Sunday Nights and Disposable Time

Our Sunday night “Body Life” small groups are on hiatus for the summer, and we're trying something a little bit different. We're not going to meet together at the building in a reprise of the traditional Sunday night service. One former member used to call this “The J.V. Service,” a basic repeat of the Sunday morning format using “Junior Varsity” songleaders, scripture readers and prayer leaders. What we're going to do this summer is much more radical (radical for us) than it sounds:

  • Sunday Night Live: The second Sunday night of each month will be a big blowout worship service at the building. Our praise team will lead us in worship (including learning one new song a week) and I'll lead a discussion-based Bible study (Francis Chan is team-teaching with me this week… though he doesn't know it). We'll have child-care, a potluck and we're appealing to everyone (not just the usual Sunday night crowd) to join us for these three special services during the summer.
  • Sunday Night Group: Our building group will continue during the summer as well. We have people who always come on Sunday nights, and we don't want to discourage them. And we have some who only come on Sunday nights, and we certainly don't want to discourage them. But everyone else, do do kinda want to discourage coming... because we want to emphasize part three.
  • Sunday Night Service: We are asking those who don’t come to the building to use Sunday night as a time for fellowship and service. Invite people over to your house for Sunday night dinner… using Jesus’ guidelines about who to invite (Luke 14:12-14). Visit people who Jesus says needs someone to visit them (Matt 25:35-36). Take on a project as a family (or group of families) to serve someone who needs a little light in their lives (Matt 5:14-16). 

One of our former elders used to say that most people have only a limited supply of "disposable time."  The more you ask people to spend time unproductively or less productively, the less time they will have to spend on things that really matter.  We hope this will be a better use of our disposable time.

Something has been bothering me (well, enough to bother me, but evidently not enough for me to do something about it). We have a great group of young adults and young families who are part of our church, but when I look around on our traditional Sunday night and Wednesday night gatherings, they aren't here.  What I see is people who look a lot like me-- older (not old) people. People who attend these services are folks who have always attended every service "every time the doors are open."  But our younger people aren't there. Why?  Is it because they just aren't as committed to God? No.  It’s because they don’t gauge their commitment to God solely and primarily on the basis of attending a church service three times a week.  They don't have the disposable time for something they really don't connect to serving God in the first place.

I read recently that about 15% of our “Millennials” (young people born between 1980 and 2000) are “Christian” in any real sense of that word. About 70% of Millennials believe that churches—all churches—are completely irrelevant to modern day life. And the Millennial who has parents who are only nominal Christians (or church goers) will likely completely divorce themselves from Christian faith rather than adopt their parents’ lukewarm faith. Changing around our services is not going to make much of a difference. But we do need to face the fact that equating “Christian faith” with “going to church three times a week” isn't really working for us. And to continue to do the same thing while expecting different results is the definition of insanity.