Monday, July 16, 2007

Q&A #04: Late Comers To Worship

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"What to do about people who are always lat showing up to church?

It seems that many of us share this problem at some time in our ministry. I have it now!

It can be:
• Awkward and embarrassing for new folks who show up on time and even ahead of time.
• Discouraging for the musicians and the pastor when 5 minutes before kick off there are very few people in the auditorium ready to go.

We kick off on time even with very few people in their seats until the first song or 2. Then they all arrive.

I think this:
• Is not God honouring
• Reflects disorganization./ lack of commitment

I don’t want this to continue – I would really appreciate your suggestions."

My Response:
"For at least 3 weeks in a row, start the service off with the sermon. We did that at my last church, and the quick turn-around would have been funny if it wasn't so sad...nobody likes walking in late for the may make your guests feel uncomfortable, but's it worth it to get the message accross to your regulars.

And, I'll echo the above remark (see blog comments)...try to do it differently at least every couple of weeks. People come late because they anticipate what is going to happen.

One more thing, begin using every opportunity to teach your church that every aspect of your service is important as it all can and should be an act of worshipping God. Rethink every aspect of your service, and cut out anything that doesn't support this."


MilePost13 said...

One response on the church leader forum that this questions was pulled from:

"Change it up. Do 2 songs and then the message - put the majority of you're music at the end of the service. From time to time we change it up to keep it from getting boring or predictable and to keep the DNA of openness to change alive. We've also done a couple of songs - started the message and after each main point of the message did a song."

travis ham said...

One thing that generally helps with our service order is that we start off with a welcome/announcements, have a brief time to greet the folks around you, and then kick off into the music/sermon/etc. Thankfully we have not had much of a problem with latecomers, but if someone was to miss out on something, it seems preferable for it to be a group of announcements (as worshipful as they should be) that can be caught up on from the bulletin or by asking their neighbor rather than the other more focused elements of our corporate worship time.

Steve said...

Where is the expectancy of meeting with the Lord? If that's missing, then no matter what you do or say, some people will be habitually late. I think the solutions are beyond the mechanics of doing church, though change can be good; it's a spiritual malaise, and healing starts at the top.

In the past, for example, I'd been told that we couldn't do announcements at the beginning "because no one is there" and we couldn't do the offering at the beginning "because not enough people are there." Thus, the tail wags the dog.... Yet it is OK to begin with praise and worship??! What are we saying then, by implication, to our people? That if it's important, it will happen later on, and if you're late, you're not missing much. (I dunno, maybe we're too afraid of offending people, so nothing is said?)

While you can't make people be on time, I agree with Nate: the full orb of worship has to be a verbalized and modeled priority/vision of the leadership. I think that when God is continually lifted up as awesome and desirable, in word and deed--most importantly, when that is taught, modeled, and prayed about by leadership--then I think the Spirit can change most hearts to want to be there and not miss a thing of what God is doing in our midst, no matter what we do on a particular Sunday to start a meeting.

Slowly but surely, that seems to be happening at our place. Yay, God.


MilePost13 said...

We never used to have this issue, especially not with our members, mainly because we were in a 117 seat worship center, running at least three services...if you were late, you got a bad seat or no seat at all. We're now in a 300 seat worship center, with two services and plenty of room to grow. A few of our members have gotten a little slack, but that's their issue...our current situation is with guests who seem to be arriving late, sometimes up to 40 minutes late...but, there's nothing we can do about that.

I just can't understand why you'd want to come to church that late, especially on vacation...


Tina Hughes said...

Hey Nathan, just came by to check out the site after looking in on the kids at camp. Hope you don't mind if I respond.
I appreciate what you are saying about the distraction concerning late-commers into service; as you said, there isn't much you can do about the tourists coming in late. As far as regular attendees or members are concerned, hopefully they are a part of a small group or receive a news-letter from the church. The reason I say this is because this may be a great way to gently address the issue. I understand that sometimes there is more bluntness needed, but I would hope someone who is close to that person would approach them. In reality, their puncuality may be something they need to work on in everything they do, not just Sunday morning service. As they mature spiritually I have faith that God will convict them.
The reason I seem to tread lightly on dealing with this subject is because, in all honesty, there are some very good reasons why some people are late. I am glad I no longer have the problem of being late to service, but when I was a young mom with very young children as well as a difficult "life" situation, it was VERY hard to even get to church let alone on time. I was just thankful that I got there at all - truly. Believe it or not, there are those types of situations (and others) out there. I would hate to address this in a way that would discourge those individuals from trying to get there. I know people who have just stopped even trying to attend church because they were embarressed that they couldn't get there on time....what a shame. Sometimes people could use encouragement, help, or just patience and acceptance in knowing that even if they are late, God wants them there. Something (for them) is better than nothing in many situations. Does this make any sense? Honestly, even though I can get distracted easily, I don't mind when people walk in late - the distraction to me is my problem (it doesn't take away from my worship)and I have faith that God will use others (in and out of the church)in their life to minister to their needs.
Okay, not sure if I got that across well but wanted to share what I thought about that.

See ya soon!
God Bless,

PS Worship on Sunday was awesome - I heard others (besides myself) singing that last song as they left service. ;o)

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Hi Tina, can I hijack your comment to Nate for a sec? :-)

I need to apologize for speaking out without making mention of the single moms and young families out there who, as you say, have all they can do to get everyone to church on time. (I put something like that in my first draft but, oh well...)

You are right. There needs to be grace for such situations. I don't even know if the OP was talking about this, but what I had in mind was the people I know who actually are on the grounds of the church on time but choose not to come into the meeting until, well, whenever. I just don't get that.

MilePost13 said...

I'm pretty certain that the OP (third party) was addressing members who are on the campus but purposely wait until after the service starts to actually enter into the experience...not much of an excuse for those people.

Also, understand that, as I said, we do NOT really have this issue with our members. Our only real issue is with guests, and namely tourists, and we'll just continue dealing with them with a smile. :)

When we built our new worship center, we did it in a way that allows those who enter late to do so and find a seat as inconspicuously as possible. We also train our greeting team to reserve the back seats for the late-comers. Most unchurched guests (OUR target group) are NOT going to show up to a church for the first time any more than a few minutes early, and many will show up right on time or even a few minutes late. They're already going to feel some level of uncomfortableness, and we don't need to embarrass them during the service for being late by making them walk to the empty seat in the front row.

Tina said...

Hijack away Steve! ;o) I read the original post, but of course it was simply the topic of lateness that caught my attention.(sorry!)Your post was exactly to the point, and after I thought about it, my "two cents" about cautiously approaching late-commers probably wasn't helpful or needed. It's an age old topic though isn't it.
I still like the idea of using small groups and the newsletter to address that issue of stragglers though. ;o) Take care guys and thanks for responding!


MilePost13 said...

thanks for participating Tina...and, it's good to know somebody reads the newsletter. :)