small groups etc meet from Sept-May but take a haitus during the summer months.

      Something else I’ve seen a couple of times, is the church being closed from the first Sunday on, or after 1 May through the first Sunday on, or after 1 September, and a “sister” church that is open only during those dates. This situation occurs when the community migrates north for the summer, and south for the winter, and the church staff follow along. (Two buildings in different states, but one church.)

  • Michael Sparks says on

    Very interesting article… Although I would be interested to see which denominations participated in the survey. To see if there’s a big difference between charismatic, high church, evangelical churches, etc.

  • Sunday School – 10:00 am
    Sunday Morning Worship – 11:00 am
    Sunday Eve Christian Training – 7:00 pm

  • Saturday service at 6:17
    Sunday services at 9:02

  • We have 3 on Sunday 9/10:30/12 and all are exactly the same (music,msg etc)
    One service Saturday at 4,but stopping during the Summer and pick back up in September. (Summer in Scottsdale is a beast! Lol)

  • Phoebe says on

    We have recently moved from Florida to Tennessee. Still in the process of visiting churches here. But our church in Florida had worship service at 8:30a. Not alot for attendance but enough to keep it going. It has grown since they started. 9:45 for worship and lifegroups, 11:00 again for worship and lifegroups. This worked really well for student ministry. While parents were attending worship and then lifegroups or vice versa, the middle school would meet in the student worship area at 9:45, while the high school would meet for lifegroups, and then while the middle school would have lifegroups at 11:00, the high school would have worship. It also worked in sharing rooms and worship area. This helped with the children’s ministry too. They would have KidFusion (worship)K-3rd grade, then lifegroups while 4-5 grades would worship and have lifegroups sharing rooms and worship area as well.

  • If 11:00 was good enough for Paul, then it’s good enough for me!

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