Six Reasons Why Church Members Choose One Worship Service Over Another

March 25, 2020
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By Sam Rainer 

My church has five services on Sunday morning across two sites and in two languages. I preach three services in English, our Hispanic pastor preaches a service in Spanish, and our campus pastor preaches at our second site. Why do people choose one service over another? I’ll give you six reasons from the perspective of my church. However, I believe these reasons apply to many churches offering multiple services. 

  1. Language preference. This reason is obvious. If you speak only Spanish, you’ll likely choose our Hispanic service. However, it’s not as simple as you might think. Children and students of those who attend the Hispanic service often end up in our children’s ministry and student ministry. Some of our bilingual members go back-and-forth between English and Spanish services.
  2. Time preference. Some people choose a service because the time slot works well for them. I have a friend who goes to the 8:00 a.m. service simply because he’s up early and likes that time.
  3. Style preference. Some pastors and church leaders believe style is the driving factor for service selection. It’s important, certainly. A monastic chant service is not likely to grow. But we should not fall into the trap of believing one service is more highly attended than another simply because of style.
  4. Group preference. A worship service is often the front door to a church, meaning people will attend a worship service before doing anything else in the church. However, once people decide on a church, a small group preference can dictate which service they attend. In our church, some attend the 9:30 a.m. service because their preferred group meets at 11:00 a.m.
  5. Family situation. We do not offer programming for children during our 8:00 a.m. service. The main reason is demand—simply too few children would be present to warrant year-round programming. Therefore, if you do not want to have your child in the service, then 8:00 a.m. at our church is not an option for you. I know of other churches that offer student ministry only at one timeslot. Therefore, families with students end up picking a service based upon ministry availability.
  6. Week-to-week decision. Believe it or not, there are some who select a worship service based on what is happening in their lives that week. If they want to sleep in, then they go to a later service. If they want to get somewhere before lunch, then they go to an earlier service. Personally, it does not bother me so long as someone is faithful.

Let me share with you two lessons I’ve learned from these six reasons: 1) Don’t assume people are attending a service just because of style, which is often the argument. 2) Having more options can benefit your church. In our case, we have multiple services mainly because of parking problems. We fill our parking lot long before we fill our worship space. But having these options enables us to reach more people and keep them.

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10 Comments

  • Is there research that shows if most people choose a particular service time and stick to it week by week? What percentage of people stick with one time vs. the percentage of people that change times frequently?

  • William Alan Secrest says on

    The church I now serve is half the size that it once was. They told me of the time when they were running 160 in worship and the building was filled. Parking was limited to what was available on the street. Their original location was in the heart of downtown and they had two services. When they moved outside of city limits a few miles to a new facility that had plenty of parking and the sanctuary sat 400 everything changed. Those who came to the early service stopped coming to church altogether. Let me just say that building a new facility with the idea that people will be attracted to it is just plain stupid. Let me also add that the Christian maturity of those who did not return shows that their worship of God had to do with their preferences. I know people who attend early worship somewhere so they can get home in time for the football game(s). I just hope that bigger churches are mature enough to realize that the slippery slope of creating convenient worship times can turn into nothing more than empty worship. We do not go to worship so we can check it off our Sunday to do list. We go to praise the God who makes all things possible.

  • Robert Sloan says on

    I had a similar schedule, 7 services, multiple languages, etc. Three services main campus. First service blended second and third service contemporary. One family came late to the first service to catch the sermon and stayed for the first part of the second service for the music. Ala Carte church!

  • Sometimes people want a simpler service earlier in the morning for when they have to fly out on business or start working on a Sunday morning. Also, sometimes people want to go to the old monastic prayer service at the end of the day or when life gets really hard or one of their friends or family is gravely ill. Services don’t always have to be on Sunday. In cities they may be lay- or clergy-led and once to thrice daily every day.

  • cotton mathis says on

    You left out the main “ingredient.”: the pastor.

    We drive across town (about 6 miles) to a mega-church to hear the preacher.

    We drive by or near several churches closer to home for the same reason.

    It isn’t the music. We attend the contemporary service. We don’t want to get up on Sunday early enough to attend the “traditional service” at 8 a.m.

    We sing the best we can in the contemporary songs. It is loud. The musicians, however, are excellent. They really put on a “show.” But, the preacher is one of the best.

    The lead pastor is in his early 50’s. He has an earned doctorate and is smart. He really knows how to communicate the Gospel. The church baptizes 300-400+ every year. The budget is about $170,000 per week (not month = week.

    I know of people who drive about 40 miles one way to hear him preach every Sunday.

    I think the most important segment of any church is still who is in the pulpit.

    People will tolerate almost any kind of music to hear a man of God who really knows how to preach the Gospel. It doesn’t have to be “loud” and “enthusiastic” to be Godly. There is a difference between “having to say something” and “having something to say.” Too much preaching is “having to say something” or getting in the pulpit mad at someone and taking it out on the whole congregation.

    A deacon once said to me after one of my “skin them alive sermons,” — “Why take the hide off of 3 goats when there are 97 sheep that need to be fed?”

    A preacher who can consistently feed the Word of God won’t have any trouble “drawing a crowd.” Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, I will draw all men to me.”
    People are still hungry for Jesus-centered preaching, not me-ism, bragging, and story telling.

    A preacher once said to a baseball pitcher, “Why don’t I get paid like you do?”

    The baseball pitcher said, “Well, it is obvious; I have something to deliver and know how to deliver it.”

    It is all in the deliverer and the delivery.

    • Um… that’s not strictly true. Paul certainly preached the Gospel, but he was often run out of town because of it. People even abandoned Jesus. Read John 6:66-71. When attendance is down, the preacher becomes a very easy scapegoat.

  • The biggest challenge we face with offering multiple worship services is the size of our sanctuary. It was build 40 years ago and seats approximately 1200. Currently we are averaging 565 in worship. If we were to go to two services, for example, and our folks evenly “divided” so that both services had equal number of people – that would be 280 in each service, less than 25% of the seats filled. The sanctuary feels “empty” with 75% of the seats empty.

  • Ebimobowei Clifford Ere says on

    I have been thinking lately, do we allow church workers/volunteers choose the services they will prefer to serve in. I mean Worship Team members, Ushers, etc?

  • I think the days of seeing the same faces in the same pew at the same time each Sunday may be over. The current crisis may be the last gasp of that history.
    Your comment about faithfulness is the key to it. Tracking that becomes more difficult as church becomes different in form and style. We, as leaders, must find the way to adapt as things change around us.
    Thanks for the insight.