Is it all down to timing?
When we started Grace Church, Thetford (part of the Thetford Team Ministry) ten years ago, we plumped for 4pm as a start time for a variety of reasons.
First, as a team vicar covering five other congregations, all of whom met at various times in the morning, 4pm gave me enough time to take two or three morning services, plus be available for any lunchtime thanksgiving or baptism services, have lunch and then get set up for Grace Church.
Even if I had had a clear morning though and a blank sheet in terms of start time, I would have opted for 4pm. It works well for families. Teenagers can have a lie-in or go to sports clubs in the morning,
have a leisurely lunch and then come to church. It also works well for parents with younger children as it allows time for a rest for little ones after lunch if needed and the service ends by 5:15pm with sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and drinks so that parents don’t need to cook a main meal when they get back home. With a school day the next day, children can be in bed in good time.
For those starting or thinking of starting a new service at 4pm it might enable some folk to join them who have commitments in a morning service which they want to maintain. For example, there might be someone who leads worship or helps at Sunday School in the morning and wants also to be a part of the new congregation.
Another factor is that in contrast to later start times, it’s only dark outside at 4pm for three months of the year and for most of the year it’s light not just before but after the service. Also, if people want to get away for a weekend break, a Sunday 4pm service is less disruptive, in that people can get away, enjoy Sunday lunch with friends and family and then head to church afterwards. For all these and other reasons I find 4pm works very well as a start time.
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