The Sunday morning experience

The conduct of services of Christian worship, typically on a Sunday morning, continue to be the cornerstone activity of most Christian churches. While it is undoubtedly a “come to us” strategy, it is still the case that significant numbers of people who join a faith community for the first time, do so after visiting for a service of worship, either by simply walking in through the front doors on a Sunday, or by coming as the invited guest of an existing member of the congregation.

The Sunday morning service continues, therefore, to be of great importance to, not only the liturgical life of the church and the spiritual formation of its people, but its mission also. Furthermore, the church at Sunday morning worship is the Christian community at its most authentic. This is who we are, this is what we do! The Sunday morning service may be likened, then, to the ‘shop front’ of the parish church, with the sign out the front (complemented by the invitational culture being developed among the people within), inviting all in the surrounding community to “come and see”.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34.8.

Welcome!

According to the Barna research group, about 40% of visitors make up their mind about a church before they have heard the minister speak or even sung a hymn… within two minutes of the beginning of the service, the average guest has already decided whether they will ever return. There are few things more crucial, for the church that seeks to include and retain guests and visitors, than the initial welcome.

Welcoming guests and visitors

Gary McIntosh provides a fitting overview of the typical parihs church from the perspective of the guest.

A related article is the Lewis Center’s ‘Fifty ways to build strength welcoming new people.’

Tom Bandy approaches the same theme from the perspective of ‘five layers’ visitors will initially pass through, when encountering a church for the first time, in ‘Layered Hospitality’.

Charles Arn writes in Leadership Journal of the ministry of greeting.

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney has developed a simple, four step resource for training parishes and parishioners in welcoming guests and visitors.

Attracting guests, visitors and newcomers

Going back a step, Gary McIntosh reminds us that “no one ever joins a church without first visiting” in his piece 'Attracting Guests'. He reflects on growing the church by attracting newcomers initially and being prepared for them when they do arrive.

The Lewis Centre publishes a similar piece with suggestions on how to improve the attendance of current members and invite new people to attend worship.

On integrating newcomers into the life of the church, see the articles below by Herb Miller.

The Australian National Church Life Survey (NCLS) has identified a number of churches that have large percentages of what the NCLS calls “newcomers”—those who have joined their church in the previous five years and had not previously attended a church. This article reports on theological and sociological case study research into newcomers, the process of engagement, and the churches with which they engage. A model of church engagement in the first century churches is identified and its effectiveness in twenty-first century Australia confirmed.

Sunday Morning Sport

In an interesting, and thought provoking, piece for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, US Lutheran Pastor Keith Anderson argues that the 21st century church must overcome the commonly heard lament that Sunday Sport is taking people, especially families, away from us, and instead concentrate on being missional and attractive without the 'cultural props.' 

Back to Church Sunday

A major initiative for inviting and welcoming guests to church each year is Back to Church Sunday which originated in the Diocese of Manchester in the Church of England.

See the Australian site for details of Back to Church Sunday.

Also of interest may be our review of 'Unlocking the Growth' by Michael Harvey

The Sermon

In a challenging piece, widely read consultant and author Tom Bandy, notes the presence of spiritual ‘seekers’ in most churches, even if in small numbers, and especially in intentionally invitational contexts, yet laments that “most preaching doggedly ignores this reality.”

In an academic thesis for the University of Chester, Wade William studies the adequacy of expository preaching from an evangelical perspective for mission in the early 21st century.

Widely published, and highly respected, Melbourne priest and academic, Peter Adam, offers a defence of expository preaching, and advice for expository preachers, in the two articles below.

 

Liturgical resources

Online resources for those involved in plannning the Sunday morning experience! 

Anglican Church of Australia

Liturgical resources for download from the Liturgy Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia. 

Church in New Zealand 

A New Zealand Prayer Book (He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa)

Church of England 

Online and downloadable liturgical resources from the Church of England.

'Common' worship

The full text of the Common Worship series, together with ‘Times and Seasons’ and ‘New Patterns of Worship’ are available for download here: 

Fresh Expressions

Transforming worship

Rites of passage

Information and resources for baptisms, marriages and funerals. 

The Book of Common prayer

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is available for download.

Episcopal Church (USA)

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopal Church in the USA. 

Scottish Episcopal Church

The 1982 Prayer Book of the Scottish Episcopal Church.