When One is Not Enough: Creating a Second Service

When members of All Souls Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church in Kansas City, MO (400 members), began having trouble finding a place to sit on Sunday morning they knew it was time to face the future.

There are two solutions to crowded Sundays—expanding the building or adding a service. For All Souls, the solution was adding a service.

Planning began a year in advance. The change occurred in January. There were the usual concerns—fears of losing friends when the congregation "divided," fears the excellent music program would suffer, and fears that there wouldn't be enough volunteers.

What happened, said the Rev. Jim Eller, senior minister, is that adding a service created more energy on Sunday morning. More people volunteered, the choir participates more often than it was asked to, and, with more going on, more people are coming to church. Average Sunday morning attendance rose from 180 to 230.

"There's a fullness to the morning that wasn't there before," he said. "We have a sense of abundance rather than scarcity. And we have more connecting points and more opportunities for growth and community."

All Soul's early service is 8:45 to 9:45, there's a community forum from 10 to 10:50, and the late service begins at 11:15. Religious education for children and adults is during the forum hour, and there are activities for children during the early and late services as well. Coffee hour goes on all morning in a multipurpose room down the hall. About 70 attend the early service and 160 the late one. The forum and adult RE, in the middle, draw from both services.

Michael Servetus UU Fellowship in Vancouver, WA (250), went to two services four years ago and provides lifespan religious education during both services. "If you can't offer full-service RE during both, poll the parents," says Jack Slingerland, a worship committee member. He recommends:

  • Make sure announcements are the same at both services. "A lot of second-service folks bring announcements but only get them there for the second service."
  • Pay the minister and director of religious education more or take away something else they've been doing.
  • Overplan. "We spent a good six months in preparation. Our transition went so smoothly almost no one noticed."

All Souls estimates that having an additional service will cost it $5,000-7,000 annually. Slingerland estimated Michael Servetus' costs rose by about $3,700. In both cases much of the additional cost was for paying musicians and speakers.

The transitions have not been perfect. Parking is a problem for both congregations. All Souls could use more greeters and ushers. There were a few people at All Souls who didn't want to make the change, says transition coordinator Dori Bader. "So we talked about how we have this obligation to grow and to serve the community. One person was opposed because she loved having a packed house. But she loved social justice more, and she saw this as a way to do more social justice by attracting more people."

Going to two services can seem like a huge task, says Slingerland, "But after you've done it for a while, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about."


About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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