Leveraging Sunday Nights this Fall

 Sunday evening worship has been a staple of many Southern Baptist churches for a long time. Especially here at First Baptist Bellville. We’re a church that in February of 2017, will celebrate 160 years of existence. I don’t know the entire history of the church, but presumably, this coming Fall, we’ll be asking the church to change course on something they’ve done for a long time.
If you take time to study the history of the Sunday Evening service, you find a couple of interesting facts:
  • Many evangelical churches have had a Sunday evening worship service dating back to the Protestant Reformation. It was due, in part, to the their wanting the authority of the Bible taught as often as possible. Many of these early Protestant churches not only had Sunday morning and Sunday evening, but also (you guessed it), mid-week Bible services as well. Think about the context for a second, the Protestant Reformation was a response to Catholicism which claimed the more you celebrated Mass, the better! The PR took the same principle, but placed the Bible, not the sacraments, as the center. The Reformation spread to Scotland and England where the practice established itself into two Sunday worship expressions, but with two different messages.
  • Fast forward several 100 years, and the evening service was used specifically during the agricultural phase of our history. Many farmers had to work their land six days a week so Sunday would become an all-day experience. Many would gather for worship in the morning, have lunch, then have an additional service before they headed back home.
  • During World War II, working seven day weeks was more than common. In part, this was to help supply specific production needs of the war. Holding a service in the evening on Sundays allowed them to still attend worship as they were physically unable to attend on Sunday morning.
  • Lastly, some churches have offered a morning service focused on reaching the lost and another service focused on equipping believers. I’ve even seen some churches use their Wednesday night services to do this.

But even in our healthy church, Sunday evening attendance has declined or remained static while other areas have grown. We’ve not had a formal vote as a congregation on this matter at First Baptist, and I don’t believe we should – because we’ve voted with our feet. Currently, we have anywhere from 280-340 in attendance on Sunday morning worship, with between 70-80% of those individuals in Sunday School. This is a clear sign of a healthy church! Comparatively, we will have anywhere from 15-25 people on a Sunday Evening for worship, a number we wish were higher, but it simply hasn’t become the regular rhythm for our people. Taking the low number of the Sunday morning attendance and the high number of the Sunday evening attendance, it comes to 8-9%. Every area of our church has grown in the last four years except for Sunday evening, but percentage-wise, it’s declined. This grieves me.

Therefore, we want to leverage the Sunday Evening to encourage family connectivity, worship, and discipleship – among all ages. On September 11th we’re launching CONNECT: a series of Family devotionals designed to empower parents to intentionally open God’s Word in the home, discuss truth, and pray together. These devotionals are brief and require no preparation as they are less of a Bible-study material and more of a prompt for interaction and conversation. Connect Logo

The hope of CONNECT is to be kindling for you as a family to begin an intentional and regular weekly conversation whether around the supper table or a few minutes before bed. Each week focuses upon a PASSAGE to read, a POINT to develop with questions and discussion, a guided PRAYER, and most weeks, a small family PROJECT offered to bless others.

In the midst of this discussion, I’ve heard several people ask good questions about CONNECT. I’d like to answer some of these:

How can church members be held accountable? How will we know how many are participating? 

We understand that concern, which is why on Sept. 11th, we’re asking each leader of the family to let us know they’re signing up so that we can engage them throughout the semester. We want to study the impact of these times with families, and we’ll be dialoging with them throughout so that we can improve the resources we’re offering. Plus, we want to be able to track participation. We want to help families be the Gospel-centered families on mission to make disciples – more specifically, in the home!

What if I don’t have kids? What about the widows/widowers?

This is a great question! These devotions are not “just for kids” – but something we encourage you to do with your spouse, a member of your Sunday School class, or even a friend or neighbor. As far as widow/widowers, we’re asking some of our families to invite these individuals to their homes to deepen new relationships.

What if Dad is nervous?

That’s normal. For many, this may be the first time they’ve opened the Bible with their family. Don’t feel guilty about that! But, we’ve got to start somewhere! The CONNECT material will give you a passage to look up, the discussion questions to ask, the point to drive home, and even the direction for a closing prayer.

How are these different that Small Groups?

Typically, Small Groups are like Sunday School but in homes rather on campus. CONNECT is not Small Groups and will not replace Sunday School, nor is that the intention. These are Family Devotions we want to equip you in the home on Sunday evenings with your family.

So join us, September 11th for a night of food and fellowship, with some encouragement to engage with your family in CONNECT. Hope to see you there!