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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  • LCMS Lutheran context,
    Traditional 8AM and 10:45 (mid August through May, 9:30 in Summer)
    Sunday School 9:30 (11:00 summer)

    We’re adding a “New Song” service at Noon starting in June for those who want a more contemporary (to them) service. It won’t be rockin’ but the organ will be silent during that service. It was important that we didn’t force contemporary upon either long-held traditional service. Those who wanted the change would be asked to physically change their habit of going to church in order to make them really invest in something they said they valued. They seem to understand and have accepted it after an explanation and have even told me they would bring friends. We’ll see in two weeks! That was one of my goals for adding a new liturgy to an already stretched staff–to grow the number of people hearing the gospel on any given Sunday.

    10 years ago 8AM was the consistent, larger service, with 10:45 being more flaky in terms of regularity and numbers. Now its just the opposite, but lots of families with children at both when attendance is good. Not something you see in a Lutheran church so much these days.

  • We have an 8:30 am and 11:00 am service. I would like to do an 8:30 and 10:30 am. We broadcast our service live so we are somewhat stuck in the 11:00 am time slot. Most first timers come to the 11 am service. Same sermon in both but we offer different worship styles. By the way, the worship wars are not over in small churches. Some of us are still working through the mess of worship styles. Small town traditional First Baptist’s are behind 15-20 years. :/

  • We allow 15 minutes between SS and the worship service at 10:45. All is well with this timetable, and we continue to grow. Wednesday does well with dinner at 5:30, prayer & praise from 6:15 to 6:30, then group Bible study or an elective from 6:30 to 7:15. As for Sunday night…let’s just say the horse is still lying dead while a few keep trying to beat it into submission. It really puts a crimp on already fragmented together time for the family.

  • Keith Kenemer says on

    Lawrence Richards in his 1968 book A New Face in the Church wrote, “The 11’O Clock morning service falls between the two milking hours of an agricultural society.” In the late 90’s a church that I was mentoring the Minister of Education at the request of the pastor went to two services. The church was in a growth mode of approximately 9% per year. Nothing would do but the leadership of the church had to go back to one service in order to become one church again. Even through the Church Growth Committee voted to recommend educational units and not a worship a center the leadership voted to build a worship center and they “became one church again.” A smaller church but one church, or so the leadership said!

  • Joel H. says on

    We have services at 9:15 & 11:00. Our 9:15 service has almost 3x the number of people, yet our 11:00 service has twice as many visitors.

  • Our morning worship starts at 11:00 am. We have Sunday evening at 6:00 pm service where we do many different things from mission studies to David Jeremiah video series.

  • TeriVL says on

    In our small town the vast majority of churches have 1 worship service at 10:30, sunday school at 9. Our church stops Sunday school during the summer and moves worship to 9. We are a young family who recently moved churches due to poor youth programming at our old church and a variety of bad management decisions made there. Our old church is an aging and dying church. Our new church is a young church. The old church had an early service at 8, 7:45 in summer in addition to 10:30 worship. I honestly wish we had a midweek or Saturday evening option, but no one but the Catholic church does that here.

  • We have three distinct worship services on Sunday mornings.

    8:00 a.m. River Worship is contemplative in nature and includes scripture, centering music, a chant choir, weekly communion, meditative prayer, and a pastoral message. This service is held in the chapel.

    9:00 a.m. Roots Worship includes scripture, hymns, choral music, and a pastoral message. This service may feel familiar as it includes acolytes, candles, and the pastors and the choir in robes. The sacrament of communion is observed the first Sunday of every month. Roots worship is held in the sanctuary.

    10:30 a.m. Wings Worship features a more relaxed feel with an emphasis on scripture, acoustic ensemble music, and visual images that connect to the pastoral message. As with the Roots service, communion is served the first Sunday of every month. Wings worship is held in the sanctuary.

    Worship Service Length: 8 am River Service – 45 minutes. 9 am Roots and 10:30 Wings Services – 60 minutes.
    Coffee Time: Between our 9:00 am & 10:30 am worship join us in the Fellowship Hall for coffee, cookies, and conversation.

  • Currently my congregation has 8 am and 10 am services. There is no major difference except the 8 am is slightly shorter and has about 10 to 15 in worship while the 10 am is longer and has about 90 to 100. I feel like I pastor two churches who meet in the same building. We tried to put a coffee hour between the services to get folks to fellowship for the last year but its been a disaster. Some of our members in one service have never met members in another and there is constant grumbling between the two. I feel as pastor that having 1 service would be a healthier option but I have been warned it will end poorly. This threat seems to indicate an idolatry to this split and I feel like its time to smash the idol… advice? (NOTE: we will be adding a Thursday night worship service soon that is emergent in form and style irregardless of what the outcome of our Sunday worship war.)

  • Dolores Thomas says on

    We have Sunday School Assembly 9:30-9:50 am, breakfast 9:50 am-10:10 am, Sunday School classes 10:15-10:50 am, Worship at 11:00 am.

  • We have one starting at 10:50 and are usually “out” by 12. I’m curious about when Sunday school, life groups, etc. are held when the service begins earlier. Our Sunday school meets at 9:45.

  • Lou Anne Emrich says on

    We have just changed (April 2015) from one blended worship at 10:15 to traditional worship at 8:15 and contemporary at 10:30. Worship attendance has increased since the change with many positive responses to the change.

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