How Worship Services Are Different
As a preceptor for a doctoral student, I was assigned to compare worship services in various local churches to see how they are the same and how they are different. The findings were quite interesting.
In order to protect the privacy of the five churches, their names are not used. However, they are identified by A, B, C, D, and E.
Time of Sunday Worship Service
Most of the churches I surveyed start at 11 a.m., but that is not the time for all churches in the Richmond, Virginia area.
- Church A starts at 9:59 a.m.
- Church B starts at 10 a.m.
- Church C starts at 10:30 a.m.
- Church D starts at 11 a.m.
- Church E starts at 12 noon.
Some churches have an early shorter service before their main services. When that is the case, the early service is just one hour that starts at 8 a.m.
Some churches have a second service on special occasions that starts at 3 p.m., 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m.
Praying Before Service
Church A - Ministers and deacons meet and pray together before the worship service begins. They are already prayed up by the time they enter the sanctuary to pray over the waiting congregation.
Church B - Only ministers who want to do so gather to pray. Sometimes it is two or three, but not all ministers. Some come to church late and never pray with the others.
Church C - Ministers and chairpersons of each ministry meet and pray together before the worship service begins.
Church D - Ministers and those scheduled to be on the program meet and pray before they go into the sanctuary where the congregation is waiting.
Church E - Before the service begins, ministers and other church leaders walk throughout the sanctuary and pray for the service and the people who are attending on that particular Sunday.
Church A - The pastor usually preaches every Sunday except on the fifth Sunday of the month. That's when associate ministers are assigned to preach. Since there are only four or five fifth Sundays in a year, it takes a long time for ministers to get a chance to preach if there are several associate ministers in the church.
Church B - The pastor assigns associate ministers to preach once a quarter.
Church C - The senior pastor selects associate ministers to preach depending on the occasion. For instance, a female will preach on Mother’s Day and a male will preach on Father’s Day.
Church D - The pastor assigns someone to preach at random. Needless to say, some associate ministers get to preach more often than others.
Church E - The pastor has a rotating schedule for associate ministers to preach. The ministers are given the list at the beginning of the year. Therefore, they know when it is their turn to preach.
Holy Communion Schedule
Holy Communion is one of the two ordinances of the churches that were surveyed. The other one is baptism.
Church A - Holy Communion is celebrated on fourth Sundays. Ministers lead the occasion on a rotational basis. Deacons are the ones who distribute the elements. This is done before the preached word. Congregation remains seated.
Church B - Holy Communion is celebrated on the first Sunday after the service. The pastor leads with the deacons and ministers participating. Congregants come to the table to be given the elements.
Church C - Holy Communion is observed on the first Sundays of each month. Ministers and deacons distribute the elements to the congregation that is seated while the pastor says the words over the elements. The celebration is after the preached word.
Church D - In the above, the table is ready before the service starts. In this particular church, the table is dressed during the service so the congregation can see it being done. The actual partaking of the elements is done at the end of the service after the preached word.
Church E - Communion is served only once a quarter. It is not done during the Sunday Worship Service. Instead, it is done either on a Sunday afternoon or a weeknight in lieu of Bible Study.
Church A has it on the third Wednesday night before Bible Study.
Church B has baptism on the fourth Sunday after Sunday School before the Worship Service begins.
Church C has baptism once a quarter.
Church D has baptism when enough people are candidates for baptism. It is done on Wednesday night before Bible Study.
Church E has baptism once a quarter either on a Sunday afternoon or a weeknight in lieu of Bible Study.
Collections in the Church
Church A collects an offering during mid-week night Bible Study, after Sunday School on Sunday mornings and two collections during the Sunday Morning Worship Service. One is for tithes and offerings. The other one is for missions.
Church B has only one collection per week. The people place their funds in an envelope and designate what the money is for. The envelope has a member's number so givers can claim their offerings on their tax returns.
Church C requires its attendees to walk to the tithing box and place their tithes there. A deacon or other leader holds a basket for offerings.
Church D has its ushers pass a plate or basket down each pew for people to drop their tithe envelopes in it. Visitors also place their bills in the plate or basket. A little boy was given money to put in the basket when it came down his pew. He held onto his coins very tightly until his mother tapped his hand so the coins could drop. The 3-year old wondered why he had to put his money in the "waste basket."
Church E experimented with not passing a collection plate or having a designated time for offerings. Instead, it had receptacles at every exit for people to drop their money in as they left the sanctuary. That procedure lasted only a couple of Sundays because the finance committee noticed that the collections were so low that they had to go back to their usual ways of collecting money to pay the bills.
Order of Service
Church A has praise singing for one hour, devotions, greetings, pastoral remarks, tithes and offerings, and songs. The preaching comes at the end of the service.
Church B has praise for half an hour, devotions, greetings, pastoral remarks, tithes and offerings, songs, and the preached word.
Church C has praise singing, devotions, pastoral remarks, greetings, tithes and offerings, and ends with the preached word.
Church D has the same order of service as those above. All the churches have a benediction at the end before the people are dismissed.
Church E also has the same order of the above churches except at the end. The attendees do not leave after the benediction. They sit for a moment and meditate on the sermon they just heard as well as listen to soft music before they get up to leave.
Church A has it church meeting scheduled for every quarter, but it has to be confirmed before it actually happens. There is never a specific agenda. Sometimes the meeting is via a conference call.
Church B has a meeting every quarter with a specific agenda.
Church C has a meeting only when one is called by the pastor.
Church D has a meeting once a quarter with all the leaders on a Sunday after service.
Church E has a meeting only on an as-needed basis. It is usually on the last Sunday of the calendar year.