It’s now more than six months since we changed our service pattern and in September I invited the PCC to share views on what’s working well and what concerns they have. We had a lively discussion and we agreed to review the changes in the early Spring as originally planned. Look out for a questionnaire in the new year to gather everyone’s views. But please don’t wait until then to share your opinion – I’d love to hear of how we can make things better for you. Our discussion in September emphasized what a sensitive and important issue this is and how there are many factors that have led us to this point. I feel that the time is now right to highlight these factors and look at lessons learnt as we enter the second half of the trial period.
When I arrived at St Christopher’s I was made aware that the key issue that needed to be addressed was the pattern of worship for our church community. The existing pattern of alternate styles wasn’t felt to be ideal, and a decision was needed about our future direction. We have not been alone in needing to address this situation – many local churches in the area have had similar conversations, and felt the need for contemporary worship, which would be more relevant for society today. They have then taken the decision to have their main morning services as contemporary services, with traditional services either at 8am or in the afternoon or evening.
When addressing this issue last year with the PCC, I was aware from previous worship surveys undertaken, that there was a broad range of preference for styles of worship in our congregation. It was clear that moving to only a contemporary morning service would alienate a significant proportion of our church congregation for whom traditional worship at 8am or in the evening would not be ideal. With this in mind it seemed right to have two morning services, at 9 and 10:45, each with a distinctive flavour. This decision also addressed another issue; when we are all together on a Sunday morning, we are often close to capacity in our worship space, which, research has shown, hinders the growth of the church - “When a room reaches 70% of its seating capacity, it’s full; … when the room is full, people stop inviting friends, stop talking to guests, stop attending regularly.”
The decision to make the early service traditional and the later service contemporary was taken for a number of reasons. One was that – we were aiming the contemporary service at the younger generation and Iif we are building church for teens and twenties (a significant gap in our church) then 9am would simply be too early for them. There is also the time factor. Because we’re making space for people to share testimony and also for prayer ministry, the contemporary service is longer and would feel squeezed. The traditional service is more easily kept shorter, although I know there have been occasions when we’ve been tight on time. Both services are a work in progress, so your patience and understanding would be appreciated as they evolve over time.
We have already made a couple of decisions to tweak things a little – we have changed the service times to 9:15 and 11 to fit in with the bus timetable. One lesson we have also noted is that during the summer school holiday our congregations are smaller as people take vacations. During this period one morning service would be sensible. If this pattern is adopted next year we will be meeting together for over 20 Sundays a year and this will help us maintain a strong fellowship. We also hope to create more opportunities to have fellowship together and will consider ideas for the time between the services.
It’s been a real blessing to be able to have children’s work in both morning services – a massive thank you to those who have facilitated this. Your hard work is hugely appreciated.
It’s so exciting that together we are building for the future of the Christian community of St Christopher’s in Allesley Park and Whoberley. I look forward to seeing the fruit of our developing life as a worshipping community in the years to come.