Matthew Dunavant, Connections Director at The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, TN, asks:
We are experiencing a growth spurt and are adding two additional services starting in the new year: three on Sunday morning like we have been doing, and two Sunday evening services. My question is what are some practical differences in first impression strategies for a night service? We want to set the mood as high-energy and positive. I see you have Saturday night services which probably have unique variables.
Let me start with a few rapid-fire general thoughts on adding service times, and then I’ll get to the actual question (this is a common pastoral technique known as “stalling”).
Whenever possible, add two services instead of one. You’re already doing this, which is great. I mention it to readers here because of the value in attending one, serving one.
Ask people to commit to a season. The core team who will launch the service need to be asked to attend / serve for at least six months in order to help the service get established. In an ideal world, most of these will burn their ships and never go back to their original service time.
Hold the new schedule with an open hand. It will be messy. It may not work. Your attendance may not be what you hoped for. Do everything in your power to make the new service time a success, but if it’s not, have the courage to pull the plug.
(I listened to a recent New Churches podcast that discusses these points further. Listen to Daniel Im and Todd Adkins talk about it here.)
Now, on to your actual question: what are the differences in First Impressions strategies for a night service? I think there are a few:
1. Alternative service times help you reset expectations. You can *ahem* get away with things that you might not be able to do in a traditional service time. Several years back when we first launched on Saturday, we had the opportunity to offer a full-scale coffee bar experience with menu items we couldn’t / wouldn’t do on a crowded morning. It was a small touch, but our guests loved it. These days we offer some “night service only” perks like after-service parties (think food truck rodeos, ice cream hangout, etc.).
2. Nights require you to get creative with volunteers. We know that everybody’s grandmama has a birthday dinner on Saturday. Every. Single. Week. For that reason, our volunteer bench needs to be deeper on night services than day services, because we’re going to have more people calling out. Having said that, Sunday nights in your context can be a protected time where vols don’t have much happening, and can commit more time (think college students coming back to town and getting back into the routine of the week).
3. Nights require extra gear. If you’re going to have a First Time Guest tent, you gotta light that sucker up. A majority of the year, it’s going to be chilly when the sun goes down, so you have to have a heat source. If you have a parking team (and you should), they need reflective vests and lighted batons. You also need to walk your lot to spot hazards and dark areas that may go unnoticed during the daytime.
4. Nights neccesitate a different mood. Many times, your night service will be significantly smaller than a morning service. How will you compensate for the crowd (or lack thereof)? You can have 250 people in a 500 seat auditorium, and it can still feel empty if you don’t move them front and center. If your worship center has windows, you can curse the darkness or embrace it. Consider alternative lighting arrangements for a unique vibe (the photo accompanying this post was taken on a recent visit to North Point Community Church and their NP Nights service).
5. Nights open the door to a new kind of first time guest. You may discover that a night service becomes your widest front door to guests. There are people who shy away from a traditional service time, but would accept an invitation to get out on a Sunday night. The point: don’t overlook the great opportunities you’ll have to greet and treat people well.
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