Why We Chose Sunday Morning To Be Our Only Weekly Gathering

About 6 years ago we made the decision to cancel our Wednesday night youth group for middle school students and move everything we did to Sunday mornings. For more info about what our Sunday morning program looks like, click here. We also chose to cancel our Sunday morning and Sunday night gatherings for High School and move everything to Wednesday night. We saw both numerical growth and the quality of ministry increase immediately and here’s some reasons why…

1. It was a win for volunteers’ and families’ schedules. Instead of running students around to church 2 or 3 times a week (or even more), or asking volunteers to serve multiple times a week, we condensed it down to one time a week – and for middle school that was Sunday mornings. It works for us because we have 2 adult gatherings on Sunday mornings (9am and 11am) and we do the same for our middle school gatherings now. It allows volunteers to go to church at one service and serve at the other. And it’s a win for families because now they can spend their weeknights together or engaged more in their community.

2. It was a win for our church. If we’re honest, we understand that parents will sometimes choose a church to attend based on what it offers for kids. A lot of parents tell me they heard about our children’s ministry or heard about our middle school ministry and decided to bring their family to check it out. This is especially true with unchurched families; families already engaged with our ministry now have another reason to invite their unchurched friends to get engaged – “you should check out of childrens/middle school programs, your kids will love it”, and mom and dad get to go to church at the same time. I believe having a quality middle school program on Sunday mornings really helps in attracting young families to engage with your church.

3. It increased our volunteer pool. Because we canceled our high school program on Sunday mornings, it opened the door for high school students to serve and invest in middle school students. High School students that can’t drive or are busy during the week now have a place to use their gifts and are engaged as greeters, cafe workers, security, and even leading a small group if they are mature enough.

It also increased our adult volunteer pool because they are already there at church – they don’t need to come back another day and time to serve. This has been huge for us and makes it easier to find quality volunteers that may be busy during the week.

4. It increased the quality of ministry to students. Because we as a staff can focus all of our attention on just one gathering a week, we have a lot more time to invest in volunteers, develop our small group environment, develop our worship environment, plan our games/fun stuff, and prepare our messages. When we were preparing for 2,3, or more events or gatherings a week, we had a lot less time and energy for each gathering and the overall quality of each one suffered. And because we include small groups in our Sunday morning program now, that means every student we are engaged with is automatically plugged into a small group. Each student that walks through our doors is connected to an adult that cares about them and a community of their peers that is on a journey of following Jesus with them.

As you can tell, for us less gatherings = better ministry opportunity. I realize every context is different and our structure isn’t the “right way” or anything, but I just wanted to share why we chose to do it the way we do.


What do you think?

We value you’re input and want to have discussion with you. How is your youth ministry structured? What are the pros and cons of how you do it and what would you recommend to others that has been successful for you?

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  • http://www.womeninyouthministry.com/ Gina Abbas

    This absolutely makes sense…especially as a mom (with a middle schooler now!) less is more in my book! It’s really cool you have the freedom and support of your church senior staff to make the move to a once a week program. It allows for much more “organic” ministry between small group leaders and students to hang out mid week if they want to (and campus ministry at schools) without a mid week program busying everyone up. I love it!

    • http://funninja.org/ Kenny Campbell

      Gina you’re absolutely right about more “organic” ministry between small group leaders and students to connect outside of Sundays. We encourage our small group leaders to be more intentional about going to students’ games/recitals/activities since we don’t meet mid week. We also encourage our small group leaders to have hang outs or parties with their groups throughout the year too outside of Sundays.

  • Matt

    We have always done a youth group for grades 7-12 on Friday nights.

    This coming September we are going to try something different, and split into junior (grades 5-8) and senior (grades 9-12) youth groups. Because we are a small church and very limited volunteers, we are going to run both on the same night, one after the other. The junior will start earlier and then end, then we’ll give 30 minutes or so in between for drop-offs and pick-ups, and then senior youth will start.

    We’re hoping that by having everything on one night it will allow families to drive in, even if they live out of town, and make it easy to schedule!

    • http://funninja.org/ Kenny Campbell

      Matt, great stuff. Is it hard to find leaders to commit to every Friday night? Are there any specific reason you like that night compared to a different night?

      • Matt

        Very hard! We are a small church (around 100) in a small town, and I only have 6 adults who will volunteer with the youth group. These leaders can’t commit to coming every week, and so we have them on a rotation where they come every other week (3 one week, 3 the next).

        So when we were looking at doing two groups, we needed to keep them both on the same night simply because we don’t have leaders who will commit to 2 nights a week (I also prefer having an extra night at home).

        We also prefer Friday because we have a fair number of students who live outside of the town on farms, and so if they need to drive home after youth, it’s better then getting home late on a school night.

    • Andy Kuo

      Interesting idea! May I ask how large are your junior high (which i see reaches all the way down to 5th grade!) and senior high groups?

      How do the parents deal if they have kids in both groups, say, one in junior high and one in senior high? Do they just bring both for the whole night, or do they do multiple runs back and forth from their homes?

      • Matt

        Andy, that is something we are going to be testing out this September. Right now our 7-12 youth group averages between 15-20 with a pretty even, and so I expect to have around 10 in the junior and senior groups to start. We’re hoping that this split will lead more students to feel comfortable inviting their peers though!

        As for parents, we spent a lot of time discussing this possibility, especially since we have a fair amount of farmers who live out of town and we don’t want to ask parents to drive in and back home 2-3 times each week. We are going to encourage kids to go to a family member’s or friend’s house if they need to wait a while for their parent to get them. We’ll see how this goes!!!

  • Aaron Buer

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I love this idea and have been arguing for it for a few years. With that said, we’re stuck on Wednesday nights because there is no space in our building for us on Sunday mornings. Campus of 5000 and no youth space…boo. OK, I’m done whining. Great post!

  • Jeremy Bates

    We have been doing this since 2010 as well with great success for all the reasons you stated. The one drawback that we are constantly keeping in mind however, is that it seems more difficult for outreach/bringing friends in that time slot. Our community impact isn’t what it used to be although the group has doubled from the church kids who didn’t attend previously.
    Our attempt to counter that trend has been a once a month Wednesday night fun/social night for kids to bring friends to and build relationships in another environment. (It helps that our church has a “family sunday” once a month where all the school aged kids stay in the main service to worship with their families. That gives the leader a break on a Sunday and they come out that Wednesday instead!)

    Great resources from Shine, keep it up!

    • http://funninja.org/ Kenny Campbell

      Great point Jeremy. We also do special events throughout the course of the year for students to invite friends to that isn’t on a Sunday morning. It’s important to find the right balance.

      Thanks for your input, and thanks for the encouragement!