1 Alternative to Saturday Services

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is part 3 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services.

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I tried to talk you out of it by giving you 3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. In Part 2, if you still wanted to do a service on Saturday, I gave you 2 ways to make Saturday services successful.

Now I want to talk about 1 Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

Many of the reasons to do a Saturday service and most of the reasons not to do one are addressed by having an additional service on Sundays. You still get the additional worship space and time, without the extra day.

Evening and Morning Options. Doing a Sunday afternoon still offers a time that service industry people can attend. They can work in the morning and still make the later service. But, you can’t have the late service too late, or you run into parents worried about bedtime for school the next day.

Cheaper material costs. The room is already cooled/heated for the day. It will cost less to add a few extra hours onto the cleaning staff, or have them come later, than to add another day. It will cost less to hold a Sunday afternoon service than a Saturday service.

Less personal cost. Instead of two days, you end up with one long day. It’s like having two Wednesday’s in a week, sort of. Still a lot of stress on that day, but staff still gets a full weekend. Volunteers still serve just one day. Ask your staff if they would rather give up a few more hours on a day they are already working, or give up another day. You already know the answer.

Lunch. Long days mean a lunch problem. Depending on when your afternoon service is scheduled, there may not be time for everyone to leave for a meal and come back.

Cater it. Come on, you were thinking about adding the cost of a whole Saturday worship event, feeding the staff and volunteers who stay through to serve in a Sunday afternoon will cost a lot less. I’m not saying give them steak and lobster. Serve pizza, sandwiches, or whatever will keep everyone’s energy up through the afternoon. Why not use the prayer before you eat as a time to share successes or thoughts with your core worship execution team? Use this break time to build relationships and team.

A growing church has to add something. Either a new venue or new service times. Make sure you count the cost of adding a new day of worship services before you do it.

What will you do to make room for your growing congregation? New Saturday or Sunday services? Or is there another option?


2 Ways to Make Saturday Services Successful & Sustainable

night churchThere’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before.

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series on Saturday services. 

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it.

In Part 1 I told you 3 Reasons NOT to do a Saturday service. But maybe you’re unconvinced. Maybe the benefits outweigh the cost. How can you successfully have Saturday night church without burnout of staff and volunteers?

Successful Saturdays:

Weekend Crews. Change your weekend service structure so that the same people are serving all weekend. From staff to volunteers. From tech to worship. And then, rotate the crews. Don’t have them serve every weekend. The churches that do this will have a sustainable schedule.

There’s a bonus to this. Every so often I would be asked why something worked well on Saturday- some timing or execution aspect of the service, but didn’t go as well on Sunday services. Or why by the last service of the weekend we had someone make a mistake that hadn’t been made earlier? We didn’t have the same people filling every spot from service to service. We didn’t run a weekend crew. And since people changed out, execution was sometimes different.

Staff up! Before you launch. Don’t launch and wait 6 months to see if your staff can handle it. They can’t. They will need help. Hire part time, or full time staff to cover key positions. You are doubling the people you need to cover weekend services. Have new volunteers trained and ready to go. Make it a big push in the congregation. You’re growing, how exciting! Now ask your people to step up and do the work.

I know. More staff? Am I kidding? Ask more of our people? Yes. There is a large amount of work and stress, preparation and execution that goes into every weekend service. Adding a new day without adding new people will, long term, hurt you.

But if you can’t/won’t do these two things, there is another option. One that won’t kill your staff and volunteers. But will still offer a morning and later services times and additional worship space without adding a new venue.

Next: An Alternative to Saturday Services- Sunday Afternoon

What are some other ways to make a Saturday service successful?

3 reasons NOT to do a Saturday Service

night churchLet’s talk Saturday services. There’s a trend in growing churches looking to make room for more congregation to add a service on Saturday night. You filled up your Sunday morning schedule, filled all your possible venues. So you need another worship service. It seems like a no brainer. Just add that service to the day before. Wait, let’s talk about this.

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series about Saturday Services.

When I was self employed, and not on church staff, my family (with young children) chose to attend on Saturdays when we could. The difference between rushing to get ready on Sunday morning and having the entire day before the service was amazing. Attending a later service was a totally different experience, and one we really liked. I can see the appeal.

Plus Saturdays offer alternate worship times for people who work service industry jobs. These folks often have to work weekends, but the normally don’t have to work Saturday evening and Sunday morning. So offering morning and later service options gives them a real chance to attend. Sounds perfect, right?

I worked at a church that had a Saturday service for years. There are some things I know about now that I wish we had talked about before we started it. There are some serious issues to consider before launching that extra service on a different day.

Material Cost

When I was at a church doing Saturdays, we had a 5000 seat worship center (and other spaces used for services) that I was told cost almost $1000 to cool/power for a day. Just turning on the lights and AC for a Saturday service cost upwards $50,000 annually. Not to mention the additional labor cost for staff and cleaning crew. No matter how large or small your budget, that’s lot of money. Your venue may not be that big, but there will be a noticeable cost for an additional day of facility use.

In addition, the venue used for the service is tied up. No more conferences or events that run through Saturday. Unless you have a crazy turn around time for the service. More than once the staff and volunteers had to turn the room in just a couple of hours. Worship ministries had to make adjustments in programming to accommodate the stage layout after an event. A weekend service was impacted. Are you ready to tie up a large venue for the entire day, every week?

Personal Cost

I recently heard from a staff member at a church that had started a Saturday service a few weeks before. He felt like he was never going to get his weekend back. And he’s probably right. A 6 day work week, especially when handling other/extra events, quickly becomes unsustainable. For us, it was easier to staff services with volunteers on Sunday than Saturday. We ended up using several staff members on Saturdays in spots that volunteers could fill on Sundays. I eventually started taking every 3rd Sunday off. But I was still working 17 out of 21 days.

It’s easy to dismiss this. I mean, it’s a couple of hours on a Saturday, right?  The staff already only works a “half day” on Sunday.


To prepare for the Saturday service the staff executing the service will arrive several hours early. I used to show up 3 hours or so before the service started. We would go over the service, make sure gear worked and the content was right. Then we were in rehearsals. Next the actual service. Then, if we were lucky, we went home. If not, we made changes and then went home. 5-6 hours. Even though we only did one service, it felt like a whole Sunday.

When we got home, wired from the night’s stress, we tried to sleep. The alarm went off way too early and we headed back in to do it all over again. 2-3 hours before the first morning service begins the staff making that service happen is checking everything for the morning. This is even harder if the services are different from the night before. 5-6 hours later it’s time to go home and crash. And pray there isn’t a Sunday evening event or service.

It’s not just a couple of extra hours on a Saturday. It’s an extra day of stressful work. When you add a service to another day you are adding a lot of work. Burnout is a real thing. You have to take care of your staff and volunteers.

Saturday’s Can Become Rehearsals for Sunday

Saturdays are often less well attended than Sundays. Many times the services are less formal, and just feel looser than Sundays. That gives leadership the chance to try things in a smaller environment. Test it out. We’ll use this illustration tonight to see how it works. Roll this video and see if it resonates. Sing this song and see if it engages.

It’s natural and good for leadership to make changes after a Saturday service, going into the next day. Cut what doesn’t work. Change things up to make it better. You have the time to improve the experience. But be very careful about the balance of importance between Saturday and Sunday services. Saturday worship services are not rehearsals for the big day. They are worship services. Rehearsals should happen earlier in the week. God deserves more than a run through, and your people will stop coming to a Saturday service if it is obvious that Saturdays are less important than Sundays.

What are some other reasons to not do a Saturday service?

What if you still want to do a Saturday service? How can you do it well without killing your staff and volunteers?

Next up, 2 ways to do a Saturday services successfully.

When Tech Fails

break computerThis morning I really wanted to kick a computer. Doesn’t matter if it was the computer that was malfunctioning or not, I just wanted to kick one.

You won’t have work with technology long before something, somewhere will fail. And it’s always at the most inopportune time. At church, you arrive to find a power surge has blown an amp, or the computer you use for lyrics won’t power on. Maybe someone let the magic smoke out of that video scaler. (You know, the magic puff of acrid smoke that lets everyone nearby know that this piece of gear won’t be turning on any time soon.)

This morning we were launching a major project, one I have personally been invested in for months. It’s awesome, you should check it out, get involved: #wearewitnesses First service went off without a hiccup. So far so good. That means that the video venues also get their video feeds without issues.

Near as I can tell, sometime in the 2nd service (maybe multiple times?) something spiked through our network, and caused some disruptions. Now, I’m not an IT guy. I can make my home network function, and get most computers online, but when it gets much beyond that I’m done. Don’t ask me to spoof a MAC address or explain the numbers in an IP address. I just don’t know how it works. But about 30 seconds before the key video piece was to roll in the 2nd service our ProPresenter machine lost it’s link to Planning Center Online.

Linking Planning Center Online and ProPresenter saves tons of time. And most weeks isn’t an issue. But this particular Sunday, the presentation software locked up, and when restarted, it wouldn’t let us access anything past the song portion of the service. Restart the program, reboot the machine, nothing mattered. Later we couldn’t even re-link the entire service. The final solution was to rebuild a new playlist that wasn’t linked to PCO for the last service. But in that moment…

That moment when the lights go dark and the video doesn’t roll, and then the pastor gets up and apologizes for technical failure that no one could have prevented… You just want to kick a computer. I finally just grabbed the sermon notes and the video for playback and threw them into a part of the ProPresenter playlist we could access. That got us through the service, and the video was shown, and the pastor was able to introduce the project.

So, breath deep, service over. Presentation rebuilt and fixed. Network issue bypassed.

Except our main projectors are also on the network. It’s how you power them off and on, and tweak settings. Whatever was happening in the network wasn’t done yet. And in the first couple of songs of the last service the projectors kept shutting down. Our lighting technician had the brilliant thought to rip the network cables out of the machines, and then they both stayed on and passed signal. So two major issues in two separate services. Both probably caused by the same network issue, whatever that might have been.

It’s just a horrible feeling knowing that gear you are trying to operate is causing disruptions in worship. I’ve seen videos that look like Max Headroom recorded them playback in service. (That’s telling my age) Had audio fail to start with video playback more times than I can remember. Had lights burn out, projectors bulbs go out right before services. Had what sounded like thunder go off through a sound system when a DSP died right in the middle of a sermon. These weren’t operator errors, just machine malfunctions.

Here’s the bottom line: In every situation- God was praised, the word was preached, and people’s lives were changed.

God doesn’t need fancy tech stuff to speak to his people. Yes, we use it to enhance and communicate, but technology isn’t required for church. It’s so frustrating when tech fails, but I try (am still trying today) to rest in the knowledge that God is bigger than that, and he speaks in spite of any issues. And then I try to figure out how to prevent that failure from every happening again.

TFWM Article

I was quoted in the March issue of Technologies for Worship Magazine in an article about broadcast ministry. (This is the online issue. Article on Page 16) Here’s a link to the blog bost they quoted from: The Decline of Christian TV – the Future of Christian TV. It’s actually from February 2012.

Since this article was posted, I have actually broadcast the show I was developing back then. We are in fundraising and pre production on new episodes. Production hits in April, with a new broadcast debut on JCTV in June. We will have 10 episodes after this production run.

I still believe that the future of Christian TV/video is in doing show that appeal to younger viewers, and getting away from the paid time model. I have never paid for time to broadcast my show. There are ways to get shows on stations without paying, but you have to have content that is unique.

Just a few weeks ago I was at NRB again. I finished out my term on the Church Media Committee. This year I was promoting my program, so I talked to a lot of stations and networks. To my knowledge, Peculiar is the only Christian sitcom in production today.

That amazes me.

There might be something else out there, but I have not found it. I want to find it. I want there to be all sorts of programming from a biblical perspective. There are a couple of reality shows, a few dramas, but where are the comedy shows (not stand up comedy) that are not directed at kids?

Anyway, I have found that station and networks are looking for content that is unique, and if you fit their target audience, you have a shot on being on there for free. You still have to cover production costs, and stuff like that, but not air time. You don’t get to pick the time slot. But it’s free.

It’s easier if you have an organization behind you. Independent Christian TV is hard, and expensive.

But if we don’t change, we lose religious broadcasting. This medium has been so powerful over the years. I don’t want to see us abandon it.

New stuff is hard. But are we called to make programming that is easy and familiar, or are we called to reach the world all ages and areas) for Christ?

The Decline of Christian TV- The Future of Christian TV

I attended the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters this past week. Before I continue, let me say that the public policy work that the NRB does is invaluable to Christian communicators and supporters of free speech in America. That alone is worth the membership fees.

But, much of what I have been seeing from Christian broadcasters is not forward thinking. I want to preface this by saying that I think traditional Christian broadcasting still has a place. It’s not dead, but it is literally dying. I give it 10-20 years.

Much of Christian broadcasting funding is accomplished by the model of paid time/donors. Stations sell 30-minute or 1-hour blocks of time to programmers. Programmers ask for money from donors. Donors come from the audience.

My own research and what I’ve read indicates that the audience for the traditional, sermon-based, teaching program is growing older with every year. The last time I pulled the numbers only 35% of the tens of thousands of people who watch the First Orlando TV program are under the age of 50. Many are over 70. Our program is not the exception, it’s the rule. The donor base for the current model of Christian broadcasting is shrinking as the audience is dying.

The research I’ve seen indicates that younger people generally do not consume religious programming. Definitely not at the rate of those over 50, and they do not support it financially like those over 50. The model for Christian broadcasting has to change.

If you read my blog regularly you know I’m developing a Christian sitcom. During the convention I was on the floor and I was talking about my show idea, and one response I got was, “Wow, that’s bold!”

I didn’t say this, but the thought went through head: This shouldn’t be bold. This should be normal. Christians should be developing more sitcoms and dramas, they should be developing episodic content and reality shows.

I know I’ve repeated this quote before, but it bears repeating again, Mark Ramsey asked in a keynote during the 2011 NRB convention, “Are you putting content online in a way that people want, or in a way that is convenient for you?” We can go farther and ask if we are creating content in a way people want, or that’s convenient for us?

18-34 year olds do not watch religious content. They watch episodic content. They prefer contest-reality shows and comedies. What makes anyone think that as these people age they will suddenly start liking worship services on TV? Or religious interview shows?

We produce worship services for TV because it is easy. My church cranks out two shows a week. It’s simpler to bring on a guest and ask them questions than to write a script, cast it, shoot it, and edit it.

But if we want Christian broadcasting to continue, we must change. And we cannot wait until the current model completely fails, we need to start developing different kinds of programming now. That is the future of Christian TV.

Remembering September 11, 2001

I was sitting here, a decade later, looking at video of the terrorist attack that changed America. It still brings tears.

This weekend we are doing a big service, complete with the story of a police sergeant who was there. I felt bad cutting out parts of his story to make it fit into a service. I will post his entire story later, but for this weekend we have his story and another piece I actually made nine years ago.

The flag waves through the names of every person who was killed on September 11, 2001. The audio is part of a speech by President Bush on September 14, 2001.

NYPD Sergeant Michael Troisi’s complete story:

Wrong Worship

A few weeks ago the pastor was preaching about worship, and wanted to show how we often times go through the motions, and really don’t mean what we are singing. In fact, things might be really different if we sang what we really meant. So our worship team snagged a few songs and rewrote the lyrics. Below is the result.

Then our media team took the clip and just threw it up onto Youtube. We talked about taking the video and making it into an “infomercial” package that other churches could use as a stand alone piece, but haven’t taken the time yet.

Imagine my surprise when the video showed up in my twitter feed via about three other sources. It’s making the rounds on the net, picked up by Michael Hyatt and ChurchMag. At about 7000 views and counting, which isn’t huge numbers, but not bad for something that just got thrown up on the net. Maybe we will do that infomercial version after all.

Update: Someone threw it on Godtube (At least they gave credit for it…) so combined the views are almost at 60,000. Wow. Again, not huge numbers for the internet, but still bigger than anything we’ve put on youtube before.

What to Do if the Halon System Discharges

Run. Evacuate as quickly as possible.

I’d like to say that this is just conjecture or something I’ve read, but this morning we got to find out for sure. 25 years ago, when the building was designed the room that broadcast control occupies now was the server room for IT. When they built it, they installed a halon 1301 fire suppression system. Two and a half decades later, it went off.

It was one of those one in a million fluke things. A volunteer put something against the wall, which fell into the pull switch for the alarm. (See picture for just how small of a hole it had to hit) When that happens there is supposed to be at least 10 seconds, if not more like 30, before the halon discharges. Right next to the pull switch is a kill button. If you accidently set off the system, you can hold that button down and prevent the Halon from firing.

In this case, I heard someone say, “Oh no!” and then the alarm sounded. I had enough time to look up and start to get up when halon began filling the room. It was maybe 3 seconds, maybe. Nowhere near enough to make it to the button, or even ask someone closer to push it.

Near me was our veteran video engineer. He helps keep our ancient gear looking acceptable. He’s worked everywhere, and knows a ton about broadcast gear. So, when his first response was to turn and run toward the door, I knew we were in serious trouble.

People poured out of the control room. Luckily we had already met before the service, and most people were out heading toward their posts. Still, we had seven or eight people in the room when the halon fired. I was at the door yelling for everyone to get out, watching a white cloud of halon gas envelope the room. The audio engineers where in the back room, and when I looked at the doorway I saw nothing but white clouds. I later learned that our A1 for the service got a face full of the gas. He was standing up, and the nozzle sprayed right at him.

He could not see, and was stumbling out of that room, when he tripped over another volunteer. Both got up and rushed out the door. Meanwhile, we got the other door open for the machine room (which actually doesn’t have a halon system) and got those folks out.

The general fire alarm was going off. Once I figured out we had everyone out, I ran to security and told them it was a false alarm, but that the halon system discharged in broadcast, so please let the fire department know.

Paramedics came and looked at our A1. The Fire Department came and killed most of the alarms, but they had to wait for HazMat to come before entering broadcast.

Meanwhile we had a service to do. We had no access to anything in the video realm. The switcher was on the preservice loop, and the internet was being sent a “We will begin in a moment” graphic. The beginning of the service had a Parent Commitment segment, and I needed to video tape that. We had no screens and no prompter.

One of our cameras was out being used to record a class, so we called that back in just in time to capture the Parent Commitment portion. The musicians got sheet music and stands, and led that way. We had audio and lighting, but no video. We went up and turned off all projectors.

And the service went on. And God was worshipped. The word was spoken and people responded. There’s no doubt that in a room our size, screens help, but it’s obvious they are not necessary. A bigger question is what will we broadcast next week?

When it was all said in done, they brought in some sort of machine to clear the gas from the room. (You could get light headed standing in the hallway outside the door.) They blocked off the back hallway and after about an hour we could get back into the space. White dust was everywhere. Clean up tomorrow will be a chore

Of course, people stopped using halon systems years ago. Now we get to figure out what to replace it with.

Possible and Passable are the Enemies of Excellence

I went back and forth on whether to write this. I don’t want to seem like I am the only person that cares about excellence. I am not. What I am talking about here are things most people don’t realize hinder excellence. This mostly concerns the technical execution of events and services. There are things about that which normal people don’t know, or need to know. So, understand I am not criticizing people, but the idea that what is simply possible or passable is good enough for God.

What frustrates me is when we approach ministry work with the attitude that anything that is done is passable. And anything passable honors God. We have all been put in the place where we were asked to do something that could have been better with different resources or more time. And where there was no reason to rush things, or to not devote more resources to it. In my opinion, this isn’t excellence.

How do we balance an acceptable level of quality with demands placed upon us?

We have a space on campus that has some technical equipment, but is not really set up for Image Magnification (IMAG), and in most configurations it’s not required. On multiple occasions events in that space have asked for IMAG and video recording. I always explain the limitations of light, angle, and available camera equipment. The response I normally get is, “I’m sure it will be fine.”

Define “fine”.

Fine as in better than I can do with my consumer, single-chip camcorder? Sure, but I wouldn’t ever use that to do IMAG for an event. Fine as in as good as other locations? Not even close. But it is passable. We can do it, but it is not the best we can do if we would decide we need to do this, and do it right. If devoting time and resources to this isn’t a priority, then we should live within the limitations.

The tension comes when the ability to do something with poor quality will actually cause more distraction than good. In the previous example, is the image we can produce with limited light and 20-year-old cameras going to be a distraction, or a help? In most cases in that room IMAG is a bonus, not a requirement. In those cases, I push pretty hard for not doing it. But sometimes we put 800-1000 people in that space, with no floor rake, and a small stage in a rectangle room. I almost always provide camera support in that situation. But, it bothers me because I know the quality of that image should be better. Sadly when it comes to equipment, there are much more pressing needs, so this remains unresolved.

Growing up in smaller churches in the country, I would cringe when I heard the soloist say, “Well, I didn’t have enough time to really practice this, but it’s for God so that’s OK.” If something is done for God, it should be our absolute best. I define excellence as doing the best you can with the time and resources available. Sometimes, we need to have the guts to say if we don’t have the time or resources to do it right, we should not do it at all.

Doing something in a passable fashion, with poor quality, because we don’t want to spend the money or take the time to do it right is not excellence.

Sometimes a good idea comes up at the last minute. In many cases, we can do it. But by making the last minute change we add significant tension to the tech guys and gals trying to pull it off, and the chances of mistakes (read: distractions from worship) goes up exponentially. Sometimes a great idea- if we’d known 3 days before- becomes a nightmare 3 minutes before.

If we do it because it is possible, it can compromise the quality if a mistake happens. I’m not talking about minor changes that happen, or deleting elements. I’m talking about adding major elements to a service. We’ve heard about these: Wouldn’t it be great to show this video? To display this picture? To add this instrument? To sing this new song without rehearsal? In most cases it is possible to make the change, but the risk of mistakes is a danger to excellence.

Do not mistake concern for excellent execution for an indifference to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I know that just like he works on Mondays, the Holy Spirit may stir right before a service, or even during one. I these instances, we will always follow the lead of the worship leader. However, in every case we should think and pray long and hard before we make a major change right before a service.

But even if the idea comes up months in advance, just because we can do it does not make it something that should be done. Does this new thing fit into the vision and direction of the ministry? Does it work with what we are already doing? Do we need to stop doing other things if we start this? Can we handle the work load? Will this new thing distract our people more than help them? Every change should be strategic, and implementation should be systematic. Doing something just because we can is never a smart thing. There must be a compelling reason.

Doing something because it is possible may endanger excellence.

Remember, this isn’t about not doing things, it’s about doing things with excellence. Works which may be passable, or might be possible, are the enemies of excellence.