Curious About A Trend

My Sundays in elementary school were spent at the Episcopal Church. It was pretty routine, too. Sunday School right off the bat. Sometimes my mom taught. Sometimes a friend of my mom. But mostly it was me & some friends lumped together by age groups with a standardized curriculum and a system of rewards. What rewards you ask? Pins. For attendance, if I remember correctly. Then a pin that fit around the first pin. Later, for various church-going accomplishments such as attendance, memorizing verses and saying them to the teacher, or being a part of some service project, you’d get a bar that attached to the pins. Sunday School had it’s own special hour. I remember being tired a lot.

Then came the church service hour. There was half an hour between Sunday School hour and church hour. Every other week or so I was an acolyte, or altar boy. This was perfect for me at that station in life because I stayed busy during those services. Maybe it was moving the big, heavy Bible from one side of the altar to the other (and bowing every time you crossed the middle–folks noticed stuff like that), or refilling the common cup with wine for the priest, or carrying a flag down the aisle during processional or (when older) swinging the incense. Sitting in the crowd on the off-weeks was spent watching the other acolytes to see if they were doing it right.

Then came the pot-luck lunch. Every Sunday.

But that’s what it was: Sunday. Until like 1PM. Then we all went home.

Then I started attending a Bible church once I was older. I went to the Sunday morning service. Sometimes I went to Sunday School if I got up early enough. There were no altar boys and a LOT less formality, which was both good and bad. I was learning the Bible which was good. I had to sit there and listen, which was bad. I got to wear jeans to church, which was good. We didn’t have any incense or stained glass or cool gold & silver stuff to have communion (we had plastic cups & grape juice) or real wine, which was kinda bad.

Then, we came back on Sunday night. The service & sermon were different. More guitars and stuff at night (piano in the mornings) and a different study series from the pastor. The big draw was that after that we’d head out as a youth group & do stuff together.

This was not much different than my friends. We all did Sunday morning something and Sunday night something when it came to church stuff. Most denominations handled business this way. Same for when I worked for a Southern Baptist church, too.

Anyway, the first time I saw anything different was my first college roommate, Michael. He was Catholic & in the springtime he would attend his services at like 5PM on Saturday afternoons. He was taking his faith seriously, praying the Rosary and going to confession and all that and I asked him why he didn’t do Sundays. He liked sleeping in. He liked having the entire day to do what he wanted. He liked the fact that so many college students went to Mass at that time. There was a younger priest. There were a lot of reasons he liked that particular service, mostly having to do with convenience, as best I could discern.

Saturday afternoon church? Hmmm.

My current congregation outgrew our building and like most growing churches outgrowing their building, you add services. When I arrived at CBC, we had two morning services. Which worked great for Sunday School, too. Then we went to three morning services. Then we added a Saturday night service, which did well for a time and then faded out. Then we went to a stand-alone high school Sunday School class on Sunday nights.

Then we went to two identical services in the morning with the exact same services done again at night, so we had four services, two in the morning, two at night…again, great for Sunday School.

Now, we still do two in the morning and have one at night (same format as the morning, more or less, but sometimes they do communion more formally or have a little more time for individuals to share their stories publicly, sometimes a different worship leader, etc.) with a Sunday School hour behind that. This is great for my family because they like to sleep in and have their Sunday School classes that night and all that. Then the high schoolers are off with their friends to hang out.

But I’ve noticed something a little different in our community these days: When I drive somewhere on a Saturday night, I drive past two or three churches who have a 5PM service, or maybe two on Saturday night…with a 7PM, too. I can’t tell for sure.

And, then, when I drive back to work on Sunday afternoon at 4PM, those same parking lots are empty…and they’ve been empty when I go back home at 8PM. My guess is that they don’t have Sunday evening services anymore.

What I’m wondering is if there’s something more attractive about a Saturday evening service. Or if Sunday nights in a suburban warp-speed culture have become a “decompression” night where you want to come home after lunch and have those hours to spend as a family on the lake or at the soccer game or just spend time with mom and/or dad before the Monday routine starts up.

It’s hard for me to see because I’ve been going to church on Sunday nights for almost 25 years…some as a participant, some as an employee…so it’s no big whoop for me.

So, how about a little help, patrons? Am I right in my observations that the trend seems to be going to Saturday’s early evening in lieu of Sunday evening? Why or why not? What’s the advantages and disadvantages of both Sunday evening or Saturday evening? Like I said, I might be a little too ingrained and close to it for objectivity…

Have at it, folks!