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“Time for Two Services?”
by Tom Goodman
July 28, 2005

People have been asking me if we’ve considered launching a second service with a guitar-driven praise band.  This question has increasingly come up during these four weeks of our Sunday morning series, “Hillcrest Generations.”

The answer is “yes,” and I want to fill you in on where we’re at with that effort.  As partners in leadership with me, you need to know where my heart is on this matter.  Here’s the bottom line:  I believe that as soon as our attendance requires a second service, we should provide a second service that is “contemporary” in format.

That’s the bottom line.  Now, let me “flesh out” that statement.  First, I’ve long believed our church should provide another music format in addition to the one we have.  Jesus called me to fish for people (Matthew 4:19).  Just as good fishermen have a variety of lures in their tackle box, good fishers-of-men need to have a lot of ways to draw people to the throne where they can “receive mercy and find grace” to help them in their time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  So, in addition to the hook we currently cast into these northwest Austin waters, we need another hook in the water.

Here’s another way to put it:  At my favorite coffee shop I have a choice of roasts.  I can have them pour me a smooth and mild cup of joe, or I can ask for a bold and rich roast.  Likewise, on Sunday mornings, in addition to our smooth music format, we need to offer a bolder format.

This is partly, but not exclusively, a generational thing.  I’m not fool enough to say that a particular generation prefers a particular format for worship.  There are certain people in every generation who like a smoother sound and certain people in every generation who like a bolder sound.  Still, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, generally, most in the second half of adulthood (the Adult 4, 5, and 6 Sunday School departments) prefer the smoother sounds of a more traditional Sunday morning service.  And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, generally, most in the first half of adulthood (the Adult 1, 2, and 3 Sunday School departments) prefer the bolder sounds of a more contemporary Sunday morning service.  In addition, I doubt you’d be at all surprised to discover that nearly any student from Middle School through College prefers the bolder sound of a guitar-driven service.

So, I’ve known for a long time that we need to get another hook in the water on Sunday mornings.  Gene and I made a strong case for this in a deacon’s breakfast a few months ago, and the deacons firmly agreed that we need to act on this matter.  I’ve been in frequent conversations with Gene and the Ministry Staff about this issue ever since.

When should we launch this?  I’m convinced we should let our Sunday morning attendance determine the timing.

If we follow the tried-and-true rule of thumb, eighty percent occupancy means a building is “full.”  People will tolerate sitting elbow-to-elbow for high-attendance days like Easter and Mother’s Day, and they will put up with a crowd if they know that the leaders are making progress to relieve the crowding.  But crowded seating won’t be tolerated for long.  That’s why churches add a service or expand the facility when their attendance hits eighty percent—before people are sitting elbow-to-elbow.

Now, we were averaging about seventy-five percent capacity in the Spring.  God willing, after the usual summertime drop, we’ll rise back to that seventy-five percent capacity in the Fall.  That means that an increase of about thirty more people will put us over the eighty-percent mark.  If we clip that threshold enough times this Fall, we will launch a second service in early 2006.

My times of prayer and reflection have led to the following vision for these two services.  Using my “coffee shop” analogy, the “bold blend” will be offered from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Worship Center.  Then, from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. in the Worship Center, the “smooth blend” will be offered.  An associate worship leader will be hired to lead the music with a band in the first service; Gene will lead the music with a choir and orchestra in the second service.  I will bring the same message in both services.

Bible study classes will be offered during both hours.  Those who attend the first hour of worship will have classes during the second hour.  Those who attend the second hour of worship will have classes during the first hour.  Your staff is already at work on the best way to lead back-to-back Sunday School hours.

I’ve listened to several other scheduling options that people have suggested.  While they have their merits, the format I’ve laid out is the one that has taken root in my heart.

We can work out the details later, however.  At present, I just wanted you to know where my heart was on this matter.  Here are four things you can do to help me:

First, pray!  Please.  Ask God to give us wisdom regarding all the things that have to be done to make this work.  Ask God to awaken our church members to fields all around us “ripe for harvest” (John 4:36).  Ask God to make us all sensitive to how different styles of music “connect” with different people, and how this is often a generational thing.  Most of all, however, obey Jesus by asking God to hallow his name in our midst.  That’s the very first thing Jesus commanded us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, so when was the last time you lifted up that request when you walked into the Worship Center?

Second, praise!  In John 4:23, Jesus said that true worshipers “will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  It’s when we come “in spirit and in truth” that worship happens, not when we use a guitar, or an organ, or a robed choir, or a beat, or a Gaither song, or a Tomlin song.  While it’s wrong for some people to say that questions of style are irrelevant, it’s also wrong for other people to say that questions of style are paramount.  Make sure that you lift up your heart and voice in praise every Sunday!

Third, attend!  Since we’re going to let the attendance determine when to begin the second service, you need to come every Sunday this Fall with a sense of enthusiastic anticipation!  Some exciting things are ahead for our church!  I believe that the “smooth” and “bold” options to Sunday morning worship will make us better fishers-of-men.

Fourth, talk!  It’s too early for me to send this e-mail out to the whole church.  That will come once we’ve seen five hundred for a few Sundays.  But I encourage you to talk about this plan with others.  Feel free to forward this e-mail to others.  Even better, why not print out enough copies for your whole Sunday School class and take fifteen minutes of class time to discuss it?  It’s time to start talking about this!

This is a great time to be at Hillcrest.  I sense that God has used this “Hillcrest Generations” sermon series to do some things in the hearts of his people.  What an honor for me to be an instrument in his hand as he renovates our heart, our program, and our look!


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