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Anyone else have this problem with their church?

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  • #16
    I guess it's not noticeable at all when people come in late to the main gatherings...we attend a "mega-church" and when people are late they sit towards the back and no one knows the difference in the congregation. The worship team and choir would notice but the auditorium is so big it doesn't distract.

    Now for our Sunday class...we've been attending our class for 13 years and it's ALWAYS been the same. Some couples (it's a marrieds class) regularly come in ten minutes late, others 30-40 minutes! There is one couple that are leaders and they either don't show up or come walking in 30 minutes late with Starbucks. Eh...?!

    My hubby is the teacher, and it doesn't bother him too much. He's addressed it at class leadership meetings, but nothing's changed all that significantly. I think you REALLY need to put A LOT of time and energy into this issue if you want it fixed. Consistent reminders, one on one discussions, etc. Definitely have to choose your battles.
    All that hath life and breath, praise ye the Lord!
    In His Name,



    • #17
      Thank you guys!!! I really appreciate all the feedback. There's some good stuff in a lot of your responses, I'll be sharing these with my pastor.

      I think one issue could be our worship structure. I've been worship director for about a year but there is a team of worship leaders to share the load (we're all volunteer). Whoever is leading picks the songs, and sometimes I think the music goes too long for some (depending on the songs picked and how they're done, sometimes it's long for me too).

      I like the idea of asking people directly why they're late (maybe phrase it "why do you think people come late" so it's not like I'm jumping all over them). There were some other good suggestions too.

      cgambill, you mentioned some tweaks to time, flow & content have helped, could you elaborate on that?

      kepmek, love the door prizes idea lol.

      If anyone else has successfully dealt with this, I'd love to hear from you.



      • #18
        don't start your service until everyone has come into the sanctuary....then begin and keep the length of the service the same, and wait for people to ask you or the pastor why, and what is going on... tell them why you have not started yet...do it again next week, but this time have the pastor say something to the congregation as a whole. The next week 90 percent will be on time, and stragglers will be spoken to by others... this is also a great thing for the greeters to remind people of. 30 minutes late???? WOW...rude.


        • #19
          Originally posted by red embers View Post
          I think one issue could be our worship structure. I've been worship director for about a year but there is a team of worship leaders to share the load (we're all volunteer). Whoever is leading picks the songs, and sometimes I think the music goes too long for some (depending on the songs picked and how they're done, sometimes it's long for me too).


          If anyone else has successfully dealt with this, I'd love to hear from you.

          We were videoing our services for shut-ins and to broadcast to the nursery. We found that watching the videos after the fact were quite revealing on service flow (dead time can really add up). In coordination with the leadership of the church (elders and minister) we came up with an allocation of time that worked for us. The elders issued some guidelines on what should happen during certain prayers during the service (ex. during the offering prayer, thanksgiving and prayers for generosity and wisdom in administration were acceptable; other topics were best left to other prayers in the service) and asked that people not give little speeches before they prayed. At that time, we found that our music consistently ran between 9 and 11 minutes (10 was the goal), and the exceptions were the weeks we knew we were running long for a particular reason (and then 12 or 13 was the limit). But we found that the most consistent things in the service were the length of the music, the amount of time it took to actually serve communion (we observe the Lord's supper each week), and the amount of time to collect the offering.

          We have 2 people that plan the music together (me and one other). When we do it, we almost have an instinctive feel for what 10 minutes is (although when I used to do it by myself, I would actually time it out before distributing the plan if I felt it was long). Having the second person's insight is great for figuring out what to add or cut from the first draft.

          I probably shouldn't share this, but a couple of years after the first allocation of time, the elders came back to us, complaining about the length of the service. I pulled the videos for about 2 months and plotted the time. The biggest problem that we had was that EVERYONE was making little (or big) speeches before praying or reading scripture. The biggest violator was the elder who had initiated the complaint. I pointed it out at the meeting that this was the problem (with detailed time information, including the names of the people who were not following the elder's guidelines). The elders never complained about it again.


          • #20
            We tried the countdown at our church and it actually helped. The other thing that helped was having "plants" mingling in the foyer, and when it was time to start they would herd people into the main auditorium. Subtle but effective :-)

            It depends what the cause is. At our church, we have an extremely laid-back and apathetic culture, and people are late to simply everything. I've learned to take the approach that we start on time, and anyone who isn't there, simply misses out.

            Don't know if this helps - let me know.



            • #21
              Red Embers...

              Sorry for the delay in replying. I had written a response, but it got swallowed up by the internet. Here's some additional thoughts for you...

              - Time: In one situation, we were trying an odd service time for a season. As much as we tried to shift people, starting at 10:45 just didn't work. They still behaved as if the service started at 11:00. So we shifted back to 11:00, and it helped. Also, the earlier in the morning a service starts, the harder it seems for people to get there on time, especially younger families that have a big "process" for getting everybody ready and out the door. Are you starting your services at the best time for your congregation make up and location?

              - Content & Flow: These are closely related. First is content. Are the elements of the service ones that are serving to connect people with God, His truth, each other, and allowing for response? Different elements work different in different settings. What works in one church may not be the best for another church, even if it is down the road. If a congregation is more traditionally minded, farmers, or educated business people for example, incense, dim lighting, and Jesus Culture songs may not be the best. That's not to say that stretching or pushing the envelope a little can't be a good thing, but is the stretch too much with how the services are being built. Perhaps some questions of what is connecting with people and what isn't could be asked. Are there preferences that aren't being considered? I'm not saying a service should be designed based on popular opinions or what makes people happy, but if they aren't connecting with God, then participatory worship is most likely not happening and there won't be a lot of motivation to be there on time, if at all.

              Try working with your service flow, too. Perhaps there is a better way to arrange your elements. In one church I served in, we had been doing the beginning of the service the same way for a long time. We'd start with a welcome, announcements, greeting time, and a ministry spotlight. It could be 10-15 minutes into the service time before we got a call to worship, thematic element, or song on some weeks. A trend developed where we noticed people coming later and later, missing the initial talking elements. Of course, then they also complained about not knowing what was going on. We recognized this, and changed up the order. We placed the ministry spotlight element at various places in the service depending on what was going on, and starting doing streamlined announcements as the very last thing. It took a few weeks, but we began to see people come more consistently on time.

              Of course, the challenge as a worship planner is that we want each moment to count, including the very first elements that people sometimes miss. There is a tension there. But I think it costs more overall to cater to those who consistently come late than to allow them to miss something. If they keep hearing they are missing something creative or a great song, maybe they will choose to show up on time.

              I would also suggest working on bringing some consistency to the worship leading of the different people. It's great to have some diversity in leading style, but it can't come at the cost of service consistency. If there are times you feel certain elements (like music) are dragging on, I can guarantee that there are many in the congregation who feel the same way. Working as a worship team and as a leadership team to decide what's important could be helpful.

              I think it's great that you guys are trying to seriously and wisely address this issue. Be sure to seek, even in frustration, to honor the congregation in the midst of it all. There's been some great tongue-in-check suggestions, but it rarely works well to chastise people like little children.

              I hope this helps. If you need more, or there is something else I could do, please don't hesitate to contact me through my blog: http://www.journeyofworship.com.


              • #22
                Two other practical thoughts:
                - In my last place of ministry, we made sure that there were speakers in the lobby area so people could actually hear the service starting. We found this helpful.
                - Heard this idea in a webinar today: Put food/coffee out for a time before the service starts and put it away 5 minutes before the start time. They'll come for food, and be motivated to get their early because otherwise there won't be any refreshments. Of course, you've got to stick to your guns in putting it away for this to be effective.



                • #23
                  Originally posted by cgambill View Post
                  In my last place of ministry, we made sure that there were speakers in the lobby area so people could actually hear the service starting. We found this helpful.
                  This has been helpful for us, as well, at least when it comes to getting the folks who are already into the building into worship. Doesn't help with those who haven't come through the door yet, though ;-)
                  Eric Frisch


                  • #24
                    This sounds like an issue that should be addressed by the church leadership and brought up in a church membership meeting. If it is due to a lack of respect then that must be addressed. We have some folks that come in late at our church for various reasons too yet none are due to a lack of respect. Some are due to weather conditions, slept through the alarm, kids worked the parents last good nerve, etc.. When it is time to start, the ushers let those outside the sanctuary know. The pastor gets up at the pulpit and opens the service. As others come in, the pastor makes sure to openly welcome them as the ushers help to get the person or persons seated.

                    Best regards,


                    • #25
                      Thanks again for all your feedback, I really appreciate it. I'll keep you all posted.

                      God Bless,



                      • #26
                        My church always fills up from the back. If you are late you are quite noticeable! The problem we had was all of us with children could only get seats right at the front leading to all sorts of disruption as children get loose on the stage etc. To solve the problem we have designated the back few rows as families only, meaning that late single people/couples have to do the walk of shame up to the front instead. This has worked remarkably well at getting people in on time! I suppose in a big auditorium you could get a similar effect by broadening the focus of the stage lights so they also cover the first few rows!


                        • #27
                          We played the theme from "Rawhide" one time People got the message.


                          • #28
                            This can be a difficult cultural problem to solve. I remember going to a predominantly African-American congregation in New York city in which the first thing in the morning breakfast was being served, which transitioned into a service with no particular starting time, people wandering in for about an hour. Over the next couple of hours, moments of singing and preaching, which reached high intensity happened at times, then people gradually left to eat some lunch. Then sometime in the afternoon they met for choir rehearsal. It was all part of their mutually accepted culture. They set aside the entire day to be together and "do church".

                            Another time, my family and I were hired to play an Hispanic wedding. We arrived early enough to play 'pre-service' music for about a half an hour. An hour and a half later!, the service finally started. While we were trying to rest our bodies from playing for so long, to our amazement, the Pastor, during his message remarked, "I'm glad to see that we are keeping our Hispanic tradition of starting services late."

                            It can take a great deal of patience to come against things that have been so deeply entrenched in our culture(s). Ultimately, good 'tricks' to try to help people start worshiping together at an exact point in time will wear off. In the end, it comes down to leadership consistently holding a standard (and communicating that standard) with unwavering grit.

                            On a practical note: we start aggressive praise and worship at 2 minutes before the hour for every main service.
                            We are never late for anything we ever do, leadership meetings, music rehearsals, Life groups, etc. We NEVER wait for "enough" people to show up before getting started. And we've been doing this for about 28 years, consistently. It comes from the attitude of the senior Pastor, transferred to the staff, then to the leadership and finally to the congregants. Nothing ever rises above the attitude of the leadership, whether the topic is punctuality or something else.

                            We've found that even though you'll never get 100%, over time you can make a significant dent in the culture.


                            • #29
                              I wanted to add that for a couple of years I was a member of a predominantly African-American congregation which was decidedly punctual, starting with a vast majority of congregants from the very start of the service, with people waiting outside for the next service to start so they could get a seat!

                              People can be on time for what they value. How many football fans are late for the kick-off of the Superbowl? How many shoppers are late to the door opening to the store with all the sales on Black Friday (at 4 AM!).

                              I have a deep concern about the American church being lukewarm. Other things are simply more important. The priests in Malachi's day came to a point in which they grew tired of giving God their best. God wasn't very happy with this scenario. (for more on this, I hope you can read "Destroying the Malachi Mindset")

                              What I'm getting at is there is this: There's something deeper going on here than coming up with clever ways of tricking people to show up on time or to have the right attitudes in their participation of worship.

                              The root issue is that people will value what they have a REASON to value. It's the leader's responsibility to envision the people as to WHY they are doing what they do. Giving people a clear understanding of the bigger picture is a key factor.
                              Last edited by Lowell Hohstadt; 04-19-2012, 06:38 PM.


                              • #30
                                It's so much about the "me" generation. I have my schedule and you have to accept it.

                                As an individual, I don't accept kids, stoplights, or gathering up the food for the covered dish lunch as valid reasons to be late. I plan to arrive 5-10 minutes early to anything. Yes, a 4-car pileup on the highway will force me to be late, but the factors that I know about ahead of time (I chose to have kids, I know the stoplights are there, and I knew last night we had the covered dish lunch today) aren't good enough reasons to not be respectful to my pastor and fellow worshipers.

                                We do 3 or 4 fast praise songs before announcements and tithes and then 3 or 4 slow worship songs before the sermon. People are still coming in during the last fast song, and one usher's wife and daughter frequently arrive during the slow songs.

                                We also have one section of the sanctuary where several young married couples sit that I refer to as "popcorn corner". They bring their little ones into the service even though the nursery is open, and then they pop up and down, coming and going from the sanctuary when they decide it is time to change a diaper or actually take the kids to theire classes. They don't stop moving around even during the sermon. I think the pastor is just so glad they are coming at all that he doesn't say anything about it.

                                Another thing I have noticed is that as a people, we have abandoned the concept of "stop and stand still" when entering during a prayer. If the opening prayer goes long, there may be 25-30 more seats full by the Amen than when the prayer started.

                                It's a widespread lack of respect and reverence, and it's not just the younger generation. I ran sound or projection in our last church every Sunday. We had a formal invitation with song at the end of every service, and folks aged 8 to 80 would head for the exits at the striking of the first chord. A couple of the doors opened directly outside, and you could watch the flashes of sunlight stream in over and over as they exited the building. Some didn't even have the courtesy to let the door close quietly.