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 currently have
    9:30 Traditional/SS
    11:00 Contemporary/SS

    We have a lower attendance for our 9:30 they are also our older demographic. The 11, we have younger families but I don’t like this setting because it forces our children’s minister to staff a Sunday school setting for the same kids who will be joining her for the the 11 am service.

    I would like to do something where Sunday school fits between the two services but I do not want to do a service later than 11 am due to it being difficult for families who have young children.

    I have heard that the rule of thumb is if you are going to change service times you make both services uncomfortable and change both times instead of just changing one service time. But I am concerned that 8 am is too early for our traditional service. I’m feeling kind of stuck. It seems my only options would be..

    8:15 Traditional
    9:30 SS
    10:45 Contemporary

    But the only time that seems normal is the 9:30 Sunday school time. Suggestion welcomed

  • Joshua Neace says on

    So, I am not a pastor. Although we typically have daily Mass on M-F with also the first Saturday of the month, we also have Sunday Mass on Saturday at 5pm, Sunday at 8am and Sunday at 11am. We used to have Saturday at 5pm, Sunday at 8am, Sunday at 10:15am and Sunday at 12pm, when we had two priests. Saturday at 5pm, Sunday at 9:45am, and Sunday at 11:45am was tried for one summer, but they eventually went to the current times.

    Also, although we use the hymnal, their are living composers in the hymnal.

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