This past Sunday, as you probably are aware, was World Communion Sunday. Supposedly all the Christian Churches (read mainlines) in the world were doing communion Sunday morning. Which, I suppose, is a good thing, but it’s not the point of this post.
Anyway, we at BAUMC also partook of the Lord’s Supper, at the end of the service as is our custom. (It was also the first Sunday of the month, which is also our customary Sunday to do it.)
Well, we started off the service with announcements as usual, moved on through our greeting, prayers, special music, scripture readings, and Pastor Bart’s sermon. At the end of the sermon I glanced at my watch and whispered to my wife, “It’s almost 10:00. We’re gonna run over.” The pastor then announced that in the interests of time, we would change our procedure a little, and have everybody walk forward and pass by two stations where they will receive the bread and juice instead of coming up and kneeling to receive the elements by groups.
That worked fairly well. But you’re probably thinking, why should it matter so much to me if the church service runs over by 15-20 minutes? Just this: I teach an adult Sunday School class. I have material I want to cover, and if the service runs over, by the time people get down to our classroom we sometimes are down to a measly fifteen minutes for our class. I could run the class over the prescribed time, but then we have little kids banging on the door wanting Mom & Dad to come out because the kids are done with their class, too. So it’s all a balancing act.
It’s a problem I think our church needs to address. Now I’m not one to insist on the church service running a tight 60 minutes, like some people who want to get home for the Vikings game. If I wasn’t teaching, I would have no real objection to the service running over, if it was for a good cause, like communion or a good sermon. Several years ago when I was in that PCA church-plant I really enjoyed that pastor’s 45-50 minute sermons, followed by communion every Sunday. The service generally lasted an hour and a half.
I think the problem started a couple years ago, when our church changed schedules. We used to have the 9:00 service and the Sunday School running concurrently, followed by a half-hour fellowship time, and then another service. We didn’t have the conflict between the service and the Sunday School then because there was a half hour between the two services. But we Sunday School teachers, and the students as well, were then “forced” to attend the late service, which many of us did not like since it was a “contemporary” service and the early one was “traditional”. Not only were we unhappy with having to go to the second service, but we were also upset that parents would send their kids to Sunday School while they themselves went to church, so the kids didn’t get to go to church, and the parents never got to any adult Sunday School classes, either. So we campaigned to have the schedule changed. We wanted a separate time period for Sunday School, preferably a full hour, but the church council settled on a 45-minute period.
And so we have our current schedule. Church is at 9:00. Sunday School supposedly runs from 10:00 to 10:45, but it’s very rare that people get to their classrooms before 10:15 or 10:20, and if church runs over then it’s 10:30. Then the second service begins at 11:00.
Now there’s no way I’m going to ask Pastor Bart to try and cut the service short. I don’t think that’s right. But he does need to know that there is a problem we need to deal with again. I hate to suggest it, but I think one solution would be to move the first service up to 8:30 in the morning. I know that half hour is going to make it tough for some people, but if our church is going to continue with its priority of Christian education for all ages, we do need to set aside adequate time for it on Sunday mornings.
I think it may take a complete overhaul of our schedule. And maybe a lot of folks don’t see it as a big enough problem for that; after all, I am a teacher. My priorities are a little different from most of our members.
Anybody have any suggestions of how we could solve this dilemma?