When It’s Time to Add, Part 1

Math was never my favorite subject in school. I’m glad the days of multiplication tables and algebra are behind me. When I entered ministry, I never thought I’d use math as much as I do. Granted, most math a pastor uses is in the area of budgeting and finances. But I want to address three times when pastors use mathematics.

This is the first installment of a three-part series. I want to talk about when it’s time to add another service, another staff member, and another campus. Each of these are related but separate decisions you must make as a pastor.

And let me say from the beginning that the time to add is usually a time of great excitement and adventure, even if it’s stressful. That’s because it will always involve adding souls to the kingdom of God.

When is it time to add another service, and how should you go about making the transition?

Assess the Need

The No. 1 reason churches add a service time is to accommodate space. Assess the use of space inside and outside your building. The rule of thumb is that once you reach 80 percent of capacity, it’s time to add a new service. But sometimes leaders misapply this rule. Let me explain why.

The 80 percent rule isn’t just about the number of seats in your sanctuary. It’s an architectural assessment based on the square feet of your facility and maximum allowed capacity. It involves looking at how much room you have in your children’s areas, restrooms, hallways and even parking lots. It’s more a question of comfort than anything else. When people are packed in, they don’t have enough room to move, feel comfortable and grow.

Another reason to follow the 80 percent rule is that it builds momentum. Some people think that a packed house is more exciting and will draw more people. But it can have the opposite effect, making your people feel like all the work is done and they don’t have to invite anyone new.

Adding another service time paves the way for greater multiplication in the future.

When you add a service, there’s a built-in assumption that people will need to start inviting more friends, neighbors and unsaved family members.

Another need is your volunteer base. With only one service each weekend, long-term volunteers find themselves never attending a church service. By adding another service, you give them a chance to attend one service and serve another. It also opens additional slots for new volunteers to step in and existing volunteers to step up into leadership roles.

Find the Right Time

Finding the right time for a new service can be the trickiest part of the process. You must decide how to maximize the traditional 9 a.m. to noon window on Sundays when people are most likely to attend.

There are a number of possible configurations, but they all hinge on how long you intend for your services to go. Also, factor in things like child pickup and drop-off, emptying out the sanctuary and straightening it up between services, and the flow of traffic in and out of the parking lot.

There are also nontraditional times you can add a service time, like Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. Those choices depend on context and community. Metropolitan areas are more likely to sustain later service times. If people in your community are used to the idea of services on other days, such as Catholic mass or Friday night synagogue, then the switch won’t be as difficult.

Next, decide when you want to pull the trigger on adding a new service. Pick a big weekend when natural growth already happens, like September during back-to-school season or at Easter when you expect a large crowd. Tying the launch of a new service time to a big event can help propel you as well.

Do It the Right Way

Once you’ve decided it’s time to add a service, and chosen the best service time, make the transition the right way. That starts with clear communication well in advance. Use your social media, email and advertising to get the word out, along with regular Sunday announcements. Build the excitement in your church any way you can by leading the charge.

Recruiting the needed volunteers is crucial at this point as well. It’s important to cover every base before adding a new service. Ask each ministry leader to decide how many volunteers they need per service, and find out many they currently have. Fill in any gaps by hosting a volunteer fair that motivates people to transition from just attending to buying in.

After adding a service, don’t freak out and abandon it too soon. This is a common mistake. You can easily go from a packed house to two services with moderate attendance. Pastors like full rooms, but people like options. Keep your motivation clear when you’re making the change. Create the new normal of multiple service times, and don’t go back, even during summertime when attendance may naturally drop.

Adding another service can be hard work. But it will force you to scale your ministry for the future by adding volunteers, empowering leaders and streamlining resources. It also paves the way for greater multiplication in the future. You can’t add new campuses without first learning how to add new service times.

But beyond the organizational advantages, there are Kingdom benefits. More service times mean more lines in the water to fish! It allows you to meet people where they are, on their schedule and in their season. And when you increase the number of people who are exposed to the gospel, you know you’re on the right track.

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