Thinking outside the box: Not just on Sunday mornings

Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Michael F. Haverluck (

church in America 2A nationwide survey shows that about a quarter of employed churchgoers in the United States have to miss Sunday morning services because of work.

"Having worship services at other times may provide opportunities for growth for other congregations, as 1 in 4 U.S. Protestant churchgoers with a job say they have to work on Sunday mornings at least once a month," Lifeway Research revealed from its recent survey.

A problem with a solution?

Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell says that only offering conventional Sunday morning worship services poses a problem for many Christians.

"When a local body of believers cannot all meet together, it is missing out on its purpose," McConnell explains. "While a traditional Sunday morning meeting time works for most, it isn't possible for all to attend."

The Nashville-based evangelical research firm notes that even though a large majority of those attending church do not have Sunday morning conflicts, a substantial proportion does.

"[M]ost churchgoers aren't faced with a job preventing them from gathering with their church on Sunday mornings, [as] 2 in 5 (41%) say their job never requires them to work on Sunday, and another 36% say they do not have a job," Lifeway reveals.

"Still, 23% of Protestant churchgoers at least occasionally are forced to miss Sunday morning services because of their job, including 5% who have to work that time each week, 6% twice a month or more, 4% once a month, 5% a few times a year and 2% once a year or less."

Breaking down the survey results even further, Lifeway found that more than one in three churchgoers would benefit from churches holding weekly services at times other than Sunday mornings.

"Among churchgoers who have a job, 64% never have to work on Sunday mornings, yet more than a third (36%) are required to at least occasionally clock in during those hours," Lifeway reports.

"For 8%, their job requires them to work every Sunday morning, [while] another 10% work at that time twice a month or more, 7% say once a month, 7% a few times a year and 4% once a year or less."

Joby Martin, pastor of Church of Eleven22, says his Jacksonville, Florida-area church had no plans to hold worship services at any time other than Sunday morning, but when his congregation outgrew Sunday morning options while meeting at another church's building, another day had to be scheduled.

"Because of other things happening at the church at the time, Thursday night was the only option available," Martin told Lifeway. "It was an accident, but God breathed on it like crazy."

Sundays less convenient for some than others …

Lifeway found that when it comes to young adults in particular, many churches would better serve their communities by holding services on other days of the week.

"Among 18- to 35-year-old employed churchgoers, 42% say their job requires them to work at least one Sunday morning a month," researchers discovered. "Those who are high school graduates or less (28%) or those with some college (29%) are more likely to work at least once a month on Sunday mornings than those with a bachelor's (17%) or graduate degree (16%)."

A significant percentage of minorities would also be better served by nontraditional church times. "African American (32%) and Hispanic (31%) employed churchgoers are more likely to say they have to work at least once a month on Sunday morning than white churchgoers with a job (20%)," researchers report.

The need for services other than Sunday mornings are more pronounced among those who go to smaller churches.

"Those who attend a church of less than 50 people (28%), a church of 50 to 99 people (33%), and a church of 100 to 249 people (25%) are more likely than those who attend a church of 500 people or more (12%) to say they work at least once a month on Sunday morning," the study shows.

Keeping the Sabbath

Regardless of work schedules, most U.S. Protestants (56%) believe that the Bible's fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath still applies today.

"In a typical week, 70% say they take that rest day on Sunday, with 23% saying they don't take such a day and few pointing to any other day," Lifeway Research informed from its 2018 study.

As a pastor working on Sundays, Martin has to choose another day of the week for his day of rest. "I don't do it very well, but I try to rest and refuel on Fridays," he shared.

In a 2015 study, Lifeway Research found that 85% of pastors at evangelical and historically black Protestant churches take at least one day off per week away from their ministerial duties.

But when it comes churchgoers who simply cannot find a way to make Sunday services, Martin says his congregation thinks it's a good idea to offer different days to worship.

"Our people are very excited to open more opportunities for more people to hear the gospel," added the Florida pastor. He acknowledged that believers could use technology for worship music and sermons as an alternative, but he stressed that this "doesn't take the place of corporate worship."


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