At a recent leadership meeting, we had a spirited discussion about how important it is during a worship service to stick to the schedule and end on time (we have a one-hour service).
Some here are pretty sensitive to the clock, saying that making the service go long is inconsiderate to people with plans. Others say it's not that big a deal to go a few minutes over, and that a clock focus creates a tension in the service that is distracting.
I hold to the middle on this one: I'm not too concerned if we run over sometimes, for sure if it is in response to what God is doing in the service. And I have felt that clock tension sometimes and it is undesirable. BUT, I respect people's time too, and don't want to abuse it.
What do you think?
We only have one service, so it's not that big a deal for us. It's not like we have folks from the next service waiting in the lobby.
We do keep a loose eye on the clock. We have "target" times for each section of the service, but that's only a very loose guideline for the moderator and speaker. It's kind of like "Ideally, we'll start the preaching at 11:30." but no one is jumping up and down if it's 11:45. We're around 2 to 2.5 hours top to bottom. Sometimes the worship runs longer, or the preaching/altar call does, or there's something special to do. It's all good.
I am kind of in the middle, too. I say, start on time and end on time unless there is a BETTER reason not to. So if you go late, was there a GOOD reason to go late? Was the reason better than ending on time? Was it really necessary to give the fifth example of something on the third point? Or might the people have gotten the idea on the second example? Could the whole idea of, "the pastor was just led to keep speaking" sometimes be an excuse for poor planning or poor delivery? Our first service is exactly one hour long by design but actually goes about 1:07 on average; our second service is 1:15 long by design, and usually does not go longer. Same music in both, same announcements in both, same prayer time in both, sermon time is the variable.
Isn't it interesting how very few complain about starting early? And almost nobody complains about ending early?
To B-3 or not to B-3, that is the question.
I've heard several responses to this, some being what you've said, others say its Gods time and eyes shouldn't be on the clock. To me though, its not Gods time, anytime can be that, its prime time with God. We put on programming every week, some churches do 4 hours of programs in one morning. Church does need to start and end promptly as scheduled. Especially if there's more than one service in succession. Going over 3 or 4 minutes occasionally won't kill things, but staying on schedule, I think, is very important.
Really depends on each church's individual circumstances, but generally I'd like to think we can create great experiences within an hour for people (as a primary gathering) and then push the time thresholds of people during secondary gatherings, like prayer meetings, etc.
I think purpose of meeting really plays HUGE into this question as well too. If the purpose of your primary gathering is to minister to insiders and give them an opportunity to PERSONALLY express their worship I'd say that a longer meeting is necessary and can actually be very fruitful.
If the purpose of your meeting is to reach outsiders and give them an opportunity to PERSONALLY relate to (in small doses) what the insiders are doing then I'd say that a shorter meeting is necessary.
If you have blended purposes (as most churches will say), then I think the answer is obvious.
If it's not I'll spell it out. As insiders we've got 6 days a week to PERSONALLY plug in to God. We've got a cell phone and so does every other insider. Call them up get with them and get your insider Bible studies on. Call them up and get with them and get your insider fellowship time on. And so on.
The one gathering, typically, that you'll find that most insiders and outsiders come to is the Sunday gathering. I honestly think it would see more fruit and real growth if we learned to put others first. Read: God and outsiders.
But that might just be my opinion.
3 things that we know are true for our church:
1) We have two services, which means the first service MUST end on time in order for us to empty and fill for the next service.
2) We have about a 50/50 ratio of guests to members, and many of our guests each week are far from God (the same people that our church has been created to serve). Many of those same guests would not return if we did not deliver as advertised, including beginning and ending on time.
3) (you might laugh at this one, but we've found it's absolutely true) Young children have this innate ability to know when things have gone on longer than normal...keep a 2 year old from his mother, his meal or his nap for longer than he is used to, and you've got unhappy kids, unhappy parents and unhappy children staffers.
All that to say, yes, we always begin and end on time (within a minute or two).
i think you just answered your own question....of course there are times where things are going to run a little over....but in general, I believe it is important to try to stick to your planned time slots....
honestly, i believe that we should be willing to give God ALL of our time anyways... so if a pastor/preacher is preaching a sermon and the holy spirit is in the room... why would you look at your clock and expect the service to end at a certain time just because you are meeting so and so for lunch, or the colts game is about to start? i used to get caught up with getting out of church at a certain time, but that is when my priorities weren't in line. I've stopped putting my focus on the worldly things and started putting my focus on God, and I don't even know what time we get out of church anymore. I am just so thankful to be in the Lord's house, praising and worshiping HIM to be honest with you. And... whose to say that the extra 10 minutes the preacher went over wasn't the detrimental 10 minutes that the lost person needed to hear in order to come to know the Lord?
I think we can be far too wrapped up in the clock... spending all our lives clock-watching... Organisation is one thing (and those who know me know I am ultra-organised!), but there has to be flexibility too. God isn't bound by our programmes. We need to give Him the freedom to move...
I know this is easier in certain contexts than others, but for instance when wearing my home-group leader hat I always finish the 'programme of events' at or before our 10PM finish time. If people want to stay and chat/pray/receive ministry they do, but others feel no embarrassment at going home at that time, because we make it clear what the arrangements are at the outset. Consideration for your brothers and sisters and being led by the Holy Spirit aren't mutually exclusive. It just takes a little imagination and organisation sometimes. IMO