Church Twice on a Sunday? Really!

I guess we might be somewhat unusual as a church. We put a fair degree of emphasis on the goodness of meeting twice on a Sunday. We actually run three services a day – two in the morning, 9.15, 11.15 (same service), and then an evening service at 6pm. And we encourage our folk, where possible, to come to a morning service and the evening service. I know lots of churches have dropped the evening service, and I’m also aware that lots of new church plants are going for just one – often a 4pm service. And I’m really really not criticising that at all. But here’s ten reasons why I’ve come to think that having a couple of services a day might be a good thing.

  1. One more opportunity to pray, praise, feast and fellowship. We put a fair emphasis on teaching – this gives us another opportunity to serve up some spiritual food. We often work through a book of the Bible in the morning, and then we may do something more topical or creative in the evening. By having two services we can have the best of both worlds.
  2.  Shift workers – a fair number of our folk work shifts or have other commitments which might mean, if we only had one service, they wouldn’t make church at all on a Sunday. For some their shift patterns may mean they make church only once or twice a month, which would be a shame right?
  3. Parents of young children. Let’s be honest – having a baby or toddler with you at church tends to mean you struggle to engage with every aspect fully. So we suggest to our young parents they take it in turns for the evening. One parent puts kids to bed and the other can come out and have a bit of space/time out/adult conversation etc. Next week they can swap. Obviously once kids get a bit older everyone can come out. But it’d be quite easy to lose a decade of church engagement through temper-tantrums, emergency toilet trips, tummy bugs etc etc.
  4. Singles. This one may sound a bit controversial, but from some of the singles I’ve spoken with Sunday’s can be a long day – especially if they don’t have specific plans or a lunch invite. An evening service means that those who might otherwise feel isolated have somewhere to go, and some people to see. With the above categories (shift worker, parents, singles) it’d be pretty rough if the rest of us sacked off Sunday evening and left them to it. That wouldn’t be all that edifying, encouraging, or loving to them. So its really important that we all make the effort – to serve others by our presence, as well as getting good stuff out ourselves.
  5. Evangelism. Some folk may have other commitments in the day-time – Sunday sports, family gatherings etc. An evening service gives you another opportunity to invite people along to something.
  6. Hospitality. I think there are a couple of quite different opportunities for hospitality on a Sunday. Lunch is one obvious way. But if you don’t have the space or skills for that could you do something post-evening service – get a group of people round for tea and toast, or go for a drink/coffee/McDonalds (depending on how you feel about ‘sabbath observance’ – let’s not get into that here and now!). ‘Hospitality’ can, I think, take many forms. And an evening gives you a different opportunity.
  7. Training. Think of the opportunity to raise the next generation to love church, the Bible, worship, and family. And think of all the good you’ll be doing them by teaching them to spend time with others. I know this isn’t the primary purpose of church, but, anecdotally, the teens I know who have done this for the last decade or so are some of the most rounded and socially able young adults I know. It’s not nothing!
  8. Habits. For those familiar with Jamie Smith’s work I’ll just leave this here.
  9. Theology – the early church started meeting on the first day of the week as it was resurrection day. It is an opportunity to spend a whole day anticipating resurrection/new creation and doing those sorts of things – praising, enjoying, feasting, listening etc. I know the early church couldn’t do this as most of the people were working – but, if you had the opportunity to give a full day to some new-creation anticipation that would seem a good thing, no?
  10. What else would you be doing? Ok, that’s mischievous – I know lots of people have worthwhile and/or necessary things to be doing. But I also suspect a lot of us might answer the question with, ‘I could be watching Top Gear.’ Is that a better use of your time, or could you get it on iPlayer?

So there’s ten reasons that you (or your church) may wish to value a ‘twice on Sunday’ model of meeting. What else might you add? If you’re unpersuaded then comment below – let’s keep the conversation going.

Three Paradigms For Worship

Here’s a nice seven minute video that a friend sent me which I think nicely encapsulates some popular views of congregational sung worship. The three are:

  • Worship as encounter. Good – affirms the sense in which God promises to be with his people as they gather, and the emotional encounter with truth and grace. These things should move us. Bad – has the potential to encourage a consumer mindset – ‘the worship didn’t really do anything for me so I’ll try that other place down the road.’ Also has the potential to be individualistic at the expense of the corporate sense of ‘singing to one another’ (see Colossians 3:16)
  • Worship as formation. Good – recognises the way in which the performance of praise as a habit shapes our hearts and desires. Bad – can easily drift into language and practise which is insensitive and insensible to the outsider (see 1 Corinthians 14:23-25)
  • Worship as mission. Good – keeps the church focused on her calling to reach others (see the 1 Cor 14 ref above). Keeps services accessible to anyone. Believes that outsiders might be impacted or attracted by our worship. Bad – has to potential to make the worship seeker driven, rather than seeker aware.

Glenn’s answer on the video is that we need to hold all three elements in appropriate tension, in line with the various instructions given in the Scriptures. What that looks like in practice requires a fair bit more thought, but they’re hopefully useful words to hang on to in our reflections about how we ‘do’ our sung worship – encounter, formation, mission.

 

A Prayer For Reign

I have this little prayer from the good folk at LICC taped to the wall by my desk. I often look at it and find it encouraging to think, meditate, and pray over it. Maybe it could be an encouragement to you, or someone you know today.

prayer

The ‘Why’ Shapes the ‘Way’

start with why

In Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, he suggests that we give more time to considering why we do, not just what we do. I’m increasingly convinced that this way of looking at things is crucial in our service of others. Consider the following two examples:

At ChristChurch, Somewheresville, the folks on the set-up rota wake early. They’d rather not get up early and go do setup but it’s their turn. They arrive as late as they can get away with, throw up the signs, put a couple of toys out in the creche, and randomly chuck some leaflets on the welcome table (nobody reads that stuff anyway). While the service is in progress they nip out to take in the signs – no point wasting time later. Ten minutes after the service is finished the info table is packed swiftly away, and the banners are taken down – if people get knocked with their coffee it’s their fault – they shouldn’t be in the way. They’re sure to pack down as loudly as possible so that everyone gets the hint. Someone asks about homegroup info. ‘Too late mate, sorry, already packed away – we’ve got homes to go to you know.’ They pack down in record time and pat each other on the back as they’re going to get home earlier than ever – result, job done!

At GraceChuch, Little Wheresit, the team wake early. They arrive on time and start putting everything out. They arrange things to be neat, easy to find, and pleasing to the eye – they want people to find a warm, welcoming, tidy environment as they come. After the service they enjoy some mingle time and then begin to subtly suss out whether anything can begin to go away. They want to make sure people have access to info up to the last minute. Signs come in, chairs begin to be tidied. Once most have left the building and things are winding down, they then begin to finish clear up. They leave a little later than usual, but that’s because someone spent five minutes helping a visitor find some information they were interested in. They leave patting each other on the back as they’ve done a good job helping others – result, job done!

The difference between the two? The ‘why’ has shaped the ‘way.’ In the first example the team take the path of least resistance. The aim is to get the job done as fast as possible. The ‘why’ is answered, ‘because someone’s got to do it, and I got lumped with the rota.’

The second team go out of their way to do a good job. Their aim is to provide an environment that helps and serves others. The ‘why’ is answered, ‘because people matter to God, so they matter to us, and we want to make sure everybody gets what they need, and so may come back.’

The ‘why’ shapes the ‘way’. It’s a simple mantra, but one that I suspect requires regular reminders to put into practise. Why not try it as a training exercise with some of your team members or volunteers. Spend time clarifying the ‘why’ and see how it shapes the ‘way’ things get done.

Mastering Civility

I heard Bill Hybels talk recently about the importance of ‘basic civility’ for leading healthy staff cultures. Many of us are familiar with the adage, ‘people join organisations, they leave managers.’ So this is an area that may require a little more intentional investment. Hybels’ recommended a book by Christine Porath called Mastering Civility. Having bought the book, and read it, I have to say I really liked it. Much of it was common sense, but as the saying goes, ‘common sense isn’t all that common.’

In the book Porath covers the high costs of incivility, how to assess your own culture, how to develop the culture, as well as lots of practical tips on practising basic civility. Here’s just three research-based insights from her book.

  • Of those on the receiving end of incivility 66% felt their performance declined, 78% felt their commitment to the organisation declined, and 25% admitted to taking frustration out on others.
  • People pick up on warmth faster than competence. Judgments as to someone’s warmth toward us are processed in 33 milliseconds.
  • The greatest driver of worker engagement is the extent to which workers felt their managers were genuinely interested in their well-being.

There’s a ton more of this kind of stuff in the book illustrating the effect that civility (or lack of) has on others. If you want to chase a bit more there’s an 8 minute YouTube clip of Christine Porath talking about some of the material in her book here:

Personally, I’d highly recommend any senior leader picks up this book and spends some time working through it with their staff team. You may be thinking, ‘I’m too busy, can I really afford the time and effort to read and talk about this ‘soft’ stuff?’ I think a better question to reflect on would be, ‘can you afford not to?’

Start an even smaller group?

In our mid-week small groups we recently enjoyed working through some material based on Ed Welch’s book Side By Side. It’s a great book, the groups enjoyed the material, and a number have asked how we can put some of the stuff into practise more. Here’s just one idea that one of our small group leaders has used profitably in the past.

Our small groups meet three times per month. The fourth week is an all-together church meeting. So, how about you try meeting with all of your small group twice a month – say the first and third weeks. Then, on the second week, why don’t you split down into prayer triplets. It’ll take a bit of logistical organising to match people up and don’t worry if the numbers don’t work perfectly. The aim is to create even smaller gatherings where people can have more time to share and pray with one another at a deeper level. I guess that a fairly common small group experience is for sharing and prayer to be squeezed into the last ten minutes of a meeting at which point the pressure is on for members of the group to be brief and light. If anyone shares long or gets heavy the leader may break out into a cold sweat. In a prayer triplet you can get together for an hour or so and everyone has time to talk for longer, share more deeply and personally, and then pray for one another.

You may already be doing this outside of your small group in which case, great – carry on. But if you’re not, and if you’d like to develop deeper relationships of ‘side by side’ discipleship, accountability, support and prayer, maybe this is something your group could try. Perhaps initially trial it for three months – if it works you can keep on going; if it doesn’t I’d suggest you haven’t lost much by trying. My guess is (and based on my own experience of such triplets) you’ll get loads out of it. Why not give it a go?

Some ideas to kick-start your prayer life in 2018

If you’re determined to improve your prayer life in 2018 here’s a few ideas that may help:

  • Keep a prayer journal. Write down the main things your praying for each week, and look back over it periodically.
  • Take a note-book to church or homegroup. Write down things you can pray for and then use your notes to help you pray through the week.
  • Get a copy of your church address book and pray through a page of it each day. That way you’ll probably pray for everyone in your church family once every month to six weeks.
  • Don’t bin the notice sheet. If your church produces a notice sheet why not stick it in your Bible and use it to pray for upcoming events and courses.
  • Use some tech – the Prayer Mate app is free and lets you use existing material or customise it for yourself – I’ve personally found this app really helpful in organising my prayers and remembering to pray for certain things.
  • Use some written prayers. You could try something older like Valley of Vision or something more modern like Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers.
  • Pray Bible prayers – use the Psalms, the Lord’s prayer, or something like Ephesians 3:14-21.
  • Start small. If you’re not in the habit of praying often try initially sitting down somewhere quiet for just five minutes. You could pray the Lord’s prayer, then add on anything on your heart or mind that day.
  • Don’t give up. If you miss a few days consider yourself human. Get back on the horse and keep going. We’re accepted by grace, not the length or frequency of our prayers.
  • Read a book on prayer – Paul Miller’s, A Praying Life is excellent.
  • Get a prayer partner or prayer triplet – a smaller group of folk whom you can meet with more regularly to share and help each other pray. More on this next week . . .

What else have you found helpful in keeping your own prayer lives fresh?