Here’s the latest PowerPoint presentation and script from the Mid-America District Staff group’s series of “Ten Good Ideas About….” This one’s on adding another service. The presenters were Nancy Heege, Prairie Star District Executive (and blogger: Nancy’s Views of the Landscape), and the Rev. Lisa Schwartz, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, Kansas.

Ten Good Ideas about Adding a Service

Charles Arns’ six reasons to consider adding a service:

  1. A new service will minister to more people
  2. A New service can help reframe your message to reach new kinds of people
  3. A new service allows for change while retaining the familiar
  4. A new service will help break the normal life cycle of a congregation
  5. A new service will activate inactive members
  6. A new service will help your denomination survive.
  7. What’s missing from Charles Arns’ list? A new service will help relieve overcrowding.

And now, 10 Good Ideas about Adding a Service:

  1. Check with worker bees first. Consider whose work will be affected (the RE Committee, Worship Committee, staff, etc.), and discuss the plan with them early – before presenting it to the congregation. Don’t underestimate the importance of the minister’s commitment. It will take a considerable amount of her/his energy, and s/he must be not simply resigned to the process, but actually passionate about it. Staff members must be enthusiastic about this idea and should be consulted, along with the minister, before going to committees and other lay leaders.
  2. Tally the costs. Look at the budgetary impact: how much will this cost? (Include additional costs for child care, paid musicians, even candles/gel for the chalice, maybe getting your custodian there early; sometimes, but not necessarily, the speaker’s honorarium will increase.) It’s important to compensate your minister and staff adequately for the new work that will be required for the planning and carrying out of the plan. Be sure they know you appreciate their efforts – give them praise, and give them more money!
  3. Pick new times. Rather than leaving one service at its current time, pick two completely new times. Then it won’t seem like you have one “real” service and a new service for “those other people.” If your current service is at 10:30, don’t simply add another at 9 o’clock. Instead, have your services at 9:30 and 11, so that everyone has to make a new choice about the time they’ll attend.
  4. Do a trial run. If there is a lot of resistance, do a trial run – perhaps a seasonal new service during a highly attended time of the year. [ The Worship Workshop: Creative Ways to Design Worship Together by Marcia McFee, paperback, 2002 ] One church tried their trial run during the spring – Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, and the Sunday after Easter. It took some planning to ensure that there were enough church school teachers, ushers, greeters, coffee servers, musicians, and so on. The staff and volunteers learned lots and then went on to add a second worship service the next fall.
  5. Make a commitment. But wherever possible, commit to the new service for 2 years. You can make minor tweaks in the first months, but mostly give the new stuff time to work. Plan a survey and re-tooling process towards the end of the first year; then try out your new insights during the second year. (By then you should have so many new people, it’s clear to even the most rigid nay-sayers that one service is no longer practical.)
  6. Be intentional. Plan for the people you’re trying to attract – if your target group is different from your current members, the new worship service may need a different format, different music, etc. Some congregations now have midweek services with a significantly different format.
  7. Recruit some pioneers. Consider recruiting some “pioneers,” a dozen families or so, who will commit to attending the new service and help populate it for the first year or so.
  8. Discuss it thoroughly. Hold lots of “town hall meetings” to draw out folks’ concerns and questions. Make sure the Worship/Program committee meeting doors are flung wide open during the planning process. Even personally invite some who you know to be resistant. Arn suggests “sowing seeds of discontent” to point out that the status quo is NOT meeting our needs, no matter how some folks have sanctified it.
  9. Board makes decision. Ultimately, though, have the Worship/Program committee make a recommendation to the Board; have them vote on the 2 year plan.
  10. Provide community. Be intentional about planning community activities for all, and lots of small group options. The single biggest fear I heard expressed was, “But I won’t be able to see all my friends at church any more.” Question whether that’s the primary purpose of a UU congregation – is that our mission? Also point out that no one can have meaningful interactions with everyone in the room in a single, large service (or potluck, party, etc.) Also, being intentional about seeing your friends for lunch, movies, walks in the park, or whatever, can be really beneficial to the friendship!

How to Start a New Service: Your Church Can Reach New People by Charles Arn, paperback, 1997. Cost $14.99 paperback.

Adding Worship Services: A How-to Manual online from the UUA, 2004

PowerPoint by John P. Chandler on adding a service: adding-a-new-worship-service