For a lot of churches, Sunday night service is a thing of the past. If it hadn’t already been replaced by small groups, then COVID probably did away with it. Of course, plenty of churches have resumed (or never stopped) the old faithful pattern: Sunday Bible class at 9:30, worship at 10:30, and Sunday evening worship at 5:00. Others have workshopped new ideas like church-eat-church where their “evening service” is right after lunch.
One of the reasons churches may have stopped Sunday evening services is attendance. Sunday night services, on average, are less attended than Sunday morning. The degree to which this is true has a lot to do with the size of the church, its makeup, and the church’s stance on attendance. If, for example, a church teaches that Sunday evening service is compulsory, then the members will feel compelled to come every time. But this trend may also be seen in a church that is tight knit. Where else would they want to be but with their church family?
Churches may have also stopped Sunday evening services because of a theological change. Perhaps they do not see taking communion during a worship service with five acts each week as mandatory any longer, so they don’t feel like they have to offer it twice on Sunday to catch the people who may have been absent. Or maybe they believe that their members would get more out of small groups, visiting other churches, or some other creative activity.
It could even be a resource problem. Churches may not be able to afford to meet twice a Sunday due to a lack of volunteers to preach, lead worship, or whatever.
Personally, I miss Sunday night services, but if I were to advocate for their return, I’d want to see a few changes.
First, I love to worship with my church family, so I’d want at least one or two Sunday nights where we get together to at least sing and listen to a devotional. North Broad, where I attend, has already started meeting once a month on Sunday nights. We get together for what we call The Gathering on the first Sunday of each month, but we’re looking to expand that soon.
The Gathering is basically church meets open mic night. We have a meal together, take communion, and then whoever wants can lead us in a song (a cappella or instrumental), read a passage, say a prayer, or share the love of God through some other way: perhaps through a poem or devotional.
Another Sunday night may be spent in more of a small group setting. For example, we often get together at a couple’s barn to just hang out, sit around the fire, play music, play cards, and enjoy each other’s company. Barn Night, as we call it, is one of the things that sold me on coming to North Broad.
That leaves one or two other Sunday nights a month. I think that churches should use this time for “Sunday Evening Service.” But instead of a corporate worship assembly, they could plan out service projects for the year. Perhaps one Sunday night they clean up a walking trail in the local park. They might even fix up an elderly member’s home and host a devotional for them. One week, they could paint someone’s house who could use the help. Chuck, a friend of mine from Florida, used to have a ministry called Paint it Forward where he would paint a teacher’s classroom, an old church building, someone’s home, or help out some other group that was in need on the first weekend of the month.
The point is that the church could focus on service once or twice a month. Not only would this mimic what the early church did in Acts 2 in helping those in need, but it would also fulfill Jesus’s command to love our neighbor. This kind of consistent service would inspire us to look for ways to help others in our everyday lives, and it would show that we exist for others, not just ourselves. Election and calling in a church like this means being chosen for the potential inclusion and care of everyone else in the community.
So let’s bring back Sunday night service, but let’s turn it into a time to lift others up!