The evening service may well be going the way of the dinosaur. What was once a staple of Christian worship, at least in some traditions, is increasingly being relegated to the past. Or so it would seem. I, for one, consider it a significant loss.
I grew up with an evening service—or an afternoon service, I guess. I spent a good bit of my childhood in the Dutch Reformed tradition which was wholly committed to a second service. Those Christians were very practical, so they worked around farmers’ schedules by having the second service at 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Regardless, there were always two services and very nearly every person in the church attended both. The first was dedicated to preaching God’s Word and the second to teaching through the catechisms and confessions. In my life, an evening service was as natural as breathing.
Not too long ago I wrote about Why I Love an Evening Service and said, “Of all the casualties the church has suffered in recent decades, I wonder if many will have longer-lasting consequences than the loss of the evening service.” While I shared why I love an evening service, I did not suggest why the evening service has fallen out of favor. Recently Thom Rainer speculated on it and offered six interesting ideas:
- The advent of Sunday evening services in many churches was a cultural adaptation for its time. Its decline or demise is thus a cultural response.
- The disappearance of blue laws (mandatory Sunday closings) allowed many alternatives to Sunday evening worship, and many church members chose those options.
- There has been an increasing emphasis on family time. Families with children at home particularly viewed one worship service on Sundays to be sufficient for them.
- Many pastors simply do not have the desire, energy, or commitment to prepare a second and different sermon. Their lack of emphasis was thus reflected in the congregation’s lack of interest.
- When many churches began offering services on alternative days, such as Fridays or Saturdays, there was neither the desire nor the resources to keep Sunday evening services going.
- A number of churches, particularly new church starts, are in leased facilities. They do not have the option of returning on Sunday evenings.
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