During the summer months and holidays throughout the year, churches change service times. Some do it to accommodate an increase in attendance. Most though, do it to accommodate the needs of the church and a decrease in attendance, especially during the summer months. While both have different reasons, what they typically have in common is failing to let people outside of the church know about it. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a church change service times or combine a service, and the only people that know about it are the ones who regularly attend the church.
“I ARRIVED AT THE CHURCH FOR THE SECOND SERVICE ONLY TO LEARN THAT THEY HAD A COMBINED SERVICE THAT DAY AND IT WAS HALF OVER.”
If your church is considering changing things up over the summer, here are some things you can do to make it go smoothly and avoid confusion:
Decide Early. If your church is considering combining your services for the summer or maybe you’re going to cancel your evening service over the summer, make that decision now and start talking about it. That also includes any other program you are discontinuing over the summer months.
Prepare Your Teams. Any changes like this should be clearly communicated to your staff and volunteers BEFORE you start announcing it to everyone else. This will ready those that work or serve at the church to prepare for the change before it happens.
Get the Word Out. Start advertising a change in service times 4-6 weeks prior. You’ll want to communicate the reason for the change so everyone understands. Announce it during your services (using a video can make it more memorable), include a reminder in the bulletin, update your website with a banner ad and information, and put it on your social media profiles. The week before the change, be sure your outside signs reflect those new times as well.
“AS A GUEST, I WAS A BIT DISAPPOINTED TO FIND OUT THE SERVICE HAD ALREADY STARTED. THIS WAS MY FIRST CHURCH SERVICE THAT I HAD EVER ATTENDED VOLUNTARILY.”
Check and Check Again. This point is one of the main reasons we decided to write about this. It’s interesting how often we find discrepancies in the available information about a church’s service times. We often research this type of information for our clients and, not surprisingly, we find that different sources of communication all show different information. For example, the social media pages and home page on the website list the service times differently than the calendar page on the website. We’ve even called a church’s voicemail and found the service times listed inaccurately. Regularly check across all communication methods to make sure that you are being consistent in your communication.
“I CHECKED THE CHURCH’S WEBSITE AND FOUND INCORRECT INFORMATION THAT LED ME TO THE CHURCH AT THE WRONG TIME. I VISITED THINKING I WAS ATTENDING THE 9:30 SERVICE ONLY TO FIND THAT THEY SWITCHED TO THEIR FALL SCHEDULE AND NOW HAD TWO SERVICES.”
Be Creative. During the holidays or any other highly attended service throughout the year where there will be an increase in attendance, consider adding more seating and ask your regular attenders to go to a service where guests are less likely to attend (hint: later services are usually more popular among church visitors). For those holidays where you know that adding more seating won’t accommodate the increase in attendance, try keeping your main service times the same and adding an earlier or later service to the schedule. This will cut down on confusion with any changes.
Don’t. Consistency is best and every time we see a church make a change, there is usually confusion. Not to mention that it causes everyone to have to get used to doing something new. If you don’t have a really good reason for changing service times, just don’t do it.
What has your church done to successfully create a smooth transition in schedule change?
About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.