By Tim Spivey, lead planter of New Vintage Church (San Diego)
How can preachers make adjustments that better prepare them for the transition from one to multiple services? I’ve been a part of such a transition numerous times, and made the transition from two to three, and three to four. I’ve also had to make adjustments for seasons that included preaching live in multiple venues and multiple locations on Sundays. Each season required me to make adjustments — physically, personally and vocationally. While my experience is that the jump from two to three services requires the most adjusting — the jump from one to two services also requires substantial adjustments.
Here are some things I’ve found.
1) Remember this is what it’s about. If you are adding services, that means God is growing the church. That’s the aim, and it’s why we need to adjust our attitudes away from any thoughts of inconvenience to our schedules and workload toward the blessing of God’s movement in our churches. Rather than lamenting “having” to go to two services, look forward eagerly to the moment your church can go to three, four, or more.
2) Prepare for the energy drop, and remember it’s only temporary. Both services will feel more empty and have less energy at first. However, in one of the great paradoxes of church growth, those half-empty rooms give your church much more likelihood for growth in the days ahead than the packed room that had more energy. The room will fill again with time — but this time, twice. That is, if you will…
3) Keep the vision clear & responsibility for outreach in the hands of the church. It isn’t your job to grow the church. It’s the church’s mission to bring people to Jesus. If people want to complain about how “empty” it feels, ask them to help fill the room. God fills rooms when we faithfully engage His mission. He entrusts people seeking Him to churches that are ready for them – and share His passion to seek and save what is lost.
4) Give assemblies the best time slots. It’s common for churches to split the uprights and have Bible Classes at the peak hour between two services. Sometimes the schedule reads: 2 services at 8:15am and 11:15am, with Bible Classes at 10:00am) This kind of format inconveniences guests and staff uniquely…and basically anyone who isn’t a Bible class teacher. If your church has Bible classes, consider moving them to midweek, running them concurrently with the Sunday assemblies (if parking allows it), or at the extreme time slots. The closer your two services are to 10:00am the better off you’ll be as a general rule.
5) Adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. There is a world of difference between six and seven hours of sleep. If you know you need to get up an hour or two earlier, go to bed an hour or two earlier. Don’t cut sleep for the sake of Saturday Night Live. Remember Sunday is now going to require more energy of you — you’ll need at least as much sleep as you were getting before. Standing up in front of searching people to communicate God’s Word effectively isn’t something we should try tired – if the reasons are within our control.
6) The more services you preach, the fewer Sundays you should preach. At least, if you value your family and health. This become more important the higher the service count gets. Don’t gamble with your health. Pay close attention to it–and listen to your spouse.
7) Avoid conflict before or between the services, when possible. I’m a big-time extrovert, and at New Vintage Church, I can allow my extrovert side go wild between the services because we have gracious people who are unlikely to complain, criticize, or whack me between the services — thus impacting my spiritual state of mind heading into the next service. I haven’t always been able to do this. Some Sundays over the years, it’s been a war zone out there. So, I felt I owed it to God, guests, and members to keep myself spiritually ready to preach. If you need to do the same, have a green room or another sacred spot that will allow you to stay spiritually prepared. People don’t realize how amped up we preachers are after preaching a service, and thus, how hard it is for us to constructively receive criticism — and then go back on stage right after and deliver the sermon faithfully. Be honest with yourself on this one, so you can…
8) Give all the services your best. This is easier when you are preaching two services rather than four. However, it’s vital for the growth of each service that the preacher doesn’t mail it in for either. For instance, if you have an 8:15 service attended by 20% of the congregation, and a 10:30am attended by 80% (hopefully this isn’t the setup), it’s natural to “play favorites.” Don’t do it. Do whatever it takes. A few years ago I was in a situation like that, and I recognized the quality gap between the two services was widening. I actually asked our tech team to publish the earliest service as the podcast sermon for the week—both audio and video. Doing this disciplined me toward focus, energy and delivering a better sermon to those faithful people.
Question: What else might you add to this list? How have you seen these born out in your experience.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book: Jesus, the Powerful Servant.