How long should a worship service be?

It’s time to shorten worship services, at least according to this article.

I guess this depends more on your tradition and cultural background, but most of the worship services I’ve been part of and have been more or less contained to an hour. And those who have been in attendance have generally favored those times when it leaned to the “or less” standpoint.

I’ve been pastor of a church that started its worship service at 11:00am and it was pretty much understood that things were going to finish up before noon, and the pastor was going to be greeting people on their way out at the 2:00 warning. I have a few other pastor friends who operate under this cloud of clock management, even though not every aspect of the worship service relates directly to what the pastor says or does during that time. Those who push beyond the 12:00 barrier have stories to tell, often involving something like weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Some churches have gotten creative with this and start things around 1050 or 10:40am. My personal favorite thus far and current situation is that worship begins at 10:30am. There’s still the 11:30 barrier that a few folks mention, but it’s not like the pressure on counting down to the noontime hour. I mean, I can say “well, at least we’re out of here way before noon (which is usually about 15 minutes but somehow that seems like a long period when you’re talking about how churchtime works).”

I do try to be sensitive to what is going on the pews though. After one Sunday service, I looked through my son’s children’s bulletin. Those things are pretty cool looking, and designed to keep the kids occupied. It’s similar to those things restaurants give out without the children’s menu on it. Anyway, I noticed he had filled out a lot of stuff and under the notes section had written “my back hurts.”

There are so many considerations to talk about when the subject of worship is brought up, but I don’t recall the issue of length being one that I’ve read about. It’s something that is worth keeping in mind though, depending on the culture and tradition of the people.

What I’d like to believe is that worship as a community of faith should be enjoyed rather than endured, and that as a result of being together we are challenged to feel something, learn something, and then leave to do something for Christ. That’s what Eddie Hammett was referring to in the “gathered and scattered church.” And whatever happens, let’s not “forsake the assembling of ourselves for worship.”


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