Why the 11 a.m. Worship Service Is Disappearing

There are many reasons churches no longer have an 11 a.m. service.
There are many reasons churches no longer have an 11 a.m. service. (Flickr )

I wish I knew the specific reason most churches have offered an 11:00 a.m. Sunday service for decades.

The possible theories are many, but none has been substantiated with historical research. The most plausible is the agrarian theory. That perspective holds that churches accommodated the farmers in the community. The farmers had multiple chores that had to be done in the morning. They would get the chores done and then go to church. They often followed the single service with a potluck meal on the grounds.

But the 11:00 a.m. service is disappearing.

Rather than spend time trying to discover the origin of the 11:00 a.m. service, I decided to ask several church leaders why they discontinued this service in their churches. Five common themes emerged:

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1. When a church moved from one service to two, the 11:00 a.m. slot no longer made sense. As churches began scheduling additional services, the 11:00 a.m. time did not fit a good schedule for traffic, flow and length of service. Some churches also had to schedule Sunday school or groups around the new times. The demise of the 11:00 a.m. service likely is related to churches that moved to multiple services more than any one other reason.

2. Churches with one service began to realize the disadvantages of the 11:00 a.m. service. Most of these church leaders could offer no cogent explanation for a single service with such a late time. Most people have been awake for hours, even if they attend a group or class before the service. And the worship service inevitably runs into lunchtime.

3. More people choose a mid-morning time if they have a choice. I have led teams to conduct a number of congregational surveys. The plurality of respondents chose a worship time beginning between 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. Rarely do people say they want to attend an 11:00 a.m. service unless they are strong traditionalists.

4. Millennials are particularly averse to 11:00 a.m. services. They are the most populous generation in America's history. If they decide to attend a service, it will not likely be at 11:00 a.m. It's difficult to nail down a specific reason for their aversion. If you ask them, you are likely to get to get a question to your question: Why should we attend a service at that time?

5. Some people perceive a church with a lone 11:00 a.m. service to be too traditional and out-of-touch. The leaders therefore change the service to a time that not only makes more sense, but is also perceived to be more relevant to the members and the community.

What are your times of service? Does your church still have an 11:00 a.m. service? What is the most-attended service time?

Let me hear from you.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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