A few weeks ago, I announced that we will be moving from 3 Sunday morning services to 2, beginning the weekend of September 7 and 8 (our Saturday night service will remain the same – 6pm). Let me take a few minutes to share why we made that decision and why we chose the new service times.
First, when we began 3 Sunday morning services in January of 2017, everything was great. I was anxious about what 11:30 would look like but on the first week we had almost 600 people in the Worship Center and that number remained steady for several months. We also had a strong crowd at 8:45. Over time, however, the number of worshipers at both 8:45 and 11:30 began to fluctuate and then began to shrink. This resulted in our Children’s Ministry, something I consider one of the strongest growth engines of our church, having a difficult time fully programming these two services because of the small number of children. We have what I consider to be an incredible Children’s Ministry space that should be busy and loud and active and winsome during church, but that just wasn’t the case on Sunday mornings at 8:45 and 11:30. This was both disappointing and troubling to me.
Second, 3 Sunday morning services had become difficult for our staff and for our volunteers. I had multiple conversations with our Children’s Pastor and our Middle School Pastor about this and came to the conclusion that we were stretching people too thin.
Third, having 3 Sunday morning services began to limit our worship experience because we were always “watching the clock.” Having 3 services required changing our programming from an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and five minutes at 10 and 11:30 and an hour at 8:45. As a result, I began to feel like we were losing a little bit of our identity as a church related to music, the message and any spontaneous leadings or responses.
Fourth, I’m not ashamed to say that 3 Sunday morning services were absolutely wearing me out. I would go home exhausted after every weekend and I began to feel the effects on my throat and my voice. That is exacerbated by the fact that my throat will never be as strong as it once was as the result of the radiation treatment I received in 2012.
In the end, after a lot of discussions and a lot of prayer, I decided we needed to make the switch. The next question was, “What will be the times of the new Sunday morning schedule?” This was a difficult question because we now had people attending all the way from 8:45 to 11:30. So I sat down and thought through the time shift I was asking people to make. I talked to my staff and got input from multiple people, and I gave special attention to our Children’s and Pre-teen/Middle School staff. I looked at each Sunday morning service to see which service had the highest number and percentage of first-time guests (the answer was 11:30). I did my own personal survey of several other megachurches in our brotherhood and found that the most common Sunday morning worship times were 9 and 11. Finally, I prayed for direction. In the end, I chose 9:15 and 11. And while the only feedback I’ve gotten personally has been positive, I’m sure there are those who don’t like the new schedule. If that’s the case, I want you to know that I’m sorry. There’s no way that I could come up with Sunday morning service times that would please everyone. But this wasn’t an arbitrary decision and it wasn’t a quick decision.
So, on the weekend of September 7 and 8, we launch our new Sunday morning service schedule. At the same time, we will also be launching a new 5-week sermon series called, “Room for Doubt” (we’ll be doing “Room for Doubt” at all our IMPACT campuses as well). The series will begin with special guest, Mark Mittelberg, who will not just be teaching, but also receiving and answering specific questions related to the Christian faith (I’m copying Mark’s bio at the end of this blog). I’m asking you to do two things. First, support our new Sunday morning schedule. That basically means be willing to come to church a little earlier or a little later. And if that’s too difficult, think about attending on Saturday night at 6pm. Change is not unusual in a church like Mount Pleasant. But we’re not changing anything about who we are, what we believe or how we do ministry – we’re just changing the Sunday morning service times. Second, make a commitment to be at all 5 weeks of Room for Doubt. Here are the questions we’ll be addressing:
- Is Doubt Always Bad?
- Does God Really Exist?
- Isn’t the Bible Full of Myths and Mistakes?
- Why Do Christians Say That Jesus Is the Son of God?”
- Is It Intolerant to Say That Jesus Is the Only Way?”
I can’t think of a better time to invite your one life or anyone who has doubts and questions about spiritual things. This is a series that could change someone’s life for all eternity.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog (and don’t forget to read Mark Mittelberg’s bio below). I’m praying that this new Sunday morning service schedule will go smoothly and that great things happen in and through our church as the result of “Room for Doubt.”
Mark Mittelberg is a bestselling author, international speaker, and leading strategist in evangelism. His published materials include the Making Your Case for Christ training course, and The Case for Christ: Daily Moment of Truth devotional (both with Lee Strobel).
Mark also wrote Confident Faith — winner of Outreach Magazine's 2014 apologetics book of the year. His previous book, The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense, is an update of a classic that touched millions of lives — recreated by Mark for a new generation. He also wrote The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (with Answers), which addresses the ten spiritual questions believers most want to avoid. Prior to that Mark collaborated with Strobel to produce The Unexpected Adventure, a story-based book designed to encourage Christians to seize everyday opportunities to talk about Jesus.
Mark is also the primary author of the celebrated Becoming a Contagious Christian training course (with Lee Strobel). This course has been translated into more the twenty languages and has been used to help nearly two million people share Christ in natural ways. He also co-authored the Becoming a Contagious Christian book, followed by his leadership-oriented Becoming a Contagious Church, which presents an innovative blueprint for church-based evangelism.
In addition, Mark was contributing editor for the reference Bible, The Journey: Revealing God and How You Fit into His Plan, he was a contributor to Reasons for Faith, edited by Norman Geisler and Chad Meister, and God Is Great, God Is Good, edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister — and winner of the 2010 Christianity Today award for best book on apologetics. More recently he contributed to Sean McDowell’s books, A New Kind of Apologist and Sharing the Good News with Mormons. Mark’s published pieces have sold a total of some 3,000,000 copies.
Mark was the original evangelism director at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. He led in that role for seven years, and then served as Executive Vice President of the Willow Creek Association. He was also an editorial consultant and periodic guest for Lee Strobel’s television show, Faith Under Fire. He and Strobel have been ministry partners for more than thirty years.
After receiving an undergraduate degree in business, Mark earned an MA in Philosophy of Religion, graduating magna cum laude from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. He also received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mark and Heidi live near Denver, Colorado, and are the parents of Emma Jean and Matthew, both of whom serve in fulltime ministry roles.