Lessons I’ve Learned From Starting Additional Services

Yesterday, we launched a 3-service schedule and had 526 people.  We launched a 2-service schedule September 16, 2007 and had 292 people.  Here are some things I’ve learned in the process:

  1. Never add a service to an existing schedule.  Change the entire schedule or people won’t adopt the new schedule like you need them to do.
  2. Get people to commit in writing to making the move to the most likely least attended service.  Be creative, challenging, but not pushy.  We used an “Easy Button Campaign.”
  3. Bring the heat (lots of intensity) in your first service.  Don’t allow crowd size to diminish your intensity or the intensity of your service.  Don’t make people miss the service they just left.
  4. NEVER refer to a service as “the early service.” Refer to them by their time slot.  Don’t create a stigma for that service that may not exist.
  5. Do identical services if at all possible.
  6. Meet with your critical players to work out bugs in between services.  Correct on the fly.
  7. Ask your people to serve in one service and attend another.
  8. Leave sufficient transition times.  If parking is limited, consider that in your planning.
  9. If you are at 70% capacity, you need to be launching a 2nd service.  The only people that like big crowds are preachers.
  10. If you are at 80% capacity, you are losing people.  At 80%, people cannot sit together OR they are forced to sit in places they don’t want to sit.
  11. When you launch a 2nd or 3rd service, you can manage the crowd size with pipe and drape.  If at all possible, never let your crowd fall under 40% capacity.  Pipe and Drape or the creative arrangement of chairs can keep you in that sweet spot of critical mass.
  12. Strategically reward your key, high-output volunteers (gift cards, hand-written notes, sincere pats on the back).
  13. Never ask, “What is the least number of people we need to pull this off?” View additional services as a recruitment opportunity.  God fills vacuums.  So, don’t limit what He wants to do.
  14. On low days (Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend), combine services and roll with a packed crowd to build and maintain momentum and to rest your key leaders.

13 Responses

  1. This is great Travis. I’m going to keep this with my other resources for the day we get there.


  2. We are at full capacity with one morning service. 130-150 is capacity and we are at that mark. I have been mulling the idea of a second service around.

    However, I am facing several issues. Lack of enough musicians and singers, and the fact several have voiced opinions that our choir (25 or so) would only be available for one service.

    Anyone have any ideas? I’m open to some innovative ideas….

  3. Hey Trav – as you know, at Daystar, we have 4 weekend worship services (1-Sat; 3-Sun). Here are my thoughts on the subject:

    1. I agree with ALMOST everything you said above. I NEVER cancel a service for ANY reason. For us it is just a standard we set so that no one sees “their” worship opportunity as second best. For me, I just never want anyone to think to themselves, “Well, sometimes they cancel my worship service. I’ll just stay home today. They’ll probably not be having it anyways.” Even when it’s Labor Day weekend and Alabama is kicking off it’s football season at 6 pm on Saturday, we fight through it. We will often theme that service as a football outreach and watch the game (Tivo’d) in the Cafe following worship.

    2. I would add that you need to have just as good a “production” in the smaller services as in the big one. Same musicianship, media, children’s services, etc.


    3. NEVER start a new worship time, unless you are committed to sticking with it until the Second Coming of Christ. Each time you offer a new worship opportunity, you will pick up people who can ONLY come to that service (work, family conflict, etc). If you eliminate a worship service time, don’t just assume they will move to another one. You WILL lose some people.

  4. We’ve thought about #3…really hard. We either could move west and get a bigger auditorium and have less access to people. Or, we could stay on the east side where the population density is and add services. They were competing values. In the end, we added services.

    I’d like to be at the 700 mark going into Easter 09. 70% capacity evenly distributed on our 3 auditoria is 770. We’d have a big decision there. We can add concurrent venues. Or, we can add a second site. Or, we can go to Sunday nights in another venue (which would make our situation a bit more complex).

  5. Man, there are a million possibilities. We’ve looked at so many. About this time last year, I came SOOOO close to opening a satellite venue, but in the end, it just didn’t feel right inside. It fit so many good models, seemed to fit the Great Commission, and our church consultant was really pushing it. I kept moving forward with it, but I had this nagging feeling in my gut. I just told myself, “If this feeling doesn’t go away soon, I’m going to pull the plug.” Well, it didn’t and I did. Later a lot of things changed that let us all know it would have been a NIGHTMARE if we had gone forward.

    In the end you just have to hear from God. Like David, I cry, “Lord don’t take your Spirit from me.” I lean on Him in a BIG way every day.

  6. Good stuff, Travis. We’re looking to start a third service in a few weeks so this is really fitting in with what’s been on my mind recently.

    The 80% rule is one of the most important things. Unless you’re in the middle of a real ‘fire from heaven’ revival then allowing your capacity to exceed 80% will almost always negatively impact your growth. The problem is that, in selling an extra service to your people, many of them will say, “Can’t we wait until we’ve filled up those extra 100 seats?” To them the 20% of still empty seats becomes an excuse to put off the pain & hassle involved in starting another service.

    Momentum is either the pastor’s greatest friend or his greatest enemy. It’s like pushing your stranded car to the next gas station (something I have personal experience of). It takes a lot of effort to overcome the initial inertia & get the thing moving – but then keeping it moving is comparatively easy. But if you allow it to stop, losing your momentum, then you have to overcome that inertia all over again. And of course if you let the car start rolling backwards then you might just get run over and flattened by negative momentum.

    Waiting until you are more than 80% full before starting another service turns momentum into your enemy instead of your friend.

  7. Totally enjoying the dialogue here…

    Travis, I rediscovered the “cut and paste” function while reading your post and Jerry’s response- though some is contextual, this is good stuff that I’ll pass on to the pastors in Central Europe.


  8. I’m not a pastor, but I do observe trends across the COG especially as it pertains to the use of media in the church. I have noticed a trend (that admittedly may be fading) that some churches are adding a second or third alternative service utilizing either a simulcast or replay of the pastor’s sermon in a separate venue on image magnification.

    My question has been, does this work? Do people still connect with both God and each other in a seemingly disjointed impersonal meeting? How does it affect the worship experience? How many people actually prefer this method?
    When adding a service is this is even still a viable solution?
    I would love to hear what you ministers have to say.

  9. Jeff asks a great question & I would love to hear some feedback from those who have experienced the simulcast thing. I would imagine I would find it difficult to get emotionally involved with something happening on a screen – it just seems too much like watching TV. However, friends of mine were involved in something similar at Westmore CoG in Cleveland, and they tell me it worked well.

    There is a church in Cork, Ireland, who hold their Sunday services in a local high school gymnasium. When they reached capacity they started using another large room on the school premises. They have two pastors on staff and they run both services simultaneously and use a 2-week cycle to ensure both services receive the same teaching. On week 1 the Senior Pastor moderates Service A and the Associate Pastor moderates Service B. Then, half way through, they run across hall ways and switch places for the preaching. On week 2 they do the same thing but this time with the Senior Pastor moderating service B. Each Pastor repeats week 1’s messages in the different crowd on week 2. This way both services see both the Senior and Associate Pastors in action each week, and they all end up getting the same teaching. This model is working well for them and the church is continuing to grow.

  10. I’ve experienced video venues in a few places. At Mars Hill Church, I experienced the same message live and on video…a good comparison.

    The first (video venue) was the downtown Seattle campus. Everything was live but the teaching. The music, hospitality, and general experience was off the charts. When it came time for Mark to teach a screen dropped down at the front of the stage. He was life sized. After about 2 minutes, I forgot it was video. People laughed, engaged, and were moved. It was an hour and two minute message and none of the 200+ adults in that service moved.

    We left there and went to the Mars Hill Church – Ballard campus where he was teaching live to about 1,500 adults. I actually could see him better at the smaller video venue than from the near front seating I had in the live venue. I liked both. I can see how it works there, especially where they cram about 5,000 people every weekend onto the Ballard 1 acre campus.

    I’m no Mark Driscoll…don’t know how I would go over on video. He has big personality and an attraction that not everyone has. So, maybe that’s the difference.

  11. Interesting; did the shots ever change on the screen or was it it a head to toe shot?

    I have heard of using the realism approach of using a shot that makes it feel like the audience is in the live venue while in the auxiliary.

    I do think it takes some charisma from the pastor/speaker to pull off any kind of visual media for broad or narrowcast.

  12. We started a new service, actually adjusted our schedule, 8 weeks ago. We went from a Saturday night @ 6 and Sunday morning @ 10 to Sunday morning at 9:00 and 10:45. I realize it is early in the game, but so far this adjustment has netted us a 24.7% increase in attendance. We had been doing Saturday nights for several years but could not sustain measurable growth. It depleted our volunteers was very difficult on our staff. The change has been refreshing and has brought some new vitality to the church. We took advantage of the change by promoting pretty heavily in the community prior to the change.

    In addition to these two services, we have conducted a beach service (we are in South Florida) at 7:00 AM every Sunday for several years with minimal results.

    I think the key is to find how you can best reach your community without killing your workers. We are certainly trying (not to kill our workers but to reach our community) and are encouraged by the result so far.

  13. We’ve pushed back the starting date for our 3rd service until January to make sure we plan it properly. At the moment we’re sharing the concept with groups of key workers so as to ensure a good buy-in.

    We’re going at it a bit differently in that our new service (9.30am) will be radically different from the 11.15am service (the 2.30pm service is already different in that it is bilingual – English/French). Our 9.30am service is primarily to minister to committed believers, while the 11.15am service remains a seeker service. The message is essentially the same in all 3 services, but the format of the meeting and how stuff is presented (worship/notices/offering/ushers/gifts of the Spirit) will be very different in each.

    We are making it a requirement for all those who are serving in any capacity in the 11.15am service (ushers, childrens workers, greeters, intercessors, bookstall, musicians, choir etc) to attend the 9.30am service. This guarantees a core of about 100 for the new service and frees up a similar amount of seats in the 11.15am service.

    I’ll let you all know how it goes. Those we have shared it with so far are pumped and can’t wait!

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