Three to Thrive: It’s not what you think

There are 11 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

good out of the box thinking from FBFI.  Hope that Kevin gets a chance to expand on it.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture


...for someone to point that out.

I can't claim to have been super successful, but in the church I used to pastor I did a bit of teaching on why the AM, PM and Wed. should serve somewhat different and focused purposes if we were going to keep doing them all. From there, I attempted to see that each of these regular meetings had more than enough to justify its existence -- and some hopefully noticeable differences in focus, emphasis, and method. They were still all three times of worship, but with a different mix. 

Wednesday was a no brainer. I cut the "pulpit time" down to about 10 minutes and we focused on prayer. Occasionally that meeting included small group Bible studies that were very unstructured and conversational (though, over time, I slipped slowly back into too much structure, I think. It's not my nature to wing it.)

Sunday PM was gradually more instructional. So we were doing systematic theology and the like. Less formal. Not much singing, etc. I had an idea of eventually making this meeting intentionally more "community education" oriented, even possibly holding it in a neutral location. Never got that far.

Sunday AM was intentionally more formal, more focused on the character of God, the grand old hymns ("old" means before the 18th century in this case) in the singing, always Scripture reading from Psalms as well as the preaching text.

The idea was to make each meeting edifying in some different ways from the others.

TOvermiller's picture

At the present, we take the following approach at Faith Baptist (

  • Worship - Sunday AM
  • Bible Study - Sunday PM (afternoon for us)
  • Prayer - Wednesday PM

Worship consists of praising God through congregational hymns, testimonies, prayers, and offerings, accompanied by an expository sermon (usually a "through the book" types series, with occasional variations).

Bible Study consists of 45 min. of small group discussion about the AM sermon, reviewing what was preached, exploring questions about the sermon or passage, and considering personal applications. Then we follow this with a 30 min. teaching session that provides a brief "Bible Institute" type of lesson on various doctrinal and practical topics (like family life, bibliology, etc.).

Prayer consists of some singing, a brief Bible devotional message (a less formal expository look at a verse or two), and then prayer. Like Aaron, I find it challenging to keep the devo brief, but that is my goal in order to devote the majority of the evening to significant prayer.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor |
Blog & Podcast |

Ron Bean's picture

After over 50 years of the "three to thrive" model I find myself in churches that have adjusted the model and have benefited from the adjustment. For most of my life church had primarily consisted of a sermon (the most important part whether long or short), singing, and prayer on Wednesday. 

I've come to realize that I had little opportunity to work at developing meaningful relationships with other members of the body of Christ because most church activity involved sitting in an audience and listening to someone preach/teach/ or pray and the rest of my week was tied up with family and work. 

I've come to enjoy gathering for Bible Class, corporate prayer, and worship on Sunday and then meeting during the week in smaller groups (a men's Bible study and a community group) for prayer and relationship building. The "three to thrive" model made it difficult to implement the many "one another" admonitions in Scripture. The small group alternative encourages and helps me to build relationships with others. I like it, even though I have friends who've labeled such meetings as new-evangelical, places for cliques to be formed and complainers to gather, or not real church.

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

Jim's picture

My church (which is a very good church!) still has the 3 to thrive model. 

My model for growth is:

  • AM service
  • Deeper Bible study with my wife every evening. 
  • And one on one Bible study with my sister every weekday afternoon at 3:30 
  • Sunday is a day of rest and for family. (Eg this Sunday we have the grandkids all afternoon and all night and all day Monday)
  • The 3 to thrive was exhausting for me personally
Bert Perry's picture

I do tend to go three times per week, but something that's been a "bee in my bonnet" for years is that Sunday evening service is at suppertime.  Throws off the whole family schedule when you're trying to get ready for the coming week....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

So I'm discussing Three to Thrive with a person who's encountered a pastor who adamantly opposes any variation to the Sunday AM, PM, and Mid-week service pattern. He said this pastor's view is, "In order to thrive you must hear me preach three times a week!"

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

TOvermiller's picture

One good sermon should give a church *more* than enough biblical content to think about and respond to in the course of a week, or am being naive? A Sunday School lesson or Bible study class is also beneficial to add in, in some format or another. But in reality, how much information do people *actually* retain and respond to in a meaningful way when they hear a: (1) Sunday AM sermon, (2) Sunday AM SS lesson, (3) Sunday PM sermon, (4) a midweek sermon, (5) a weekly institute class? That's *a lot* of information, not to mention 5-8 hours or sitting and listening to a pastor talk ... every week. I'm just saying ... that's *a lot* of sitting and listening to a pastor, but how much of that actually translates into an intelligent, thoughtful, personal, meaningful response and / or retention?

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor |
Blog & Podcast |

Bert Perry's picture

Right before I left one church whose "pastor" was emphatically "three to thrive", I realized that what was really going on was that he was running about the same programs he'd learned 55 years earlier at Bible college.  No adaptation to different family structures, nothing.  Those in "his camp" were happiest when he was preaching against things they'd never even considered doing in their lives, and it was sobering when my stepfather--a United Methodist--came and noted he was concerned for us because there was so little spiritual content in the sermons at our church.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


I'll always remember being assigned Dever's book The Deliberate Church when I first started at Seminary. In that book, Dever recommended that pastors deliberately make each service have a different purpose and focus. I'll always remember that advice. I haven't always followed it, and I've already ended up regretting when I didn't. This is the best model. Good article!

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?

Don Johnson's picture

I think it is important to have good reasons for gathering together, I think pastors need to think through their schedule, etc. I don't really disagree with that.

However, I do want to point out that the sermon is not about the content per se. It is about the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in the heart and life of the hearer, not about whether the hearer can repeat verbatim the content of the sermon at some time in the future. I have no idea how many sermons I have listened to in my lifetime so far. I imagine its quite a few. I can barely recall specific details about more than a dozen of them. Does that mean all those sermons were a waste of time?

The preaching and teaching of God's word should:

1. Stir hearts to believe and live faithfully for God.

2. Teach minds how to study and understand the Bible for yourself.

3. Equip servants to share Biblical truth with others.

Perhaps there are more?

But how do we do that. By preaching and teaching. I agree we should vary our approach/methods. I think, quite frankly, Christians need a lot more preaching than they get. I don't think one sermon a week is enough. When people hunger and thirst after righteousness, they can enjoy (not endure) many more hours a week of preaching/teaching than the average church goer gets today.

However, from the delivery side, I think variety of approach and creativity are important. (If only to keep the preacher interested.)

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3