Have you ever considered how much the Sunday morning experience is costing your church? That likely sounds like a funny question to ask. The church has focused on Sunday morning as its primary time of being open and gathering the congregation for decades. Have you ever stopped to wonder why this might be the case (other than the standard – “because we’ve always done it that way”)? Furthermore, has your church evaluated the effectiveness of how well Sunday morning is growing the existing disciples in maturing towards becoming disciple-making disciples and reaching new people?
Does it really tell us anywhere in the Bible that we are to gather in a steepled building on Sunday for worship? Yes, we are to take a sabbath, but typically most believe Saturday is the seventh day in which we are to rest – not Sunday. Yes, we are to come together, but when Jesus says to build the “church” he was not referencing a physical structure. He was referring to building a body of Christ – a gathering of Christ followers. In the Bible worship includes burnt offerings, prayer, song, and dance. Worship is a daily activity not a service for a person to observe once a week.
In preparation for our latest book, Michael Scott and I ran some rough numbers for what an average church spends on the Sunday morning experience. The numbers and hours are mind-blowing! Approximately a third to a half of a pastor’s time is consumed by the Sunday morning experience (sermon prep, coordination of staff and volunteers, and Sunday morning itself). Next, factor in the number of hours others invest: the choir and musicians practice and perform, hospitality team, connection team, ushers, acolytes, nursery workers, bulletin prep and printing, communion prep and clean up, offering counted, recorded, and deposited, children’s time preparation, altar guild team’s planning and preparation, creation of slides, resourcing of images and videos for sermon illustrations, sound and light checks, Sunday school lesson preparations, and custodial services prep and clean up. Finally, consider the expenses incurred such as utilities, parking lot and facility wear and tear, grounds maintenance, maintenance of the facility, refreshments, coffee, curriculum, sheet music, offering envelopes, organ maintenance, etc.
Not every church has all of these activities and expenses and some churches have activities and expenses not listed. What are your Sunday morning activities and expenses (and what is that as a percentage of your overall budget)? How many new disciples is your church reaching because of your Sunday morning experience? How many existing people in your congregation took their next faithful step on their discipleship pathway as a result of the Sunday morning experience in the past year? How are people sharing their faith and inviting others to the Sunday morning experience (since this is most often our primary focus in terms of time and energy expended and dollars invested)? How is your Sunday morning experience transforming lives and your community? Name a person or two whose life has been transformed because of all the resources that have been invested in the Sunday morning experience?
We seem to have put most all of our ministry eggs into this one Sunday morning basket. At the same time the average age in the church continues to rise and the congregation size continues to decline while Generations Y & Z (over 42% of the population) become the most unchurched generations in our modern history. Is it time to rethink how the church invests these God-provided gifts that might provide better and more faithful Kingdom impact?
If you are a church leader who is ready to evert your thinking about the Sunday-centric model, pick up a copy of Inside Out: Everting Your Ministry Model for the Postmodern Culture. Gather some other church leaders. Use this resource to help you asses, discuss, process, make bold decisions, and take new steps to reach new people for this new time.