• Darrell Stetler II

Keeping Sunday Nights From Being a Drag

“I am so frustrated with my Sunday night service!” the pastor wrote in a message to me.  “It’s like 30% of the attendance of my Sunday morning worship service — even every time I pray about it I feel frustrated & discouraged!”  What to say to that guy?

First: Don’t freak out.  Don’t live and die by the attendance measure.  Think leadership, not outreach.  And, decide what your Sunday PM service is about.  (Read my last post on Sunday night services for more on that.)

OK, I’m not saying I’ve got this down.  (Who knows, maybe some of my people secretly think it’s a drag!?)  But since we’re all in this together, let me throw out some ideas for keeping Sunday night from being a bore:

1. Bring some variety in worship.


Is Sunday PM just a repeat of Sunday AM in flow and features?  Do you simply do the same songs you always do, and the same 5 people share a testimony, prayer time is exactly the same…?

To get some variety in your Sunday service:

  1. Split up the service in to its elements, and brainstorm ideas for each part.

  2. Ask, “How could I mix up the singing?  The prayer time?  The testimonies?  The sermon?  The order?”

  3. Don’t go overboard here.  Don’t do everything different at once.  Pick one or two creative ideas, and do them this Sunday night.

If you want help here, if you’ll share this post on Facebook, or email this post to 3 pastor friends, then click here to email me and tell me you did it, and I’ll send you a document I’ve prepared on this. 

2. Preach something different.

I love to preach through books of Scripture.  I do it on Sunday nights fairly often.  But be aware that the same routine that is comforting can also make people check out.

So try something different.  Here are a few things I’ve tried:

  1. Preach with no notes.  (or vice versa if you’re a no-notes guy)

  2. Teach with Powerpoint, and use no words, just images. (If you haven’t read the Seth Godin post I just linked to, it’s unmissable.)

  3. Use a handout. (Or don’t, if that’s your routine.)

  4. Bring a whiteboard up front, pretend it’s a napkin and you’re explaining something to them in a coffeeshop. Scribble away.

  5. Do discussions.  Ask for feedback.  Let them see & feel you wrestle through the text.

  6. Use props: Tools, fake blood, body armor, and more.

  7. Use someone else’s content.  Don’t be afraid to preach someone else’s sermon.

  8. Go big on audience participation: do a spiritual gifts test, or have everyone write a personal mission statement and share it.

  9. Split the congregation into groups and have each group brainstorm ways to apply the day’s message.

All of these things can keep your preaching from getting into a rut.

3. Do a huge (but temporary) change.

Sometimes, when you completely step away from the norm, it’s a shock to the system — in a good way.  I call this the “let’s just try it for a bit” technique.  Several benefits:

  1. You can get more permission for change from people if they know it’s temporary.

  2. You can emphasize something worthwhile that you don’t always get to talk about.

  3. You may wind up with a more open-minded audience.  Someone once said: “A mind is like a rubber band; once stretched, it doesn’t return to exactly its original size.”

Here are a few things we’ve used:

  1. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (9 weeks) – You really need to check this out.  People are so stressed by money, so covered up with debt that this is a hugely important thing.

  2. Annual Church Vision Summit  – I share for 2-3 Sunday nights about where our church is, where we’ve been, where we’re headed, financial info, attendance trends, and strategy for the coming year.  If you’re interested in my notes on this, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

  3. Worship Night – On the 5th Sunday of the month, we do a night of music, worship, readings, prayer.

  4. Membership Classes – From time to time, we will take a night and do a 3 hour block class with a meal in the middle.  We have 3 classes I teach on a rotating basis, covering Love God 101 (salvation and growth habits), Love Others 101 (membership & belonging), Serve the World 101 (Spiritual gifts and ministry.)

  5. My Favorite Sermons – I took 5 weeks didn’t preach myself.  Instead, I played sermons that had a particular impact on me from other people.  Ringing the Bell by Harmon Schmelzenbach, E.V. Hill’s “The Lord Gives & The Lord Hath Taken Away” (message at his wife’s funeral), and others.

What about you?  What creative things have you done to keep Sunday nights interesting?  Join in the conversation in the comments below, or on my Facebook!

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