Earlier in the summer, I asked for input into the idea of changing the worship time at Covenant to have a single service in the summer, rather than continuing our two worship times. The results were interesting. Most people did not express any opinion. However, the opinions of those expressing a preference differed between the first and second services.
For the first service worshippers, the most preferred time would be no later than 9 a.m. Several people also expressed an interest in moving the time of the first service to either 8:30 or 9 a.m. on a permanent basis. The second service preference, for those expressing an opinion, was either 9:30 or 10 a.m. for the summer. There were also a number of people from both services who said they preferred the consistency of the same times year-round and others who preferred to continue having the choice of two different service times. Again, remember most people did not express a preference.
In addition to the survey, I reviewed data from the past 10 years. I discovered the summer decline in attendance has been averaging 20% to 25% when we continue to hold two services. Going back to the time when we did switch to one service, the decline averaged 35%.
For those whose memories go back a long way to remember when the switch to a single service was intended to be permanent. Prior to that switch the two services each generally had over 100 in attendance. The combined attendance at the single service was higher than either individual service, but again was 35% lower than the combined total in the spring and fall. After the switch to a single service was made “permanent,” the attendance did not return to the numbers we enjoyed when we count the combined total. Since the first service has been reinstituted, attendance has not recovered to its previous level, yet that group tends to be more consistent in attendance numbers than the second service.
I would also like to relate an incident that happened to me while I was on vacation. The group I was with wanted to worship on Sunday, so I checked http://www.umc.org/find-a-church/search, a United Methodist website where you can find listings for local United Methodist Churches. The listing for the church that seemed to be the best prospect said the worship services were at 8:45 and 11 a.m. I also clicked the link to the church’s own site and confirmed on their worship page those were the correct times. When we arrived at 11 there was virtually no one present. It seems they change the summer hours to 8:45 and 10:15! As a result, four of us missed the opportunity to worship, and the church missed having four additional people in worship, including one of us who was looking for a new church home!
Based on the preferences, data, and the desire for consistency, it appears that it is in the best interest of the majority of the congregation and the church itself to continue offering the option of the two services on year-round basis.
Grace & Peace,
This article can be found in the September 2018 Newsletter