In reality what we are talking about here is ‘church planting’ whether it happens in another venue, or in the church building at a different time. You are starting a new congregation and this is a church plant.
There are various reasons why a church might seek to start a new service;
- The existing service is too full – when a service is regularly 80% full it stops growing. If you wish to grow further, you need another service.
- The existing service is trying to meet too many needs and satisfying no one. Typically, a service which is trying to meet the needs of elderly at the same time as families with toddlers struggles. One way forward is to develop two different services.
- To reach a new set of people. Perhaps your existing service meets the needs of those who come but you know that:
- a) You cannot invite new people easily to the existing service in its present format, and
- b) You cannot change the present service without losing your key members and you wouldn’t really want to anyway as it meets their spiritual needs.
- It’s the best way to ‘grow the church’.
In making a decision when and how often to hold the new service, it is important to decide on who your main target group is and ASK them. This often takes the form of a questionnaire. When I was looking to start a new service with families, I asked:
- Current members of the congregation with families
- Contacts like the mums and toddlers group
- The school gate
- Door to door on a street with lots of families who come nowhere near church
- General question in the newsletter which went into every home in the parish.
It is normally best where possible to fill a questionnaire in with them there and then rather than give it to them and expect them to return it.
Generally speaking, asking those who do not come to church for their opinions is a ‘no lose’. The fact that the church is asking them their opinion is impressive. Sometimes some really good conversations arise which can lead to faith and church membership. One of the questions can be, “If we started a service where the time and style suited you, would you come?” Get their contact details and tell them you’ll invite them.
Starting a new service is a huge undertaking and not to be done lightly.
- Congregation - don’t expect the Vicar to do it all;
- Vicar – don’t automatically expect the core members to commit themselves to this as well as everything else.
It needs to be carefully thought out and discussed before a decision to go ahead with it is made. Ideally there should be a committed team of leaders as well as commitment from some current members to come along for at least 6 months.
...goes into this service will depend on who you are aiming at. Here are some things to consider:
- Will it be clergy led, or lay led? Think this out before you start so you are clear about what you are all doing. Two people leading (Brace leadership) is becoming popular.
- Communion. This will partly depend on your church tradition but also on your target group. Think through what ideally you would like the pattern of communion to be in 5 years and work towards it from the start.
- Collection. Some new services decide not to have a collection at first as it might put people off but then find it very hard to introduce one later on. Giving is part of our discipleship so if you are wanting to make disciples through your new service, you need to think this through carefully from the beginning.
- Food. Many new services include food but beware of costs and time commitment.
5. Other things to consider:
- Publicity. Make sure everyone knows well in advance about your new service. You may just be surprised how God will use it.
- Also, it’s one thing to start a new service, it’s another thing to sustain it. Build into your plans regular reviews.
- Go and look at what other people are doing. Contact the Local Mission Office and we can talk through with you the type of service you are planning and put you in touch with others who have done something similar.
- One of the common areas of experimentation at the moment concerns attracting families. Sunday morning used to be a good time for families and children. In most areas this is no longer the case. Sunday morning is for shopping, visiting, sport, seeing the other parent etc. If we want to attract new people to worship then Sunday morning may be the worst time to try it. Many are looking at Sunday afternoon (4.00 or 5.00pm) or midweek. Messy Church is very popular and information about this can be found here
For more information about starting a new service, look at:
- How to Start a New Service: Your Church Can Reach New People (Paperback) by Charles Arn (Author) See here
- Multiplying Churches. Grove Booklet Ev 84 by Gary Jenkins. This looks at the reasoning behind multiple congregations, the problems and drawbacks, as well as practical examples. See here
The Mission Team hopes always be willing to talk these things through with you and help you in whatever way we can.