“What are we going to do about Wednesday night church?”
This is not a pandemic question. This could have been asked at any moment during my lifetime. It’s evergreen; death, taxes, and what’s going on with Wednesday nights? Every church that has Wednesday night consistently ponders their Wednesday night. It’s like a broken record, but nobody listens to records, and the conversation about Wednesday nights goes back even farther than when people did. I’m not sure what Jesus wrote in the dirt when deliberating about the woman caught in adultery, but a new idea for reviving Wednesday night makes the short list. At some point during the Great Awakening a church started a midweek prayer service and then the next week it grew and by the third week it plateaued and by the fourth week they were asking why nobody comes on Wednesday night anymore. The fifth week they provided a meal and then the Civil War broke out and we lost track. Churches of Christ do not have a creed, but if we did it would surely provide guidance on Wednesday programming. We believe in God the Father; we believe in Christ the Son; we aren’t quite sure how to improve our midweek service.
I’ll admit I hate the conversation. It reeks of the rigid legalism that plagued so many churches, where righteousness could be calculated and holiness was imputed with checkmarks. I once heard a person characterize their faithful Wednesday participation as, “coming whenever the elders determined we should meet.” I would love for us to talk about our faith without sounding like we are in a cult. Further, I don’t think church leaders in 2022 can count on gathering the flock merely by unlocking the doors.
Like most ministers, I spend a few minutes every Tuesday morning wondering if we should stop meeting for Wednesday nights. Is it the best allocation of resources? Perhaps our energy is better spent elsewhere? Maybe we are trying to relive a past that isn’t coming back?
Recently I was talking about Wednesday night with a friend in ministry. We don’t always agree. On the topic of Wednesday night we were surprisingly in the same place; we really want to keep it, but possibly for different reasons than our grandparents would have. But why? When I took this position at White Station I committed to be faithful in four major areas: Scripture, Community, Discipleship, and Justice. Here’s how I think Wednesday evening programming can reinforce these values.
- Scripture. It’s really important that adults have rhythms of Bible reading and Bible study. But adults can read and study outside of structured times. But what about kids? I’d say that the most effective opportunities for Bible study in my childhood came at church. And I came from a Christian home. This is even more true for our kids who don’t. If we expect our engagement with Scripture to rival the hours spent on Netflix, setting aside an hour for Bible study each week is a start.
- Community. At White Station we call ourselves an Everyday Church. I would hate to lead a church who only wanted to be together on Sunday. Of course, God works through us when we are gathered or scattered, and God’s kingdom is not restricted to the church campus. That said, it’s hard to say we give God every day while refusing to schedule any day. At White Station we also say we are a family. We are not a church of families or for families. We are family. Families don’t always ask why they are getting together; they do it. Quality time is only built through quantity time.
- Discipleship. Coming together isn’t just for study or fellowship, it’s also to equip for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) and to “provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 11:24). One of the ways we learn the life of Jesus is by watching others in action. Gatherings give us that chance. We all need spiritual grandparents in our lives. We need to disciple children who aren’t our children.
- Justice. One of the fundamental ways we can act justly is to show hospitality. When we gather around tables to receive one another, God can break down other forms of hostility that stand between us (Eph. 2:14-15). Rhythms of time/place in public spaces make us open and accessible to whoever comes in our path in a way that our lives in houses and cars cannot. Being together opens up opportunities for benevolence, support, intervention, and other concerns that are impossible when we are alone.
I’m not committed to churches doing anything particular on Wednesday night but it does seem that we should all do something. Our professions of who we are and what matters to us seem to fall apart if we are only in each other’s lives a few times per month.
During the coming weeks you’ll be hearing more about possibilities for Wednesday nights at White Station. But the best thing we can do right now is to jump in. Is there a class you wish were offered? Ask others who might lead it with you. Do you want to walk the track with friends? Tell them to meet you there. Just want to talk over a brown bag dinner? Come to the CLC and do it. Show up and pour a coffee with friends and talk about your favorite podcast. There are so many options. One partner recently said they’d like to reboot the 3pm service that we hosted in the Chapel pre-pandemic (stay tuned).
Churches need to move as far away as we can from being an institutional religion to being a community. I’d say more time together, not less, is the first step to making that a reality.