Magazine article The Christian Century

Sunday Night Services a Fading Tradition

Magazine article The Christian Century

Sunday Night Services a Fading Tradition

Article excerpt

Doug DeVries describes Sunday evening worship as "a lot less formal" than the morning service at Plymouth Heights Christian Reformed Church. It's also a lot less crowded.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan, congregation is in step with a larger trend showing declining attendance at evening services in evangelical denominations that have long cherished a heritage of worshiping twice on Sunday. Some evening services have become more intimate; others have been canceled or replaced by an alternative.

"People are spending time with their family [on Sunday nights] or using that time to get together in small groups," said DeVries, the church's minister of music. "We were concerned that we were squandering resources to put the evening service together."

Plymouth Heights's 5 p.m. worship service continues, drawing about 25 percent of the people who attend the weekly Sunday morning service.

That mirrors data from other Christian Reformed churches on the basis of survey results presented to the church's 2010 synod. Research found that evening worship attendance is "plummeting," down from 56 percent of members in 1992 to 24 percent in 2007. The data "seem to suggest evening service attendance has become optional."

It's not just the CRC. Officials at the Assemblies of God reported a 6 percent drop in Sunday evening attendance--to 416,751--in 2009 even as the overall size of the denomination grew by 1.2 percent, to 2.86 million.

Some CRC members see the trend as harmless; others see a troublesome departure from Reformed Dutch tradition.

"Many churches are substituting evening worship and putting their energies into other things," said Jeff Meyer, pastor of Crosswinds Community Church, a four-year-old CRC congregation in Holland, Michigan, that, like many new churches, does not conduct evening worship. People looking into Christianity would find "a community-based expectation that you do this twice a Sunday . …

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