Here’s how to keep midweek programs relevant, can’t-miss events for the families in your community.
Families are busy. Young children are in school for up to six hours each day. Kindergartners, elementary children, and teenagers are in school for eight hours each day and usually come home with hours of homework. Add in sports practices and games, music lessons, club activities, and tutoring, and a child’s schedule is quickly filled to overflowing. Unfortunately, a midweek church service doesn’t always make the cut for what’s critical.
Sunday has long been considered the Sabbath in the Christian church; a day set aside for worship services and class. But in many churches, Wednesday night is also sacred. The Bible doesn’t mention a specific day that the church is required to meet other than setting aside the Sabbath. In fact, the book of Acts describes the early church as meeting daily. Throughout church history, people regularly gathered together for Bible study or prayer meetings. In the early 1800s, Christians participated in “camp meetings,” where they’d set up tents near a local church to sing and hear speakers. These camp meetings opened the door for the revival prayer meetings. Dwight L. Moody, an evangelist and publisher, famously held evening prayer meetings during the week. By the 1950s, these prayer meetings more closely resembled a Sunday church service with worship and a speaker, or they were used for small-group Bible study.
Today in some regions of the U.S., Wednesday nights are still considered a sacred night for church, and local schools refrain from scheduling events, practices, or games on those nights. But in recent years, more and more churches have been vocal about struggles with falling attendance. In addition to the overall family busyness factor, churches with midweek programs have seen declines in attendance due to increased homework loads, longer school days, and earlier bedtimes. Many ministries have responded by adjusting schedules to avoid conflict. Jeff Brown, family life pastor at Rockpointe Community Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan, said his church moved its midweek service from Wednesday to Thursday but ultimately found “it was just another day with the same problem. If it wasn’t sports, then it was dance or Scouts.”
Is this the end of midweek services?
What does it all mean? Is this the end of midweek services? As the writer of Hebrews encourages us, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Today, more than ever, Jesus’ followers benefit from staying in contact throughout the week. Just as a physically healthy person needs to eat well and exercise consistently to stay healthy, our spiritual health needs exercise and nourishment. How that’s done may look different to each church.
Establish the Purpose
The book of Acts (verses 2:44-47) describes the early church this way:
All the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Churches all have individual purposes for meeting at midweek, but they share common themes: discipleship, fellowship, or outreach.
Just as early people of faith devoted themselves to worship, prayer, and teaching, many churches use their midweek meeting for discipleship. They offer a worship service similar to Sunday morning or in-depth Bible study classes. This works well for mature Christians who are looking for a deeper study or new Christians looking to learn more.
A midweek service is also beneficial for families who can’t attend a Sunday service together. The father of one family worked at a company with a schedule that required him to be away on weekends. The family searched for a church with a midweek service so they could attend as a family at least once a week.
Many churches use their midweek service for fellowship, whether that’s through a provided meal or a social time. It can be difficult for families to have a family dinner and get to church on time, especially if both parents work. Some churches provide a meal before their midweek programming as a ministry of their church.
Another trend that’s becoming more common is doing away with the midweek church service model and offering small groups throughout the week. Different churches call these home groups, life groups, or community groups. While some groups may still meet on Wednesday night, others meet on a different weeknight, Sunday night, or even Saturday morning. These groups may focus on a specific study or book, share a common interest, or be in the same season of life.
Lastly, the book of Acts says that God added to their number those who were new to the faith. Some churches use their midweek service to reach their community and teach new Christians.
Jessica James is the children’s ministry director at Oakland Church in Rochester, Michigan. A few years ago, her church noticed the midweek service was bringing in only their core group of regular attenders and wasn’t attracting many new people. The church leadership felt they were expending a lot of effort but not reaching the unchurched community. So the church decided to switch to community groups— groups that meet in homes or in other places in the community. Jessica says this switch has been more effective for evangelism and growth.
“Our goal in community groups is to get those who aren’t going to a midweek service or church. Then we bring them into a fellowship setting and connect them to church and help them in their faith walk,” says Jessica. “A person who’s hesitant to go to church would more likely go into a home where they feel less intimidated.”
Oakland Church’s community groups initially started simply, with church members handing out a DVD curriculum to those interested. But now groups have evolved to choose their own focus. There are groups for men, women, moms, youth, and those of college-age. Some groups involve kids, such as a Saturday morning mom and tots group, and some provide child care. In the summer, the church offers a Family Fun Night group that meets once per week in a park. They hope to offer community groups for kids in the future as more group leaders and attendees come on board.
While a midweek service isn’t a commandment, the Bible encourages followers of Jesus to stay in contact with one another and continually meet. Here are practical ways you can tweak your midweek methods to reach families throughout the week.
Provide a meal or snack.
Some kids come to church without eating dinner or even an after-school snack. If your church can’t afford to provide a meal, encourage donations or work with a local restaurant. At Brightmoor Christian Church in Novi, Michigan, the team offers a kids café and provides several food items for sale. Kids can use their own money or tokens they earn to purchase the items. Kenny Cheeseman, kids pastor at Brightmoor, explains, “We recognize that every family situation is different and not everyone might be able to purchase a slice of pizza. Because of that, we offer every child, free of charge, a fresh-popped bag of popcorn. We want everyone at Brightmoor Kids to feel welcomed and blessed.”
While cookies and ice cream can draw a big crowd, save the sugary snacks for another event. Parents today are often health-conscious and find it frustrating when they have a hard time getting their child to settle down for bed after being stimulated with sugary snacks or caffeinated drinks at church. Instead, offer healthier options like popcorn, pretzels, or fresh fruit and vegetables.
Adjust your times.
Hectic evenings are challenging for parents to manage with dinner and bedtime routines. While 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. seems to be a common time for midweek services, many church- es are opting for earlier start and finish times. This allows families to get younger children home and in bed earlier. Some churches provide a meal to facilitate an earlier start time and encourage fellowship. If your church can’t provide a meal, consider scheduling in fellowship time and offer snacks. Also include a 15-minute buffer to allow scrambling families some late-arrival wiggle room before services or programs begin.
Host events or theme nights.
Create excitement with special themes like pajama night, crazy hair night, or superhero night. Weekends can be just as busy, or busier, for families. Instead of always hosting special events on a weekend, take advantage of your midweek schedule. Host churchwide events during the week, such as holiday events or family movie nights.
Allow kids to choose.
Some churches offer grade-specific classes for their midweek discipleship program, and others offer gender-specific program-ming similar to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. A unique idea is to offer elective classes children can choose from based on their interests, such as art, cooking, music, or acting.
Offer life skills classes.
As children’s ministry leaders, we’re dependent on parents to bring their children to our ministry. So instead of appealing only to the kids, provide something parents will want to attend, too, like classes on parenting, marriage, finances, or other life skills. Kids can go to their classes while parents participate in programs that feel like time well spent.
Connect through social media.
Many churches use Facebook, Instagram, and email to connect with parents outside of church. When midweek service was canceled due to weather, one children’s ministry did a Facebook Live event. They shared a devotional and offered some discussion questions for parents to ask their children. Families got to post pictures and their answers, so everyone stayed connected.
There’s no right or perfect way to do a midweek program. Every church has a different purpose and a different culture of people to which they minister. What works in one region or city may not work in another. Moody once said, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” Ultimately, church attendance is decided by the individual, but there are ways we can create relevant opportunities for people to connect with the body throughout the week.
Emily Snider is a children’s ministry leader, writer, and ministry consultant.
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