By Jonathan Howe
With the rapid changes happening in church culture and church norms it should be no surprise that many midweek services can now be more appropriately labeled mid-weak services.
Midweek services originated in the late 1800s as a way for itinerant pastors to meet with frontier churches for prayer and reflection as they went from town to town.
They grew in popularity in the 20th century as meals and programming were added, but over the past two decades, many have seen a consistent decline in participation and involvement in midweek programming.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Midweek gatherings can still be a vibrant part of the life of your church if done well and tailored to fit your context.
Here are seven things you can do to keep your midweek services from being mid-weak:
1. Evaluate everything you’re doing right now.
You can’t expect your midweek services to grow without being honest about where you are currently. Simply encouraging people to come more often is likely not going to turn things around long term.
You may see a spike for a week or two, but if you aren’t honest about the current state of your midweek programming, you likely won’t see any sustained growth.
2. Make sure your kids programming is relevant.
Parents follow kids. So if you want to improve adult attendance, have something kids actually want to attend and hate to miss.
Unfortunately, too many churches have kids programming that appeals to the adults and senior adults who lead them instead of the kids who are participating.
What your volunteers enjoyed as kids in 1978 might not be enjoyable for kids in 2018.
3. Try something different.
Has your church only ever had a prayer meeting on Wednesday nights? Try adding options for classes in addition to the prayer time. Have you had the same curriculum for kids for 60 years? Consider using different curriculum for a season.
4. Involve attendees in the decision making.
Want young families to be more involved in midweek services and programming? Let them be part of the decision-making process. Get feedback. The more people you have invested in a decision-making process, the more likely they’ll be invested in selling the outcome to others.
5. If you have a meal, do it with excellence.
One church I attended always lamented the lack of attendance for their Wednesday night meals. One bite of the food would have tipped off the staff as to why people stayed away.
6. Offer quality programming for adults.
Churches often focus on age-graded ministries in midweek services and programming, but adults need quality options too.
Discipleship classes or a pastor’s Bible study class are some of the most common options, but sometimes become stale choices. Freshen things up with specific theology classes or stewardship classes.
Use the midweek for practical discipleship for your members.
7. Explore other nights for programming.
Brentwood Baptist in Nashville, Tennessee, found a niche that many others have modeled. They started a Tuesday night young adult worship service called Kairos that has become an entry point for the church for those who may never have come on a Sunday morning.
Several other churches have seen similar success with young adult-specific services. Maybe it’s not a young adult service for you, but your church may come up with something that would work on a night other than Wednesday to reach those in your area who may never come on a traditional “church night.”
Midweek programming will continue to evolve as traditional work schedules and cultural norms change. But your church can combat the decline by showing a willingness to change and an initiative to be inventive.
Those who do will likely reap the rewards of greater engagement and deeper discipleship.
JONATHAN HOWE (@Jonathan_Howe) is director of Strategic Initiatives at Lifeway Christian Resources.