Starting a New Worship Service

June 13, 2013

An excellent article that appeared on our advanced leadership forum.

Here is some information on how we grew through adding a second service.

In one day God nearly doubled the size of our church.  Unlike an isolated high attendance day, this was solid growth.  While this may not be the explosive growth found in the book of Acts, we’re pretty excited.  We didn’t try anything terribly clever or unique.  Actually we used a new approach to an age old plan for expanding the attendance potential of your church.

We started a second service.  Like I said, not too novel.  But we started a second service exactly like you would start a new church.  Most churches have a lot of momentum when they go public.  There is often an explosion of excitement and growth.  I wondered, “If we can use that dynamic to start a church, why can’t we also use that dynamic to grow a church.”  So we did.   We launched the new service from scratch reaching an entirely new group of people.   We passed up the traditional  method of dividing an existing congregation into two groups and sending half to each service.  In fact we expressly asked our current membership not to attend the new service.

The key is approaching this as if your congregation was starting a brand new church in the area.  In starting a new church your existing congregation (the mother church) would send a core group to a different location.  In this method instead of sending a core group to a different location, you simply send them to a different time.  The same principles to start a new church can be effectively used in starting a new church service.   Instead of pioneering a church across town.  Your launch team stays in the same place and starts the new congregation at a different hour.

This church planting perspective is what makes all the difference between this proposed approach and the traditional method of starting a second service.  The traditional model of starting a second service may expand you Sunday morning capacity, but does little to fill it.  We chose not to divide our existing members into two services.  Our goal was to reach an entirely new group of people through a major outreach push at an earlier hour in our current location.

What we did is this:  We kept our existing 10:00 service together, moved them forward to 10:30, and started a new service with new people at 9:00.   We took only a handful of workers to staff the new 9:00 service’s ministry.  We then watched as God created a new congregation from unchurched people in the community.  It was a challenge, and a little scary but God sure used it.  After all is said and done I highly recommend you prayerfully consider this option as a next step for your church.


Will a second or third worship service at the same time as Sunday School hurt the church?

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Testimony from Hempfield UMC in Lancaster PA as a result of a consultation with Bill Easum

When we added our first contemporary service we had it at 9:30, the same time as Sunday School.  Caused an uproar at first but the advantages soon became obvious.  We now have two Sunday Schools with double the attendance.  Many of the people who first came to the contemporary worship service liked the idea of putting their kids in Sunday School, going to worship and getting out in a little over an hour.  As their faith deepened, they looked for Christian ed opportunities.  Not only do we have two Sunday Schools but a vast array of ed opportunities throughout the week.

We did not add an additional Sunday School at first.  After about a year and one half we added the second one.  One very popular course for newcomers is Intro to the Bible.  This class often has up to 60 people.  The natural growth took care of availability of teachers.  When we started Disciple Bible Studies the staff taught.   As enrollment increased others who had been through the courses trained as facilitators.

From Ashton UMC Ashton Md, four services with 225 in worship total:

I would suggest you leave the 10:30 a.m. alone and go with a contemporary service concurrent with Education at 9:00 a.m. I recommend this from two successful stories in my last two churches.

It will attract seekers and visitors who are time conscious and looking for a one hour package of Education for children, believing that’s the best for them right now and Worship for themselves without kids which is what they want. You will get a boost in children in Education and a reduction in adults in Education for a while.

The plus side is most people move toward involvement in a church in steps. They will come and stay for the one hour package. If you do the job of selling other activities and opportunities they will begin to stretch and give you more than one hour. including eventually joining adult education opportunities.

Changing the established traditional service is risky, leaving it alone and adding a service concurrent with Sunday School is a whole lot less risky for back lash. What will happen is that this new service will eventually surpass the traditional service. You may want to go to an additional education experience at 10:30 as you grow. it is easier to talk people into staying for an educational event after church than to get people to come in earlier than church for education. Let worship lead them into a learning extending friendship opportunity following a vital and dynamic worship experience.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Starting A Second Service, By Charles Arn
  2. Starting A Seeker Sensitive Service, Ed. Dobson, Zondervan. This is a very creative book.
  3. A Community of Joy, Timothy Wright, Abingdon. This book is for developing a indigenous service.
  4. Contemporary Worship: A Source book for Spirited-Traditional, Praise, and Seeker Services.  Sixteen different authors fill this book with practical information. It also contains a resource kit for each of the types of worship including sermon and worship outline. Obtain thru Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN 800-251-3320


  1. C. Thornton October 16, 2014 Reply

    We are interested in beginning a third service at our church and would appreciate any information on this subject. I am excited about receiving this information.

    • Bill Tenny-Brittian October 16, 2014 Reply

      Best resource available, still, is Arn's "Starting a Second Service." You would approach starting a third service nearly identically to starting a second service.

      Of course, scheduling is likely to be an issue. There are a couple ways to handle that.

      • Add an "early" service. This option is best when you can get a number of your current participants to change to the early service - first-time guests are not likely to show up that early.
      • Add an additional venue. If you have a gym or some other out building space, or if you can rent/purchase space off site, you can launch your first multiple site. This is best if the new service is aiming for a "new" target audience, or if your current prime-time service is packed and you want to continue reaching new people.
      • Add an additional service on a different day/time. This should be your option of very last resort or if you will be able to get significant numbers from your current services to move to the new service day/time. If your target for this service is people who are not currently in your congregation, the chances of success is nil, zip, nada, slim-and-none.

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