Has there been any research done regarding the best day and time for a weekly postmodern, emerging worship gathering? Does it vary by region? Is Sunday morning or Sunday evening more appealing to postmoderns?
– Gary :: Wadsworth, OH
As far as I know, there has not been any research that is as precise as identifying the best time for a postmodern, emerging church service. In fact, there is very little research on the best times for a church service available.
The concept of Sunday morning worship is well-engrained into U.S culture so it makes sense for most churches to have services on Sunday mornings. By habit and tradition, American communities naturally expect church to be held on Sundays. The exception, of course, is Seventh-day Adventist churches and several other denominations, which meet on Saturdays.
What Research Says
Although there is little research about what is the best day and time for a church service, there is some worth noting.
In a Christianity Today article, Thom Rainer shares:
Most of the unchurched prefer to attend church on Sunday morning if they attend. Perhaps the unchurched responded this way because that is the time they have always heard church should be.
A very distant preference was a weeknight service other than Friday night.
Though their number is relatively small, single adults and adults who must work on Sunday seem to prefer Saturday evening worship as a fairly strong second choice to Sunday morning.
A 2007 Gallup poll discovered:
- 21% of people who do not attend church do so because they don’t have time or don’t get around to it
Similarly, a 2006 study by LifeWay Research reported that among people who stopped attending church:
- 19% said they simply got “too busy to attend church”
- 17% said “family and home responsibilities prevented church attendance”
Among Australians who don’t go to church, a 1998 survey by NCLS Research discovered:
- 31% said there are “other things I prefer doing”
- 21% said “I have too many commitments”
- 15% said there is “not enough time to go because of work.”
Questions to Ask
Do not become too focused on asking, “What has been the best day and time for a church service?”
The real question is, “What will be the best day and time for our church service?”
Begin studying the cultures of the people your church is called to reach. Identify what day and time is most likely to fit their lifestyles. Consider the pros and cons of different service times. Ask some questions.
- When do people work?
- When do non-Christians like to go clubbing and partying?
- What sports are big in our community? When are they on TV? And when do the local professional, competitive, and recreational sports leagues play?
- What nights do students work on homework and projects?
- How many people can’t resist sleeping in?
- Are there a lot of young children with early bedtimes?
What does the average schedule look like for the people we want to reach?
If you can only choose one service time, Sunday morning 10:00 AM or 11:00 AM seems the most advantageous with consideration to the whole of American culture. It is late enough that people can sleep in or take their time getting ready in the morning. And it is early enough that they can still watch Sunday football games on TV. It is a time that American culture is conditioned to expect.
In their book Simply Strategic Growth, Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens suggest adding multiple services on the same day to make it easier for the congregation to attend one service and volunteer in another. They also recommend experimenting with service times to discover what works best for your church. Granger Community Church (Granger, IN) discovered that people liked a Sunday 11:45 AM service and that Saturday night services worked well for families.
Above all, remember to choose a service time based on what will reach the most people. Don’t choose the traditional service time just because it is what has worked in the past, but at the same time, don’t choose a different or unusual service time just for the sake of being different or unusual.
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