Sunday Evening Services Are Dying

Pastor Dean Taylor’s church recently decided to continue conducting Sunday evening services. His thoughts below are aimed mainly at the Calvary congregation, but they offer a helpful perspective on why one church is keeping the practice going—as well as some ideas for doing this service effectively. —Editor

I’m speaking of a national trend. Many churches that used to have a Sunday evening service don’t anymore. There is much theorizing about reasons for that. Thom Ranier wrote about it last year. His article, along with the comments, is very helpful in understanding this trend.

Our pastors recently spent time analyzing, discussing, praying about, and planning for our Sunday evening gatherings at Calvary. We believe there is great value in what is provided during our second Lord’s Day gathering. This service is a vital part of our church’s life. We are refining the service’s focus and content and encouraging our people to make the effort to avail themselves and their families of what we prepare and offer. We want to give our people good reasons to make the second trip.

One significant change we’re making is the start time. Previously the evening service has started at 6:00 pm. Our new start time, beginning this Sunday, is 5:00. We plan to finish by 6:00. This enables families with children to get home, have some family time, and get the kids in bed at a decent hour. It also allows people to have unrushed fellowship during the evening. There’s time to get together at someone’s home or go out for a snack. This is a great opportunity to grow closer to one another.

Another adjustment we’re making is the content focus of the service. Our second Sunday service is not a repeat of the first, and it is not just another of the same kind. We will still give praise to our Savior in song, but our singing time is a little less formal, with more of a family sing-a-long feel. We will often have times of testimony, either from people who are asked or open sharing from our church family. The content of the preaching and teaching will be focused on passages and topics that relate to daily life and our walk with God in practical ways.

We want everything we do to have purpose and be shaped by that purpose. Some people may ask, “Why would I add another event to my day? Why should I make another trip? Why go to church twice on a Sunday?” Here are my answers to those questions.

  • God’s Word is infinitely rich with truth and wisdom, and we can always learn more. The second time we gather to learn from the Word is an opportunity for us to grasp more of these wonderful truths and apply them to our lives.
  • Jesus is worthy of praise because He is Lord and because He loved us and gave Himself for us. During our second Sunday service, we praise Him with our songs. We also give thanks to Him with our testimonies. These personal stories of God’s blessing and working are encouraging to all.
  • In the evening service you learn what the Scriptures have to say about topics that relate to your daily life, your family, and your walk with God. It is the goal of the pastors to make the Sunday evening messages practical. We will explain the Word and talk about how to live by it in specific areas of our lives. The upcoming topic relates to how we communicate with one another—we all need help with this!
  • If you stay for a few minutes after, you can converse with others and get to know members of the Calvary family. You might even decide to go out for a bite to eat together. People are in a little more of a hurry to leave after Sunday morning. In the evening, there is more time to just sit and talk, to meet that new person or hang out with your friends.
  • If you have children, they will be learning and growing in groups designed for them while you do the same. Truth Trackers for kids and Youth Group for teens is going on at the same time. Don’t just drop them off and keep going. There’s something for you, too!

We always find time to do what we value. I look forward to spending time on Sunday afternoons with the Calvary family.

Dean Taylor bio


Dean Taylor is Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. He has served in pastoral ministry for twenty-five years. Dean is a graduate of Bob Jones University and Seminary (BA Bible, MA Theology, MDiv) and Northland International University (DSM). His delights include his family, reading, and the great outdoors.

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There are 13 Comments

Greg Long's picture

I appreciate the decision this pastor and church are making. It's interesting to me, however, that most of the reasons given for keeping the Sunday evening service, yet modifying it, are very similar to reasons why we have small groups at our church--Bible study that is focused on practicality and application, as well as fellowship. The only one that doesn't fit most small group scenarios is singing, but I would content that although small groups may often lack times of worship (not all of them, but many), they can do a better job in encouraging times of prayer among Christians than the typical Wednesday evening prayer meeting.

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Dean Taylor's picture

Greg Long wrote:

I appreciate the decision this pastor and church are making. It's interesting to me, however, that most of the reasons given for keeping the Sunday evening service, yet modifying it, are very similar to reasons why we have small groups at our church--Bible study that is focused on practicality and application, as well as fellowship. The only one that doesn't fit most small group scenarios is singing, but I would content that although small groups may often lack times of worship (not all of them, but many), they can do a better job in encouraging times of prayer among Christians than the typical Wednesday evening prayer meeting.

I didn't get into it in the post, but we are currently developing and implementing Community Groups that meet on a weeknight for this very purpose. They are geographically distributed to make them accessible. The discussion is based on the previous Sunday morning's sermon - how it can be applied to life. People can love and pray for one another more effectively than in the larger group. I think it works great in many church settings to have the small group as the second gathering, whether on Sunday evening or during the week. I guess that's what you're doing. Keeping the Sunday evening gathering and adding the small groups is what works for us right now. 

              DeanHTaylor.com 

Ron Bean's picture

After  a lifetime of evening services, I find myself serving in a church that only has a Sunday morning service and Sunday School because we rent a facility for our meetings. We have various community groups which meet on Sunday evenings and other times that provide our church with opportunity for Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. In other words, everything I normally enjoyed in a Sunday evening service except a sermon. I would suspect that participation in these groups exceeds what we would have if we were able to have a corporate service. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

driddick's picture

Here is some additional information from Thom Rainer on the "current reality" of Sunday night services in the American church at a macro level:

15 Trends for Churches in 2015

Some of my trends are called “tipping points.” Formally defined, a tipping point is the critical moment in an evolving situation that leads to a new and somewhat permanent reality. In simple terms, a tipping point here means that something has changed in our churches to the point that it appears to be permanent.......

14. The tipping point of churches eliminating Sunday evening worship services. We see the number of U. S. churches offering a Sunday evening service to dip below 5 percent of all churches in America. In other words, this service will become almost extinct.

 

JGHenderson's picture

I'm very grateful for Pastor Dean Taylor's leadership and decision Calvary Baptist Church. My appeal is to

let the "Lord's day" BE the Lord's DAY.  Again, the preaching and teaching of God's Word is priority and

primary. We recently finished a wonderful series on our church covenant-"gospel duties" as the Brits say.

Clarence Macartney was one of the great "serial "preachers. A fundamentalist contending for the Truth

in the United Presbyterian Church in the 20s, he pastored First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, PA. 

The evening services were largely attended. His sermons series involved titles such as, "Great Mountains

and Men of Scripture, Great Questions of the Bible, Great Men of the Bible, Great Women of the Bible,

Great Interviews of Christ, Great Nights of the Bible. Great Questions of the Bible and Life," The services

were well attended. Spurgeon's Church in London, the Metropolitan Tabernacle has nearly packed out 

crowds at their evening services which they describe as "evangelistic".  I've seen as many as 20 people

interviewed and baptized at their evening services. (Macartney's sermons are in 9 volumes by Abington

press.) So... let's keep preaching a prioritiy for the AM and PM of the Lord's Day. Captain Joe Henderson

Jonathan Charles's picture

The less Christians attend Sunday evening church, the less motivated pastors are to prepare a message equal in quality to their Sunday morning message, which further impacts attendance.  I'm not saying this is always the case, but I have witnessed it in many cases.  "Why put a lot of work into a new message few will here to hear when my time would be better spent on some other endeavor?"  

Ben Howard's picture

For those who still do have a Sunday Evening service, I really would like to know how long it takes you to prepare a sermon?  I'm asking because to prepare one 45 minute sermon (expositional, currently through the book of Matthew) takes at least 15-25 hours a week of preparation and I can't imaging preparing another separate sermon and then preaching a third time on Sunday.  I have prepared sermons in a few hours due to time constraints but I don't think that is ideal since my responsibility as a pastor is "rightly dividing the Word of Truth."

TylerR's picture

Editor

I preach four times per week, and have a part-time secular job. My sermons usually take about 4-8 hours each. This includes producing a typed, nearly manuscripted outline with footnotes and an accompanying PowerPoint. I did Phil 2:1-11 last Wednesday, and it took me a bit longer because I translated it as well. But, depending on what it is, I'm usually looking at about 4-8 hours each. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Brandon's picture

Regarding the reasons stated why they are keeping their Sunday evening service, those could be said about almost any meeting at a church. Sure God's word needs to be taught and applied, sure we need to praise, sure we need fellowship. THOSE are not the true question. The question is, does another (almost identical) service on Sunday represent the best way to accomplish those objectives?

If leadership at a church believes that to be the case, then good on them. But I think most leadership teams never truly evaluate this question honestly and openly.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

We have had a new format in place at our church for about a year now, and it has worked well.  We have a prayer service at 9:00, church at 9:30, Fellowship time 10:45 (with light snacks), Sunday School/Application time 11:30, Choir practice 12:15.  Having the light snacks during the fellowship time means that people in the choir won't be ravenous or have to eat immediately after the service.

We no longer have a regular Sunday evening service, but we still do when we have a special speaker or missionary come who can't be there on either Sunday morning or Wednesday evening, or if it's a set of evening meetings, etc.

My favorite part is that we have Application time for the adults *after* church, where we have give and take about what the message means in real terms, and how to apply and put it into practice.  That helps us not only to remember the message, but also gives us a chance to hear what people heard, and how it might have spoken to their particular needs.

At first, there were a number of concerns that we are just eliminating a service, and getting less Bible, but we have found that focusing on a particular message for two different hours has really helped retention, whereas under the previous format, people would be hard-pressed to remember either of the messages.

Dave Barnhart

Ben Howard's picture

That's an incredible amount of productivity for a short time!  I think I could probably do that, but not with powerpoint or a manuscript, if I had to; but I'm very thankful I don't. Smile  I really like the idea Dave sai his church was doing with the adult application sunday school time.  I think this would be so beneficial to really having the Scripture penetrate and change lives, through the back and forth of application focused discussions.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I make Sunday School and Wednesday Evening an interactive Bible study, where I move through the text by asking questions to the congregation. They can interrupt me at will and ask anything they want, as well. My hope is that this approach will make those two services very different from a typical, "sit still for 40 minutes and pay attention to me" sermon. This helps to diversify things, and get people actually thinking about what the text means.

It also means your prep time goes much further. Sunday School last week lasted 45 mins, and we only got through half of my material. That means I don't need to prepare anything for this coming Sunday - the other half is still ready to go.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

jreeseSr's picture

I do find it interesting how many fundamentalists handle the transition that all of our Churches have to make as the " Baby Boomers" pass on.  We (Baby boomers) are "duty" conscience people. Church leaders tell us to be faithful to all services and we are whether we like it or not. This is not that we are more spiritual but just how we were raised.  This allowed for "good attendance" at "bad services".  Guess what ? times and people change!. Quite frankly todays church member is more honest...to get them there you have to have a good value exchange for the time and effort. Yes we are not to "forsake" the assembling of ourselves together but that text does not mean at the expense of "family time","Rest" or "Private" devotion .  Speaking as one that raised a family in a fundamental church which was very demanding of 14-16 hrs of our time every week. While my children and their children are in Church today , I dont see where that time invested necessarily equates to Spirituality.  I have learned (maybe too late) that "assembly" means more than just "hearing" the word. There needs to be a balance of "interactive"  topical and doctrinal exchange, praise and testimony, Preaching , and expository teaching.  This may not be achievable in the typical Fundamentalist Church that practices the "one man show"  model , but I have noticed that many of the SBC churches met this issue head on and are having success in growing large vibrant churches and reahing younger people.  I know because my son goes to one that is out growing its building every 5 yrs. 

 I am sure that many of you recognize the importance of the Sabbath(rest) principle, yet  most families work m-f at their jobs, maintain their house and yards on Sat and then First day at the Church and if you are teaching or in the music ministry much more.  I do believe the mid week prayer meeting is very needed but most churches have turned it into just another "hearing" session. with 5-10 min tacked on for grp prayer.

  What would I think would balance out ?  Sunday am (SS)Teaching/fellowship 60 min.  - Preaching/worship service 60 min. Sunday PM service: Choir practice concurrently with Topical small groups in or out of Church building.  Wed PM (all services) Special music prep, ..Out reach( calling and visitation) and Prayer mtg for those not in other services.                                                       

  

Jim

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