You would not believe the amount of time and brain power we have spent thinking about service times for our church. Being in Athens, we have an interesting situation. About half of our attenders (college students) are only here about 8 months out of the year. So, our attendance fluctuates a lot- sometimes from one week to the next. So, on top of figuring out the right times to offer services, we have to think about what are we going to do when the students are not in town.
Here is a list of the factors we try to consider when choosing times…
-Are they easy to remember?
-Do we have enough time in between services to get the parking lot clear for the next service?
-What time is too early and would prevent families from coming with young kids?
-What time is too late and would prevent people from coming during the lunch hour?
-Are we going to offer family ministry environments at both hours?
-Will we have enough time for our set up teams to get everything ready?
-What is the most optimal time for a first time guest to attend?
I’m sure I’m forgetting some other factors we considered, but you can see it can get pretty complicated. Ultimately, we decided to have 2 service times : 10AM and 11:45AM. We plan to only offer family ministry environments at 10AM. When students are not in town, we will just have a 10AM service.
Here was our reasoning…
We are moving to a theater that has 1,000 seats on the first level (there are 1,000 more in the balconies, but we won’t use those right now). When the students are not here, we do not want our non-collegiate attenders spilt up into 2 services. The theater would be too empty to create a compelling environment. So, this led us to the decision to only offer family ministry environments at one hour. That way, when students are not here, we can simply drop the second service time and have everyone together at once. One of the best things about this is that families will always have the same service time whether students are here or not.
The next question became, what is the earliest time that we could have our only opportunity for families to attend. We made the decision that since we are only offering one opportunity, we just did not want to offer it before 10AM. We felt that making it any earlier would not be very guest friendly.
The final question became, what is the earliest time we can add a second service? The big factor is that parents need to have time to go pick up their kids and clear the parking lot for the next service. Our services are generally about 70 minutes, so that means that it should be done by 11:10. The most ideal situation, is to have a full 50 minutes for transition and start the next service at noon. But, we have not had the best response to a noon service. So, we landed on 11:45 AM. We are hoping that the slightly earlier start time will make the second service more appealing.
Is this the right call? Who knows. I guess we will find out next month.