By Jennifer Johnson
When Suncrest Christian Church (St. John, IN) began to max out its three Sunday services, the church considered a variety of ways to accommodate more people.
“Lots of churches do Saturday night services, and some do Sunday night,” says Greg Lee, lead pastor at Suncrest. “I was intrigued by churches like White River Christian in Noblesville, Indiana, that created a Thursday night service. We are a multisite with some video teaching, so the idea of doing something on Thursday was a great gift—we can record the message and have two days to send it to the other campuses.”
“For my first 18 years in ministry I felt like I never had a weekend, and now I do,” he says. “I’ve preached the sermon on Thursday and I take Friday as my day off. I still get up early Sunday morning and work through the message again, but before if we did something as a family on Saturday, I was only half there. Now I’m fully present.”
The midweek service offers other advantages, as well. The middle school ministry runs its programs at the same time; some families bring their junior high-age kids to youth group and return for worship on Sunday, while others all attend Thursday night. The Thursday evening service begins at 6:30 to accommodate families with young children, and includes full programming for kids up to sixth grade.
“Other groups have learned to take advantage of these options,” Lee says. “Some will meet at 5:30 and worship together afterward, and one of my pastoral counseling slots is at 7:35, right after the service is over.”
However, Lee acknowledges the new schedule also brings challenges, especially for the staff.
“The rhythm change in the week is massive,” he says. “And recruiting volunteers is an ongoing process.” He believes this model works best for churches that already have multiple Sunday services; while some groups—such as empty nesters traveling to see grandkids or singles with an active social calendar—love the chance to free up their weekends, it is a significant culture change for many others who are used to weekend worship.
“This idea isn’t for everyone, but for us it’s been a win,” Lee says. “In addition to creating another option for people, it’s challenged us as a staff to reframe our planning so the week isn’t just a race to get to Sunday morning.”