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Anyone else have this problem with their church?

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  • Anyone else have this problem with their church?

    Hi All,

    Long time lurker, first time poster. We have a problem at our church and I was wondering if anyone else has experienced it and what they did about it.

    The issue is that most of our church attendees come late. At the beginning of either of our 2 services, about 20% of the total attendance is there, after 5 or 10 minutes it's 50%. It's not until 20 minutes into the service that pretty much everyone is there (total attendance averages 70 to 130, depending on which service).

    Mostly the problem is people arriving late, but also there are some people who like to chat in the foyer for a while, even after the service starts.

    To try to fix this, we've done the following:
    - show a countdown timer on the overhead screen
    - the worship team plays instrumental music 5 minutes before the start
    - changed the service format in different ways (start with 1 song, start with a full set,
    start with announcements, etc.)
    - close the sanctuary entrance doors when the service starts

    It's really frustrating because I feel like the first few minutes is just throw away time, but I don't want to cater to that either by putting fluff at the beginning.

    We've actually experienced some growth in attendance since adding the second service a few months ago which has been great, but the late attendance is an issue we've had for years.

    Any thoughts?



  • #2
    Perhaps five minutes before start an announcement could be made, "Ladies and gentleman, the service will begin in five minutes. We encourage you to enter the (sanctuary, auditorium) and find your seats. Thank you."

    Also, since the Pastor is the spiritual leader of the church perhaps he can address the issue before his message in the next few services.

    Do you have a bulletin? A little note at the bottom might work.

    I agree, this issue is frustrating. It shows a lack of respect for those in the service and for the others in the congregation. Hope this helps.
    All that hath life and breath, praise ye the Lord!
    In His Name,



    • #3
      We have wrestled with the same issue. We've started using a countdown and have begun playing a "secular" (I hate that term) tune that shares the truths we are covering that day (the litany of U2 stuff, Extreme's "Hole-Hearted", Boston's "Peace of Mind", and "Dust In the Wind" just to name a few examples). I lean toward thinking the reason that the instrumental stuff hasn't brought better results is the fact that it is an instrumental. Do something and sing, even if not "secular". Use that time to play new material so that people are hearing it before they have to sing it in worship. We've seen great results with that. Would love other ideas though!


      • #4
        We deal with this, as well. I think you'll find it's a very common issue. Part of our issue has to do with traffic flow. Our parking lot is long and narrow, so the last few folks in have a good 5 minute walk to the front door, and then we have to funnel everybody through a single door to the worship space. All of that hasn't caused anybody to arrive any earlier, though. We have tried a lot of different things, but with little success. We now start our countdown at 10 (when the service is officially scheduled) and hit the first note at 10:05. We've been in that pattern for a couple of years, and as frustrating as it is, I think we'll probably stay there as long as the issue doesn't get any worse, which so far it hasn't.

        I realize that isn't very helpful. Like others, I'd be interested to hear what you all are trying.
        Eric Frisch


        • #5
          A lot of it has to do with maturity, in my opinion. People just don't learn how to show consideration for others who are there and ready and for God, to be blunt honest. If they invited people to dinner and everyone arrived 10, 20, 30 minutes late they'd be upset. They don't realize that this is how God (I believe...) feels when we saunter in at our convenience. Corporate worship is a group event and everyone should be "on the same page". We should anticipate being together with God and come into His presence, the worship center or wherever we're meeting, with great anticipation of His being there. I'd almost think people would 'fight' for a good seat as they would for a concert or show. Why not want to see and hear 'the best' on Sunday (or whenever you/they meet) ?

          One day things will not be as 'convenient' for Christians. Those in other countries have to sometimes sneak off to meet, pray, and worship. We take it for granted and when it's gone, there will be a rude awakening. When this will occur, who knows but God. As has been stated for the past three years...... "America, your chickens are coming home to roost". ;-) Not to be an alarmist here.....

          My two cents.

          Mark A. Levigne
          Medina, Ohio


          • #6
            A lot of churches struggle with this. We've had guest worship leaders or speakers in, and when apologizing for it, the reply is usually "Same thing happens in my church!" We've tried everything (except locking the doors... I like that.) One thing we're considering is closing the gate on the front parking lot when the service starts, so if you come late, you have to walk from the back lot.

            We play recorded music now until about 10:25 (or service starts at 10:30). At 10:25 we play one song, usually upbeat, and that tends to get the people who are there in, but it does nothing for those who come late in the first place.


            • #7
              If your senior pastor is willing, start a service with the sermon.
              Tony Hartsfield


              • #8
                If you find something that works, please let us know!!!

                Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


                • #9
                  I knew this tended to be a church issue...I just never really cared that much about it. Interesting to see this discussion.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tlhartsfield View Post
                    If your senior pastor is willing, start a service with the sermon.
                    We actually did that once. The next week, everybody was there on time. The following week, back to the usual.
                    Eric Frisch


                    • #11
                      I really like Mark's thoughts about people's perspectives and expectations. It seems to be a pattern that people have gotten used to and they think nothing of it. When really, they should be so excited and can't wait for it to start, and if they get there even five minutes late, they know they've missed out on something. I think you guys should be bold enough, without condemning or getting mad, but really having the pastor speak - not only from the puplit, if you will, but in whatever forms you use to communicate with your members (newsletter, blog, etc), and have him address the issue flat out. Again, no need to judge people or get mad at them, but really speak to the heart of the matter about why anyone wuold want to be there on time, what you miss out when you're not, why it matters not just to them but to everyone else, and how very easy we have it to worship and gather at our convenience because many people in other parts of the world risk their very lives just to read the Bible or talk to anyone about the Lord. Go ahead and set that expectation. As leaders, you have the right and responsibility to communicate that kind of vision and expectation.

                      It's sad that this is such a common issue. If people are actually in the building but just enjoying chatting with each other, that's good they want to build relationships, but instead structure a time where they can do that that doesn't interfere with the service. It does seem a little disrespectful to those who are leading the service, but of course more than that, I think it's disrespectful to the Lord for not wanting to soak in everything He has for us/them throughout the morning.


                      • #12
                        I agree with Mark- it's a side effect of the atmosphere of casualness and familiarity we've allowed to creep into the church.

                        I don't think people should be beat up too bad for being late, sometimes people just get behind- particularly with kids, etc. But it still doesn't mean people can't take advantage of leniency and make a habit out of it.

                        One possible solution- have the usher staff actually usher- when the service starts, have them go through the foyer or other gathering areas and move people towards the sanctuary.

                        I agree that the pastor needs to address the issue. The passive method isn't quite working, so maybe a couple weeks of making a point to remind people that the service starts at x O'clock (30), please make it a point to be in the sanctuary and finding their seats. Explain that it is disrespectful to others and a security concern to have people constantly in and out of the sanctuary after service begins.

                        Another thing to help, if there is is more than one entrance, maybe 10 minutes after service starts, lock all but the main. They could also do a similar thing with the kids and youth ministries- after 10 minutes, they can't be checked in and have to stay with the parents.

                        That doesn't mean you need to treat it like Fort Knox, but it's ok to make it uncomfortable for those who make a habit to show up 'fashionably late'

                        we won't get rid of all of it, but we can make it fairly uncomfortable to be late...

                        If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


                        • #13
                          I've dealt with this in a number of different churches. Of course, we can consider the deeper spiritual and personal issues that might contribute, but I've always started with the practical. I once heard a quote to the effect that we can't get mad at people for what they don't know. And we can't assume they know what we think they should know. I've learned that I may think we've communicated a start time or expectation well, but probably really haven't.

                          Perhaps you may want to consider these questions:
                          - Have you communicated clearly the start time and desire (both personally and spiritually) to be together? Has your pastor? What about enlisting some of your main people of influence to help?
                          - Are there parking or traffic flow issues, as someone else mentioned?
                          - Are there bottlenecks with the nursery or children's ministry and parents dropping kids off?
                          - Do you have a designated fellowship time? Perhaps coffee and treats either before, after, or in between services? That your congregation is connecting and wants to is great. Find a way to validate that while also starting on "time."
                          - Are there better service times that could be implemented?

                          It would also be good to consider the content and flow of your services. Are they connecting with people? Are are they finding it disengaging and possibly less than relevant. I'm not saying they are, but it is worth asking the question if this is a significant problem.

                          If those things don't seem to be contributing factors, then it may be a discipleship issue that you'll need to work on together as a pastoral staff and elders/deacons. Perhaps people, especially if they are younger Christians or don't have any church experience don't understand.

                          I've found that tweaks to time, flow, content, etc have all impacted people coming in and on time. I've also at times encouraged the ushers to actively "ush" people into the sanctuary as the service begins.

                          The thing is, don't try and conquer this problem by yourself. You will only end up frustrated and end up potentially looking silly, which won't enhance ministry. My the Lord guide you and your leadership team to an appropriate solution that contributes to the continues building of His church.


                          • #14
                            You have to find the cause....

                            I'm going to add a little to what Mike on Bass said:

                            To solve any problem, you have to find the cause.

                            It may mean quietly asking some of the folks who are late why. You may have multiple issues, and need multiple fixes.

                            If it's parking, maybe you ask the early arrivers to park at the back of the lot, so the late arrivers (more likely to be guests?) can park closer.

                            If it's a bottleneck at the nursery or children's department, maybe additional staffing there.

                            If it's a particular Sunday school class running long (we had this for a while), address it with the teacher and or education minister. Or maybe they just need to have the clock in their classroom adjusted a few minutes.

                            If it's a bottleneck distributing bulletins, maybe someone could put the bulletins on the chairs or at the end of a pew (depending on what you have). Or additional greeters.

                            There are always some people who will be late. We have a gentleman who comes in 5 to 10 minutes after we start almost every week. I often catch his eye and smile when he comes in -- so he knows I know he's late. When he's on time, I congratulate him. If he's early, I make a special effort to welcome him before the service. He knows he late; he'll change when he's ready. He's come so far in other areas of spiritual maturity that I'll take late (it's a vast improvement over never!)

                            After addressing any physical obstacles, you can then proceed to addressing the spiritual side.

                            But there can be a flip side to this, too. Does the service run long (in the eyes of the congregation), or at least is inconsistent in how long it runs?? While arriving late is disrespectful, running beyond what is accepted (whether than is 60 minutes or 3 hours) is disrespectful, too. Not knowing what you're offering, I wouldn't feel any great desire to be "on time" for a 40 minutes concert followed by a 15 minute vanilla, let's scratch the surface of scripture sermon -- or even a very practical lesson on topics that I don't have to deal with. I might be on time out of duty, or as an example to others, but it wouldn't come from the depths of my heart. Just sayin'........ So you might want to be sure that what you have planned is participatory (it's better in my opinion for the congregation to actually participate in singing 2 older songs than for them to watch the band do 6 brand new songs), and provides for spiritual growth (no fluff -- "because your body is God's temple, you should eat right, and here are the latest recommendations from the USDA" -- no kidding, I've seen something almost like that!)

                            Hope that helps!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by red embers View Post
                              Any thoughts?

                              Door prizes? You must be present (in the room and seated!) to win. The drawing is after the first song.

                              Sorry 'bout that......