A pastor friend of mine had a dilemma a few years ago. His church was maxed out in space and he was losing new people because there was nowhere for them to go. What was he to do? He considered several options but decided to establish a new campus north of his existing location. Many of the families attending his church were traveling from the region to attend so he elected to rent the gym at a local middle school in the area and begin having worship services there. At first, he recorded his messages from his Saturday night service and that was what was used for the “message” portion of the service. He continued to preach “live” at his present church while his associate traveled to the north site to manage the group meeting there.
Eventually, my friend’s church relocated to a building of its own in the north area while maintaining their current facility to the south. Now, the message is sent live via video to one of the church sites depending on where the preacher chooses to preach live that week. For him, it is working. The old campus still has a pretty vibrant crowd and the space issues are not nearly as pronounced as they were a few years back. The new campus has much more space and accommodates the largest portion of the church’s congregation on Sunday mornings.
It’s not been that easy for other churches though. I know of another church that elected to send out a group to establish a church and it failed miserably. Some families came back to the “mother” church but some left church entirely because of the bad taste the entire episode left in their mouths. In the end, it wounded the “mother” church also because the people there were less likely to attempt to grow again.
So what is best in growing our churches? Last week, I focused on the decadence of some churches to seemingly add every little thing they could in order to be the biggest they could be so what happens when you outgrow your space? That’s where I’d like to spend some time this week.
Adding A Second Service
This would seem like the next logical step in growth. Adding a new service automatically doubles your space and provides your congregation with the option of when to attend. The church I pastor is in the process of moving to a new storefront location and as part of the move, we are moving our service time back to 10am. We used to start at 10:45 which many thought of as an odd time. For a number of historical reasons, that time had been established but with a new location came the thought of thinking ahead to our eventual outgrowth. For us, moving to a 10am worship time made perfect sense for us because we are establishing a small group study right after worship at 11:15 for the ones who want to stay and study right after church. I have a group in my church that appreciated the more established tradition of a “Sunday School” class so this is a great compromise for them. We do not have to be rushed in our study and they still will get out shortly after 12pm which gives them time for lunch out if they like. For others, the worship time ends at about 11am so it gives them a jump start to their day if they have plans. Our goal is to add an 8:30am service when our 10am time fills up. Our studies are showing this will be a good time for those who like to do other activities during their Sundays. Down the road, we could always add another service but for now, this is as far as our long range planning group wants to go. We would be doing well to fill those two services and maintain a small group ministry if that’s all we did.
Some church planting groups, like Dave Ferguson’s “New Thing” network and veteran church planter Steve Sjogren of “Servant Evangelism” fame, encourage church planters to launch their churches with two services up front. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not and in the case of my church plant, I elected not to do that for various reasons. I want our 10am worship time to be the focus of our people’s efforts as they participate with us. Small groups are VERY important to me as well but unless we have solid worship on Sunday mornings, the groups will never amount to anything. Group ideas are a whole new series of post themselves.
Along the service expansion line is the move by many churches to a Saturday night worship time. Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the next natural progression which is establishing an entirely new campus like my church pastor friend did. Prior to this though, he moved his congregation to add a Saturday evening worship time at 6pm and within a year’s time, it fueled his move to a new campus. On a practical level, Saturday’s also made sense since several families attended so they could be totally free on Sundays to do what they wanted. In Colorado where I pastor, outdoor events dominate and people like to get out and hike, ski, and do other activities without having something in the middle of the morning clogging that up. For these folks, Saturday evening made perfect sense. In my pastor friend’s experience, he established the service to alleviate overcrowding on Sundays but found an almost new congregation that came as a result of the convenience of having a Saturday worship time. He smiled when I asked him about this and said: “Instead of thinning out the Sunday crowd, we grew by another hundred or so with new people.” This then created his dilemma of what to do next. It is there where we will pick up this conversation tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on growth ideas? What have you done or what are your plans for your congregation? Give me some feedback and let’s discuss it.