Like many churches, our Sunday morning worship schedule has morphed into its current state through many little decisions and seasons.
The current times for worship are:
8:00 a.m. – Sanctuary
9:00 a.m. – Family Life Center
10:15 a.m. – Sanctuary
10:45 a.m. – Family Life Center
All four services have the same preacher (live) and the same message.
The two services in the Sanctuary are pretty similar in order and style, both use hymnals, piano and organ. The second service typically has a choir, handbells, etc.
The two services in the Family Life Center are more modern in nature with music led by the worship band. Both modern services are identical for the most part. There some different people who serve as on the welcome team or as scripture readers.
There are many different ways to approach concurrent services, but here’s a little about what we’re currently doing and some of the challenges we face.
- Having the same preacher/message for all the services is helpful for planning. The consistent message across the board is good for church unity and for the sake of common themes of scripture, videos, songs, and other creative components.
- There are several options for the congregation. A person has two time choices for a more traditional-leaning service and an early and late option for a more modern service.
- Having an overlap allows the church to host four worship services between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. with needed exit and entry points.
- The 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. stand alone, but the 10:15 a.m. & 10:45 a.m. overlap a bit.
- The church is flexible and nimble enough to make it all happen.
- Approximately 1,100 members call Troy UMC home and there are usually about 500-550 on any given Sunday.
- Timing for the message: Since the message is live, the order of service has to be timed correctly.
- The 10:15 a.m. service begins with prayer and music and moves pretty directly to the message. The preacher typically concludes in the Sanctuary by 10:55 -11:00 a.m. and comes to the Family Life Center. A pastor or layperson will then continue the Sanctuary service concluding with the offering, special music, communion or whatever else is in the plan. Having these quality leaders is a blessing, but one hurdle has been the pastor “leaving” before the end of worship. We have found that people now stick around and shake hands with each other and talk more than when a line of people would talk to the pastor.
- The 10:45 a.m. service begins without the pastor in the space and starts with music, welcome, greeting, announcements and more music leading into the message. Typically, the pastor (or whoever is preaching that day) usually comes through the door around the time of the final song.
- It takes some getting used to, but the preacher giving sermons back-to-back isn’t easy. Thankfully, since the pastor has experienced the full service at 9:00 a.m., there is an understanding of what has already happened in the service.
- The timing challenge is a tradeoff to syncing things when we began the 10:45 a.m. concurrent service with lay speakers. We used the same scripture, but they were virtually two different messages, flows, etc. Now, since we have the same preacher, there are times when it’s a little later upstairs and we have to “stall”. Those are few and far between and in some ways, it’s kind of fun from time to time.
- Another challenge is the children’s ministry. With various start times to the services, there are lots of in and out points for children’s ministry. We’re in the process of streamlining the children’s ministry entry points to two overarching hours.
- A final challenge doesn’t have to do with concurrent services as much as various style. Planning for different spaces, as well as creating number worship orders in bulletins, etc has the potential to create chaos each week. Thankfully, we have some pretty good systems in place and it’s working OK!
Our church began two worship services due to space constraints back in the 80’s. In the early 90’s we began the third morning worship service, which was not all that common at that point. The fourth service began just five or six years ago. I’ve watched each of those services grow – starting from nothing then taking root.
These days, the common wisdom is to keep starting more, smaller congregations – either new services, new locations or new churches all together. It’s key to the church continuing on. People like connecting with something new. Leadership is needed and because of this, leaders are groomed and grown.
In addition to the four morning worship services at our church, we send pastors, staff and lay speakers each week to a smaller church connected to us about ten miles away. And yet another small church just merged with us to join forces and we have a schedule of various lay speakers and staff preach there too.
It’s not always easy work to plan for these services, especially with the various style and locations, but it’s exciting to have such a full and focused mission of fully utilizing the spaces in our building and the people God has sent us!