As most of you know by now, we are making a pretty big change starting the weekend of February 11th and 12th. That weekend we will no longer have our Saturday Weekend Experience at Lithopolis and will host all of our Experiences on Sunday only. This is a major change, as we have held church on Saturday for nearly nine years! That’s almost as long as I’ve had my 2nd daughter, Audrey. Wow.
I know that this decision might not be popular and might be hard to understand. Just know that it is not one that we made lightly or quickly. This is something we’ve been talking about for over six months. If you like attending on Saturday, we know that this could certainly be an inconvenience. We understand that some people who work different shifts (my wife being one of them) may be affected by this change. Many will miss the Saturday Experience, including me. It is often one of my favorite groups of people to preach to on the weekend.
I thought I would take a moment to share a little more about why we are making this change. I previously shared why we are making this change with our volunteers and our entire church in a video. The reasons that I shared on that video are the primary reasons we are making the change. Those reasons have not changed. But I also know that sometimes people need to hear things in a different way to fully grasp the “why” behind the decision. So here are a few other things that were considered as we made this decision.
SATURDAYS ARE HARD TO MAINTAIN THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
- We have found that people really enjoy Saturday evenings for church in the winter, and then winter ends and the crowd thins out. As soon as the weather breaks in the spring and the days get longer, people start into projects or outdoor sports that take their Saturdays. We also see a decline in attendance near the end of the school year, and it rarely comes back until after the New Year. We completely understand that people just want their entire Saturday to get things done. Because of this, it is hard to maintain two Weekend Experiences on Saturdays throughout the entire year. (Trust me. We tried.) By not having two Weekend Experiences, it severely limits our ability to find volunteers to help teach kid’s ministry, run cameras, help greet on the parking team and fill other important parts of the Weekend Experience. We have many people who sacrifice by serving on Saturday and then coming back on to attend on Sunday. I am indebted to those folks for their dedication and service to God and to our church. Moving all of our Experiences to Sunday will help those families and will open up more opportunities for people to serve who can’t do both days each weekend.
SATURDAYS ARE HARD ON THE STAFF.
- I know that most people don’t care about the “paid” folks at church, but I do. Without them we can’t provide proper leadership and care for our church. Having only one day off each week can put a severe strain on families, especially families where both the husband and wife work outside the home. This might be hard for some of you to understand, but Saturday is never a day off when you know in the back of your mind that you have to preach, lead worship or coordinate lessons for an evening Experience. Sure, you get the morning off, but you can’t make it to your kid’s events that run until 2pm or do something like leave town for the day to visit family. I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for the staff that get paid to lead and to serve in the church. I’m just asking for understanding that this is something that can be a hardship for our families, and that matters. I care about all of the people that God has brought to our team, and I want them to be healthy leaders, not burnout leaders.
SUNDAY IS STILL THE PRIMARY TIME TO REACH PEOPLE.
- When it comes to people visiting or attending a church, Sunday is still ingrained in our culture as the day for church. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, people want to go to church on Sunday. Perhaps for many of the reasons I already listed above. Most people don’t even know that part of the reason we began Saturday Experiences was to facilitate multi-site (video based sermon delivery) and to open up more space on Sunday. This has facilitated our Lancaster campus for many years, but growing our Saturday experience has been quite a challenge. For this reason, we want to try our best to fit three Experiences in on Sunday mornings. I contacted several pastors who hold the same experience times that we are moving to on Sunday (8:30/10/11:30a) and have found that most like it better than offering a Saturday experience. Two pastors that I spoke with have higher attendance at 8:30am on Sunday morning than they did at their Saturday night Experience. Will this happen for us? I’m not sure. Every church’s culture is different. However, the only way we will find out if this will help us reach more people on the weekend is if we give it a try!
WE HAVE TECHNOLOGY THAT FACILITATES LIVE BROADCAST ON SUNDAY.
- Originally, we used Saturday’s Experience to play back the sermon at our Lancaster Campus on Sundays. This past year, we were able to upgrade our network and to buy equipment that allows us to broadcast live to our Lancaster location on Sundays. Prior to this change, moving from Saturday to Sunday only wasn’t even in the discussion. We began to move down this road as we started to anticipate the future steps for our Lithopolis campus, including selling our building and moving to a new facility in Canal Winchester. At the time, we didn’t know if selling our building meant that we would have to move to a portable facility on Sunday. We began to move in this direction last year and have finally, after many months, figured out the live broadcast to our Lancaster Campus. It’s not always perfect, but it’s pretty close now!
WE WERE PLANNING TO MOVE TO SUNDAY ONLY WHEN OUR NEW FACILITY IN CANAL WINCHESTER OPENS.
- I’m sure not everyone lives in the world of church ministry, but when you do, you learn quickly about spaces and energy. People don’t want to be sitting on top of other people, and yet not enough people in a room creates a low-energy experience that most don’t enjoy. I say that because when we open our new broadcast location in CW, it will seat about 3x the amount of people that we can seat in Lithopolis currently. With this room for growth, our plan when we open is to go to two Sunday AM Experiences. Once we fill those, we will add more. We want to use the building as much as possible, but we plan to “grow” into it. The technology investment we made for live broadcast was in anticipation of this move, whenever it happens.
Again, I just wanted to share some of the rationale behind this decision. I think that most of the time when people struggle with a leader’s decision, it is because they don’t know the “why” behind it. That is why it was important to me to share with you some of the primary reasons for us making this change now. We will continue to have discussions about the possibility of other evening experiences down the road at our campuses as we need to open up space to reach more people. That is still our greatest desire, but we have to be smart about the limited resources we have in doing this.
We know that this change will also create some challenges for parking and flow between Experiences. We have done many things in preparation to help mitigate those challenges (procured additional parking next door, purchase golf carts to transport quickly, etc.) I’m sure we will still have challenges, and we will do our best to work through them. It will be draining for me to preach three times in a row. Honestly, I prefer to preach one on Saturday and two on Sunday, but this seems to be the best move for our church in this season.
I hope this change does not adversely affect you or your family’s schedule. If you will not be able to attend our church on the weekends anymore because of this change, please contact your campus pastor. We will do our best to refer you to another great church with a schedule that would work best for you. We know that we cannot please everyone, and we do not seek to do so. In the end, we just want to please God and do what is best to continue our mission of helping people get on the path to God!
See you this weekend.