What are the best worship service times for 20-somethings?

More churches are asking how they can reach the next generation (some for its own survival, some for the mandate of reaching more people in their community as part of its on-going mission.) Recently I got this question from a pastor of a church wanting to reach the next generation, and he texted it to me this way: “what are best days/times for worship services for Emerging adults (20s) aka post-college?” I could rephrase it as: what are the best worship times for reaching young adults (to be friendlier to search-engines.)

I checked with Benson Hines, the best expert I know of that’s thoroughly researched  college ministries (chronicled at exploringcollegeministry.com), and thus the subsequent post-college stage of life after the inevitable graduation of most college students. Here’s his reply, posted with permission:

Do you mean a church worship service that serves as one of the “weekend worship services” (seen as a regular church service, just targeting that group)? In that case, Sunday night seems to be a favorite in some places, but there are probably plenty that do Sat. night or Sun. morning.

It’s probably more contextually about what people will do in a given city (and how else the church is structured for the other parts of its discipleship – for instance, if there’s a Sunday morning activity, then most young adults would probably only want to come once, rather than once in the morning and then again on Sunday night).

But I would tend to think Sunday night, all things being equal.

If you’re asking about a general “citywide worship service” that isn’t meant to replace the weekend service, that’s even less clear – I haven’t run into enough of them to say, and my best bet is that it’s highly contextual based on the city. Tuesday, though, seems like one good option (especially if the city’s “nightlife” starts on Thursday); Tuesday is when our church’s big young adult gathering (2,000 sometimes) happens. [ed.note: Benson’s at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas]

But I think Sunday night, Monday night, and Wednesday night would all be viable. 

And I’d add that for a weekend service, I wouldn’t assume that later is better – in some cities, young adults would prefer an earlier service and having their whole day remaining.

Getting to know one’s city will provide a lot of insight. What are its “rhythms”; when do other groups do things with the same crowd (for ministry or otherwise)? It also depends on where the church is geographically – how long it takes to drive there, how “easy” it seems, etc., matters a lot. And if there are already young adults around, you should simply ask them. Maybe try some one-off gatherings and experiment.

BUT if we’re talking about mid-week “citywide” services… I’d add for those generally thinking about starting something: The general “citywide” service can be an excellent tool but is a terrible “default” or “go-to” method. Lots of churches start these as attempts to draw new people to a non-existent ministry, draw people to the church (even though they present it as for anyone), OR to jumpstart an ailing ministry. These moves are common but don’t tend to work out well. When I’ve seen these citywide services be truly successful, they seem to be either highly strategic (someone has very clearly discerned that THIS city needs this at THIS time), or organic (someone starts something small and it simply grows and grows).


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