I need your help. I am looking for advice concerning my church. I am the Teaching Pastor at Missouri Valley Baptist Church. In many churches the position would be called Senior Pastor, but we’re trying to remove the stigma of a “professional” clergy hierarchy and therefore refer to each pastor by their primary responsibility (i.e. Teaching, Youth, Worship, etc.) I have been at MVBC for over 4 years now and we have watched as God has consistently done surprising things among us. We have transitioned over the past 4 years from a traditional, congregational church to a much more contemporary church that uses strong staff leadership in partnership with the congregation as our model of operation. We are fairly rural but we are pulling all of our growth almost entirely from the city which is a miracle, in my opinion. We’ve seen a lot of growth over the past four years (95% attendance growth, 300% giving grow!
th, etc.) and we have refocused our energies on children and youth. As a matter of fact, on any given Sunday somewhere around 45-55% of our attendance is under 18. Which brings me to my question.

We are currently filling our worship center to around 70% capacity. We offer one service, at 10:45am, on Sunday morning and as we have grown, for the first time we are beginning to see the place in the near future when we will need to move to a 2nd service. So my question to you is when is that right time? I have typically been informed that 80% capacity is most church’s stopping point and my guess is that we will be close to that around the beginning of summer. I anticipate that attendance will drop off during the summer some and then pick up in the fall again, at least that has been the normal model. So if 80% is the target, my guess is that we will be close, if not beyond that, by August/September.

If you have helped a church move to a 2nd service, or have seen it before, or simply have an idea about it, I would like to hear from you. What advice would you give me and/or our church?

In addition to this post, we are also considering how we will offer the 2nd service. I will post in the coming days about what types of ideas we are considering about the timing of the service, the emphasis of the service and how we are considering implementing it. I will look forward to your additional thoughts at that time.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

20 thoughts on “80/20?

  1. When we started doing two services at a church I served at a few years back, we determined that they should be identical services, instead of giving them titles like “contemporary” or “traditional.” Those terms are so relative. One church I know of has what they call a “contemporary” service, but has a full choir in robes. Not contempo. So we called it “early” and “late.” Or “first” and “second.” Or “Tom” and “Bob.” But I would avoid the tags that could cause polarization. Only shoot for that which allows your folks to choose based on what works best for them, not in what raises a certain negative or positive emotion inside of them.

  2. We did it two years ago, not for space (we have a 600 seat sanctuary and 280 in attendance) but to separate traditional and contemporary worship services. Timing was critical. We made our move on the second Sunday in September, a date which is traditionally a higher attendance day for us, partly because we wanted a good idea of how many people would be choosing which service, and what it would look like. Also, the fewer people who are “surprised” by the change (regardless of how many times you discuss it, there are still people who come in and say, “Oh, when did we start doing this?”) the better.

    We do an 8:30 and an 11:00, and the 8:30 is a Southern gospel style, the 11:00 is progressively contemporary. At first, the 8:30 was the larger of the two, but as people began settling in and getting used to things, it balanced out. Since the first of this year, the late service has been running 50-60 more people, and has been responsible for virtually all of the baptisms and new memberships that have come into the church.

    Once you get it started, you will not be able to go back to one service.

  3. i agree with jason about the different styles. our church had identical services(blended), then moved to a contemporary and traditional. i think we shot ourselves in the foot in a big way. the church is polarized and will never go back. it goes beyond just music, but now i see that some people think their service is “right” and the other is either dead or immature.

    if your staff is up to it, i’d consider a saturday night service. around here there are so may people who do shift work and a saturday night service would thrive. but i say consider it only if your staff is up to it, because it takes a lot to move from 2 major ministry days to 3. even if it is just a couple hours in the evening, that means your whole day will still revolve around it, and for a bi-voc guy that may wreak havoc on your family.

    as for timing, i vote that you wait till school starts back in the fall. that has always been a good time for me to launch new things.

  4. We transitioned to two services and it was the greatest thing for us. Here are some of my thoughts and reactions to other comments.

    1. What is your parking situation? 80% means nothing if your parking is full at 60% seatiing capacity… If parking is full now, go to two services this easter!

    2. We had one “blended” service. Nobody was happy. Not traditional enough for some, and they complained constantly about volume and music too contemp… Others, not contemporary enough.
    For me blended means nobody is really happy and the service becomes a constant tug of war.

    2. We decided to go to 8:30, full band but more gospel like; revivalistic etc… We call it the “gospel” service. 1045 is our “modern” service. I don’t like “contemporary” it seems to have no meaning.

    If people like church the way it was in 1955, they go to the first service. If they want a modern service, they go to the second. This has allowed us to do anything we want in the second service, I LOVE IT!

    3. We knew that the 10:45 service would be the big service so we pushed for at least 50 to go to the first for one year. It now runs around 130. I actually have had some join that service. the 10:45 runs around 350.

    4. I would actually love to add another service, on a totally different worship style to reach even others…. If your goal is to reach people, you have the service style that is the most appealing to your unchurched target.


  5. Micah,
    Multi services are easy to do, but hard to do well.
    The biggest problem is that people in one service have a tendency to lose community with those in other services. Before long they become two churches in one location.
    I was recently a part of a large multi service/ multi campus church. In order to overcome this loss of community, they decided to bring all of the services/campuses together under one roof once a quarter. I know of one megamega church that would rent a large auditorium on Easter & Thanksgiving so that they could bring all of the services together for one giant celebration service & to foster community among all of its members.
    Also, multi services often bring other challenges along with them. Unless your SS is poorly attended, it will not help your parking situation – in fact it will probably make it worse as early service folks try to get out & later service folks try to get in. If you do go to multi services, it would be to your benifit to reconsider how traffic flows in & out of your lot.
    Also, in the past I have found that churches in rural communities tend to resist multi services, so you may want to bounce this off of some of your lay leaders and congregants.

    Just some thoughts,

  6. Jason & Michael-

    Thanks for the thoughts about the separate style and the division within the church. I’ve heard this, and to an extent we have a small amount of this already as we have transitioned from a traditional format to a contemporary one already. Your thoughts have caused me to think about our methods.

  7. Tim-

    The thought about the parking lot is a good one. We tried to address parking lot and nursery right after we got here. We now fill about 50% of our parking lot so we are good there.

    I also like the idea about calling out a “core group” the new effort. We’ve already been talking to some in our church about it and I think we will have no problem commissioning a group to do that.

  8. John-

    The thought about two churches in one location is one we’ve thought about a lot. In fact, we almost wouldn’t mind that occurring – to be honest. Additionally, the SS issue is an interesting one. We’re strongly looking at a Sunday night service, instead of a second Sunday morning service, with the thought that everyone who attends the PM service would be funneled into a small group. We’ve got a lot of planning and preparing to do yet.

  9. Micah,

    My situation is different than yours. We started an additional service not because of space but to reach a different group of people. I didn’t feel it was fair to scrap the “traditional” service we have at 11:00. As long as we have people who enjoy that style we will have a traditional service.

    We started a contemporary service @ 8:43 AM called “Dwelling Place 843.” It is growing. Believe it or not I’m leading the worship! 🙂 Not singing but the guitar (long story why, only the last two weeks).

  10. We have three services. 8am is a “traditional service” with the KJV, hymnals, offering plates and mostly old people. That was started a couple months ago just because some folks had griped about it for years. The 9:15 and 10:45 services are sort of a contemporary blend with words on the screen, offering boxes, etc. The 9:15 is the magnet for new folks, as it’s immensely more lively than the 10:45 (which is 200 +/- in an 1100 seat space).

    I don’t normally buy the 80% rule. We go to jammed theaters, malls, and restaurants all the time, and I’d prefer to wait for a table, than to eat in a half empty place.

    The real complicating factor will be the youth programs and child care, most likely. That mostly decides who goes where when, at FBC Pelham.

    As John Calvin would say, good luck.

  11. Micah,

    I think that transition times are best for starting something new … liek a worship service.

    Considering the details that you have described, I would go to two services on the Sunday immediately following the start of the school year (in August or September – however you guys do it there).

    These “life transition times” make great times for fresh starts and ministry changes.


  12. Micah,

    Your situation sounds similar to ours. We needed to do it in order to accept new growth, since we had been breaking the 80% rule for some time. We did it very strategically and it has been great. We’ve grown and with very little pain at all. We now have back to back identical worship services at 9:00 and 10:30 each Sunday with ministries for all ages both hours.

    Because a lot of our people were hesitant/scared about doing two services, here’s what we did. Last year from Easter Sunday through Mother’s Day (that’s five Sundays) we “experimented” with two services. I preached a special series for those five weeks. We invited the immediate community via a 3×10,000 piece postcard mailer prior to Easter Sunday (that’s three different postcards: 1 promoting Easter, one promoting our Easter Egg Hunt after each service, and one promoting my new 5-week series).

    It was great because…

    a) it enabled our people to get the feel of doing two services without feeling that they had to do it forever.

    b) it ended right before summer hit, which almost always means a reduced attendance for us.

    c) it enabled us plenty of time to assess adjustments and weaknesses before we went to 2 services permanently.

    d) it resulted in the greatest five week attendance run in the history of the church. So, our people saw that IT WORKED.

    e) when we went to two services permanently this past September, our people knew what was ahead and knew that we could do it.

    To launch into 2 services permanently we repeated what we did in the spring, starting with two services the second Sunday (Sept. 17) after Labor Day weekend. Why Labor Day Weekend? Because that weekend always marks for us the end of the summer and is usually a low weekend. Why not Sept. 10th? Because we wanted everyone back from labor Day weekend to hear the news thawt we were going to 2 services the next Sunday. We did another special 5 week series with another 30,000 postcards going out.

    God blessed. Now our people can’t imagine going back to one service and we are looking at doing 3 services this Easter.

    Of course there are several other logistical issues to work out, but that just takes cooperation and brainstorming.

    Hope that helps!

  13. We did it about five years ago. We are very rural, SBC, and were traditional, but now not so. We were packed. We also had desire for two different styles. We were blended, now 8:30am traditional and 11:00 am contemporary. We surveyed the congregation to give us information. We saw a brief initiaul surge of attendance followed by dropoff, but that was due to other factors. We now see people coming to the service that fits their schedule. Music style is not as important, even to visitors. However, I would prefer the 11am to be traditional. I think the praise band is a little bit of a stretch for the average Cajun. I’m available to talk about this in depth if you need.

  14. You guys are tremendous! These are fantastic ideas that just keep pouring in. Thank you so much. I have taken much so far from the conversation. Please keep offering ideas.

    bj, your idea is one we are giving strong consideration to. Our only struggle, at this point, is that 80% of our current worship center is only 120 people. In other words, if we send 30 people out of our church to start another congregation we would lose a significant amount of our leadership. I’m not saying that will keep us from doing so, but it is a hurdle we’re looking at.

  15. Another thought, as respects starting new churchs: If there’s an area that needs a church, and you might even have some folks from that area already, why not start a Sunday School class just for those folks. Gives them something to unite around, and you can hold their memberships in trust until there are enough to start a full-fledged mission.

    We did this about 20 years ago with a high-class planned community which adjoins Pelham, after two other neighboring churches had started missions that failed.

    You can see the results at http://www.riverchasebaptistchurch.org

  16. Micah,

    You said “The thought about two churches in one location is one we’ve thought about a lot. In fact, we almost wouldn’t mind that occurring – to be honest.”
    Just out of curiosity, are you considering doing something similar to Ecclesia in Houston?


  17. John-

    Not to put you off, but I’ve already written a new article that will be posted on Tuesday morning. It should answer your question. If it doesn’t, I’ll be glad to elaborate.

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