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 service times for the past 20 years have been 8:30 and 10:50 worship with Sunday School in between. The times have succeeded in dividing the congregation into two smaller groups without any marked growth in either. We are now considering returning to a combined service in order to promote unity within the church and offer Worship at 9:30 and Sunday School at 10:30 in order to grow the SS by creating entry points after the worship service by inviting visitors to join the small groups and possibly off site lunch etc. I would love to hear your thoughts and the thoughts of others.

    • Mark Smith says on

      The church where I’m serving now had the same set-up, except the second service was at 11:00 AM. We moved to one service at 9:30 AM in 2015 because both services were in decline. We followed a hodge podge process, and upon looking back at it (the process) has left me disappointed.

      We lost some people in making the change, and we picked up some new people. Some still think 9:30 is too early, and there’s been some unofficial discussion about making the time a little later.

      Whatever process you use, make sure there’s a lot of prayer and a lot of listening. Accept that some will like the change and other won’t.

  • Our church has about 300 registered members. None of them show up on the same Sunday nor a particular service time. We have 9am & 10:15am services. Our driveway and parking lot are too small for everyone even if they all showed at the same time. People will leave if they cannot park. We have tried to grow the early service to no avail.
    Any suggestions.

  • We currently have one Sunday Morning Service beginning at 10am, but historically most people are filtering in well after our start time. We currently have a midweek service on Wednesdays at 7pm that is not “bible study” oriented. It’s really a stripped down version of a Sunday Morning service.

    My staff and I have been considering moving away from a midweek “service” and using that time as a LifeGroup or training opportunity. This church has ALWAYS had Wednesday service, so there is a “sacred cow” feel to doing away with it. But, if it isn’t working…?? Any thoughts on how to approach this correctly or from someone who has done it? Thanks in advance!

  • Michele Payton says on

    I noticed most of these posts are from 2015. I am curious to know if these trends are still current?
    We are in the midst of trying to make a decision about our services. In September we went to an 8:30 blended and a 10 am contemporary service with 30 minutes of fellowship in between, and Sunday school classes meeting during the two services.
    Unfortunately because of how the children’s church was set up, many of the workers were not able to do church with their families, and Sunday school declined as well. Our second service took a hit and now we are thinking of combining the services, however we are still not sure of the best time for the children’s church. Do we have it during church, or during the Sunday school hour? If we merge to one service, and have kids church during the service, the workers will never be able to attend church, but if it during Sinday school, the kids will be in the service. What are the trends and success stories for this type of thing? We average about 200 every Sunday.

  • Armando Vega says on

    I have two questions question concerning the very issue about churches breaking away from the traditional Sunday School hour, and from the traditional Worship hour of 11:00 am.
    Recently I had a conversation with a pastor of a Fundamental Baptist Church, which in his words he told me “We are testing having the Regular Sunday Morning Service at 9:45 am. And then at 11:20 am Sunday School until 12:00 pm, to review and learn how to apply the sermon preached during the Service”. I asked him what was the thought behind this test, and he said “To please the Millennials members of the congregation”.

    My questions are:

    1. Is testing this methodology for new worshiping on Sunday morning, a break from traditional Fundamental Bible Believing Preaching Church?

    2. In doing this test, to please please the wants of the Millennials members of the congregation, is it not this Compromising Traditional Bible Believing Christian Values?

    I am troubled.

  • My church has about 2500 people coming throughout Sunday in 5 different services. We are a mostly Latino Christian church and because of the hectic work cycles in my culture we have our first service at 6AM, then at 8AM, then an all English service at 10AM, then at 12PM, and the final service is at 6:30PM.

  • Orden Hartley says on

    I am just getting to read some of my back issues so I am just now weighing in on this issue. Our’s is a small country church, around 40 in Sunday School and 50 or so in worship. We start at 9:45 with an opening and the Sunday School at 10:00 and our only morning worship service at 11:00. Most of the time I am done with the preaching at noon or a little before, but if I go over no one seems to mind. After the invitation, and benediction we are usually done by 12:15, and again no one seems to mind. With the visiting after the service it can be 12:45 or 1:00 before I lock up and walk home.

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