Whatever Happened to Sunday Evening Services?


I received a phone call from a pastor I have known for many years. Indeed, I consider him a leader and friend. His question was quick and to the point: “What can I do about our Sunday evening services?” Despite numerous valiant efforts, attendance continued to struggle. The church he serves is, by most standards, a healthy church. But the attendance on Sunday evening is going counter to all the other positive indicators in the church.

This pastor is not alone. Other church leaders are concerned as well. Some have given up on Sunday evening services out of frustration. Others have discontinued the services without much lament. And a few leaders have fairly good reports about these services.

The feelings tend to run strongly one way or another about these services, particularly among those whose traditions have affirmed them in past years. Perhaps a quick overview of the Sunday evening services would be helpful.

An Uncertain History

There will be a number of church leaders reading this article who will hardly give it a second glance. Their church traditions have never, or at least not in recent decades, had Sunday evening services. But there are many other traditions for which these services have been staples. Frankly, the decline in the Sunday evening services among these churches is both noticeable and getting worse.

For years, I have attempted to understand the history of these services. My efforts have not been conclusive. I’ve heard many times, for example, that the evening services began with the advent of the electric light in America. But that explanation seems unlikely since I have found examples of the services in both the 1600s and the 1700s.

Here are some other historical tidbits I have found, all unverifiable at this point:

  • The services grew during the agricultural phase of our history. Farmers had to work their land six days a week. But, on Sunday, they would have come to a morning service, then have dinner on the grounds, and then have a second later afternoon services before returning home.
  • During World War II, many men and women worked seven-day weeks to meet the production needs of the war. The Sunday evening service allowed them to attend worship since they couldn’t come on Sunday morning. Thus the service time grew in popularity.
  • Some denominations and other church traditions focused one service on equipping the believers, and another one on reaching the lost. Thus the Sunday evening service became distinctively different than the Sunday morning service.
  • As a reminder, some church traditions have little to no familiarity with Sunday evening services; their leaders often wonder why there is so much discussion about the issue outside their traditions.

Possible Reasons for the Decline in Sunday Evening Services

While the history of this service is largely unverifiable, the decline in its attendance, and the reduction in the number of churches offering are clearly evident. Let’s look at six possible reasons for its decline or demise.

  • The advent of Sunday evening services in many churches was a cultural adaptation for its time. Its decline or demise is thus a cultural response.
  • The disappearance of blue laws (mandatory Sunday closings) allowed many alternatives to Sunday evening worship, and many church members chose those options.
  • There has been an increasing emphasis on family time. Families with children at home particularly viewed one worship service on Sundays to be sufficient for them.
  • Many pastors simply do not have the desire, energy, or commitment to prepare a second and different sermon. Their lack of emphasis was thus reflected in the congregation’s lack of interest.
  • When many churches began offering services on alternative days, such as Fridays or Saturdays, there was neither the desire nor the resources to keep Sunday evening services going.
  • A number of churches, particularly new church starts, are in leased facilities. They do not have the option of returning on Sunday evenings.

Trying to Be Objective

In my previous post on changes in church worship services, I stated my desire to be the objective researcher and not inject my own opinions on the issue. That remains my goal in this article as well. But the previous article engendered many comments and not a little emotion. I see that possibility in this endeavor as well.

I do want to hear from you. I continue to be impressed with the acumen and the insightfulness of the readers of this blog. It will be a joy to hear your comments and opinions on Sunday evening services.

Does your church have a Sunday evening service? If you do, is it thriving? Surviving? Struggling?

photo credit: patrickfranzis via photopin cc

Posted on May 10, 2014

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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  • I believe the decline in our country and the many family issues has to do with believers not attending Sunday night worship services where worship took place, gathering of believers took place, as well as fellowship following services. Families do not spend time together on Sunday nights, it was just an excuse to not have Sunday night services. I think it would be good to return to more traditional style services and not have so many day time services.

  • Dawn McClatchy says on

    I attended Sunday School and Sunday Morning & Evening Services. Then there was Wednesday Night Service and Tuesday Night Prayer Group. At most, that’s maybe 5 hrs a week devoted to God.
    That was pre-pandemic. A lot of cultural changes have occurred during and since that time.
    Matt. 6:21
    Matt. 7:14

  • Cynthia says on

    I am a Christian and I have attended morning services and night services all my life. Now that I am older and have many chronic elements and it is very hard for me to get to early morning worship services. I have looked for churches that have Sunday evening services and Wednesday evening services. They only have programs for teens and childern on those evenings and small group studies which are wonderful. But I am longing for a worship service with teaching and communion. My soul is crying out for this. I listen to services on christian websites, I worship at home daily with Christian worship music, I read scripture and daily devotions and prayer. I have and will always continue that with or without the attendants in church. I even have communion alone at home every Sunday. But even in knowing God honors this and is always with me in continuing my worship and study, the lack of being with my sisters and brothers in Christ is hard . God made us a family to help each other and serve together and worship together to keep each other strong. The excuse from the leaders of the churches that there is not enough people that a trended Sunday or Wednesday night or any worship services is not of Christ. Jesus said God would leave the 99 to find one that is lost. I feel leaders today in the church are too busy and too concerned about the budget and and keeping the 99 comfortable and feed while there is so many that would love to be feed but can’t find a real live person to look into their eyes and feed them. There are people dieing spiritually and we can’t take the time or effort for only a handful of people who might show up. Didn’t Jesus say also say, “where 2 or more are gathered there I am there also” ? Churchs shouldn’t make it so hard for just a group of people that are trying so hard to follow Jesus. Isn’t that what the Pharisies did?

  • I’d like to go Sunday evening service because Sunday is my day of rest and I like to sleep in and then go to a nice worship service on Sunday night because I work really hard on the other six days of the week.
    It was also a great service to bring people in to hear the gospel who are not yet saved because those people also do not like to wake up early on Sundays. I used to go to a church that had two services on Sunday nights and three in the morning. Not one time did the pastor ever complain that it was tiring. The church has become extremely successful and has a wide range of Bible studies. Also there’s lots of people who have to work on Sunday mornings especially in the healthcare or service industries, and they need a place to go to on the Lords day.

  • I use to go to church on Sunday nights and Wednesdays because lot of times I couldn’t make it on Sunday mornings because I work on third shift. So it was convenient for me to go at night. Now since lots of churches in my area have closed up on Sunday nights and Wednesdays nights I only get to go once a month. Which is sad. I really believe Satan has got into the church and is finding ways to closed the church down .

    • I grew up going on Sunday mornings and Sunday night as a child as an adult I’ve dedicated my life to Christ and am hungry for the word and fellowship I don’t understand they preach about taking God out of schools and sporting events but they fail to realize they taking and splitting sundays now to

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