Why Wednesday Evening Programming Thrives
Our church is committed to Wednesday evening programming. I know the Bible does not mandate midweek programming. I realize the Wednesday timeslot has its origin in the historical “Three to Thrive” movement of the early twentieth century (come to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night). Since we don’t have a Sunday evening service, we are no longer in the three to thrive pattern; we’re satisfied with two will do.
For years, I wrote three separate messages for the churches I served—Sunday morning sermons, Sunday evening sermons, and Wednesday night devotionals. At times I also threw in a fourth, teaching Sunday school. It’s a lot of work, more than most realize. Preparing sermons is a grind, but I will admit to being perplexed by some pastors who act like their 40-sermon, Sunday-morning-only annual preaching schedule is tough. There are vacationless bivocational pastors out there still churning through four lessons a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
I look forward to Wednesday evenings. I lead our prayer meeting and also teach the lesson most weeks, though I am also using the timeslot to train up other teachers and preachers. The prayer group is faithful, fun, and loving. We pray a lot. We laugh a lot.
We may be an anomaly, but Wednesday evenings thrive at West Bradenton. We turn the lackluster hump day into something worthwhile. Numerically, over half of our Sunday morning crowd returns for Wednesday programming. We are multigenerational on Wednesdays, just like on Sundays. A few factors contribute to the success of Wednesday programming.
We embrace a traditional prayer meeting. We sing hymns out of the hymnal. We take prayer requests. A lesson is taught. I realize not every church can support a traditional prayer meeting. Nor would I suggest every church plant attempt one. For many established churches, however, it works. Too many churches canceled prayer meetings and did not replace them with something else. We have a strong core group of people who love this format, so we embrace it.
We include options for other groups and Bible studies. We don’t make prayer meeting the only option for adults. We offer Life Groups for those who serve on Sunday morning. We also have other classes and Bible studies available. Some might think it would take away from prayer meeting, but it only adds. The more options you can provide, the more people you can draw. We want families to attend together. Mom may go to a women’s study. Grandad may go to prayer meeting. Dad may go to choir. And the children go to their programming.
Our worship ministry rehearsals are on Wednesdays. When I arrived at West Bradenton, some worship ministry practices were on different nights, which broke the rhythm of the church. People were choosing between too many timeslots. We moved everything to Wednesdays and told our church we wanted everyone here for two timeslots: Sunday morning and Wednesday evening.
We offer high-quality children’s ministry and student ministry programming. Both our children’s ministry and student ministry work hard to have stellar programming. Our children memorize Scripture in a program we created in house. Our students have two services—one for middle school and another for high school. We cover life stage issues for students on Wednesdays and often have a larger crowd show up than on Sunday mornings. We also have as many adults volunteering in these areas as we do in prayer meeting and other groups.
We utilize the timeslot for special events and ministries. We recently had a dinner for single moms, so we added it to our Wednesday programming. When we do special events, most of the time we calendar them on Sundays and Wednesdays. The benefit of this pattern is we already have a committed group of volunteers from which to pull, and we also have programming for all people. The single moms who attended the dinner were able to bring their children to our regular Wednesday programming.
We are committed to year-round programming. I recently heard about a church that cancels Sunday services around July 4 because many of their people are on vacation. I won’t question the motives of their church leadership, since I don’t know them. But I can’t imagine ever doing that at West Bradenton. Our people would show up anyway! We meet every Sunday, no matter what—small crowd or large crowd. We’ve only canceled one Sunday service in the last ten years, and that was due to a massive hurricane. Admittedly, year-round programming is a struggle for Wednesdays, especially in the summer. This year, we’re attempting something different for the summer. I can’t share it right now because church members read this blog, and I want it to be a surprise . . .
The Sunday-Wednesday rhythm is important to discipleship at our church. The staff stays disciplined about minimizing events and programming outside of these two timeslots. Our goal is to build a culture around this rhythm. Can someone be discipled on Mondays? Of course. But if you constantly change times on people, it creates gaps—and excuses—to bail on discipleship. Clearly, we don’t want to be legalists, guilting people into attending. We simply want our people to know when to be at church, which facilitates a rhythm of discipleship. Sundays and Wednesdays are what works for us.