How do we know when our church should start another service? There are a few schools of thought on this question.

  • One says, “when the first service doesn’t have any more room.” Here the rationale is: energy wins above all. The bigger the gathering, the more energy is present—and that is a good thing.
  • Another reason some churches stay at fewer services whenever possible is the thought that it will allow for deeper fellowship because the church won’t be “split up.” We don’t buy this logic with regards to small groups, men’s/women’s ministries, etc., but some do regarding worship.
  • Others try to limit the number of services they have because they are afraid of the work involved in starting a new service.

How do we know when it is the right time?

Here are five ways to know you should consider adding another service:

  1. You have few entry points for new people. This applies particularly if you have only one service time. Every service is an opportunity to reach people that might not be able to or wouldn’t attend your current service(s). Whether we like it or not, weekend assemblies are still the primary port of entry for people to engage the church. If you have one service, adding a second service is particularly important to this effect.
  2. The cost of serving is too high to inspire the, “OK, sure, I’ll help out,” response from the average person. If for instance, serving in children’s ministry means missing the weekend service (because the church only has one), you are likely to attract a narrow tribe of gung-ho volunteers you’ll burn out over time—rather than creating a culture of service. It isn’t because people who don’t volunteer are selfish. It’s because the spiritual cost of serving is disproportionately high. Adding services allows more open slots for service, and encourages services by letting people, “serve one, go to one.”
  3. You existing service or services are “fullish.” Notice I didn’t say, “full.” Full is a subjective term, and while we pastors and established church members like FULL, first-time and newer people generally hate full. Some call this the 80% rule—when your service reaches 80% seating capacity, it generally won’t grow must past that point sustainably. I like to illustrate it with airplanes. When I get on an airplane, I seek out the seat that puts me furthest away from others. No one wants the middle seat. No one wants to cozy up to someone they don’t know. Like an airplane, I don’t mind sitting next to family or friends…just people I don’t know. We view church through the lens of seasoned church-goers by default. It takes intentionality to see it the other way.
  4. Your staff can handle another service. If you have no plans to add additional staff, make sure you’ve got the personnel to add another service. This means the preacher and worship leader have another one in them, and that your childrens and youth ministers embrace the idea.
  5. The service you’re considering will be “viable.” Again, I didn’t say, “full.” Viable means the opportunities to reach people outweighs the labor involved in hosting it, and there is at least a critical mass to attend that service. Depending on where and when you are hosting the service, critical mass can be very few people. If your room is flexible, you can shrink the size of the room to fit the size of attendance. However, there is nothing more annoying and pointless than asking everyone to “move forward” because the pastor can’t handle the insecurity produced by some empty seats. Always leave 20% empty if you can. If it’s 80% empty, move some chairs out and make the room more intimate. Yes, you can have a worthwhile service at 20% capacity.

One more thing: I used to think adding options was somehow encouraging consumerism rather than encouraging people to worship God first and let the rest of life fall in around that. I failed to realize there was nothing about 10am Sunday that was a “holy hour,” and that even the church at Corinth struggled with issues surrounding work and church. Providing options isn’t capitulating to the culture. It’s part of thinking like a missionaries. There is a worldly way to add another service, and there are holy reasons to do so. Which we choose is up to us.

What else might you add to list?