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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  • Michelle says on

    I attend a SBC in the south and we have an 8:15am and 11am service (with Sunday school in between at 9:30). Our 8:15 service is fairly slim, but our 11am service is very full.

  • Hi Thom! Thanks for all you do. I have read through your article as well as comments. Question. Our church has two services: 9:30 and 11. We would like to add a third on Sunday morning. We have a very young congregation with the average age of 35. If it were you, what times would you offer? Thanks.

  • Michelle says on

    Hi, our church that is going through some transitions. Our music and worship ministry would like to move to one worship over the summer for several reasons. It was done last summer due to building renovations and a majority of the congregation ended up liking the worship experience, with the top comments saying that they loved the fellowship, the feeling of one church, one family, seeing people that normally go to the other worship service, and experiencing both worship styles (contemporary and traditional). However, those in the minority who do not like the idea of moving to one worship over the summer, a majority represent our contemporary worshipers (early morning service). Over the summer, one worship would be at 9:30 with Sunday School beforehand. Most expressed that changing the schedule would be confusing to visitors, and that offering the two worships will attract new members by giving them the choice of which worship to attend. The music director would alternate the worship styles every other week, not blend traditional and contemporary styles together. I should say that attendance has been in decline, even now with the two worship services, and it is typically down over the summer too for both worship services. Our music director believes that empty pews is what will drive visitors away, not worship times. Is there any research available to substantiate any of the issues? If so, where can I find it? Thanks.

  • Wayne Dorsett says on

    I’m doing a transitional interim with a strong SBC church (400-450 worship attendance) in coastal GA. We have 9 AM worship and then SS at 10:15. We consistently miss on guests who arrive at 10:00-10:15 expecting a worship service and then leave campus without going to a small group Bible Study. We are looking at changing the schedule to have SS from 9:30-10:30 and then worship from 10:45-12. I need input regarding millennials worship habits as well as the general unchurched population. Is there any research on what times different age groups prefer or tend to attend worship?

  • We currently have 3 services. Our 2 Sunday morning services are at 9:00 and 11:00 and are both doing well and maxing out. However, our Saturday evening service is about 30% full. We currently meet at 6:00 but are wondering if there is a more optimal time. One church in our area (Colorado) has moved their Saturday evening service to 5:00 and it has gained attendance very quickly. Do you know if any research has been done about optimal service times for Saturday?

  • Tom Logsdon says on

    After 9 years pastoring my previous parish with 8 and 10:30 am Sunday worship services (both well attended) and a Saturday night service we finally dropped because we could never get numerical traction (we even tried a Sunday night service for a while), I am now a judicatory officer in a community where I have lots of choices within my denominational heritage. My 30 year old son, who lives with me, goes to the 8 am traditional worship service at a nearby church of our denomination even though he prefers contemporary worship (he helps with the media) and then goes to worship at a church of another denomination. When I am not preaching elsewhere, I go the same church of my denomination where my son worships, but to their 10:45 contemporary service even though I prefer traditional worship because I like to sleep in on Sunday morning. Both of us love our pastor’s sermons, we just worship at separate times.

  • I hope you continue to keep worshiping at 9:30am in spite of negative feedback. One question though, when does your Sunday school meet and are they part of your worship experience? Blessings…Sundar

    • Mark E. Smith says on

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Sundar. There’s part of me that holds out hope that things will eventually turn around.

      Our Sunday school time is at 10:45. Everyone who attends Sunday school was in worship at 9:30. I’m 99.9% sure that no one skips worship, but comes to Sunday school. That hasn’t been the case, though, in all the appointments I’ve had.

  • Gary Clark says on

    Thanks to all who have posted. It’s so interesting to see what other churches are doing. I attend a small rural Methodist church and we made a change about 5 years ago after becoming a station church with a pastor not having to cover multiple churches. We have a traditional service 9:00am, contemporary service 11:00am and Sunday school in between. Attendance usually 110-130 with about 1/3 at 9:00 and 2/3 at 11:00. Most visitors come at 11:00. Members are pretty happy with times but we do have space problems accommodating Sunday school classes.

  • Thanks for the great feedback. It looks like we’re going with 9am and 10:30am. We’ll looking forward to seeing what God has planned. The church is united around the two services and excited as well.

  • Mark E. Smith says on

    The United Methodist church I’m serving had two services for several years–8:30, contemporary; 11:00, traditional. Unfortunately, there’s been significant decline in worship attendance, beginning before I arrived on the scene, according to the numbers. So for the first four months of 2015, we experimented with a combined service of worship at 9:30, molding together the best pieces of contemporary and traditional.

    After a church meeting, the decision was made to stick with 9:30, although not everyone was happy with that. Some people have left, mostly because they believed the time was too early, and it really hasn’t improved our numbers. However, the sanctuary at least looks fuller, even if the numbers aren’t where they once were.

    I understand the need to give people choices of times and styles. But we were getting to the point where the sanctuary was looking empty at both services of worship. At the 8:30 service, sometimes the attendance was so small that the joke was there were more people in the chancel leading worship than in the pews. Of course, if we had a smaller space to have held this service, then we probably could’ve managed the small size, but, alas, we don’t.

    Another United Methodist church in the area did the same things, moved from two services to one.

    We’re going to continue with one service, and hopefully, one day, things will permanently turn around.

  • We used to do 8:15, 9:30 and 11:00. When we dropped the first service we shifted the others to 9:00 and 10:30. They both do well, attendance-wise, and we have fellowship overlap between the two than we could have at 3. We moved an alternative evening service from Saturday at 5 to Sunday at 6 — didn’t help much at all., but the 2 Sunday morning services still get a fair amount of visitors. We’re looking at starting a concurrent Sunday am service at 9:01 am later this fall.

  • Hi Tom,
    Our regular service is at 9:30am and we have during the months of June to October an early service at 8:30am in our outdoor chapel. This service is only thirty minutes and a small group of 20 plus attend regularly. Unfortunately, our 9:30 Am service and our Sunday school are at the same time and our children are not having any experience of worship with the rest of the church families. We are slowly incorporating them into the first part of the worship with a 10 minute segment called, “The Young Disciples.” We need to work out some things to help the teachers to be with their classes during this ten minute worship time? Thank you for the article. Blessings….Sundar

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