In college I was in a group of friends, probably twenty-strong, who would gather every Thursday night to watch the cultural phenomenon that was “E.R.” A medical drama set in Chicago, it centered its stories on the personal and professional woes of Emergency Room doctors – a clever mix of soap opera and state-of-the-art medical drama it captivated audiences for fifteen seasons. E.R. was dignified enough that college students felt they were above the line of garbage, but it still had enough drama that we were sucked into the love triangles and cliff hangers week in and week out. And my group of friends, like many other groups on campus, would gather in one room to watch the drama unfold. But these days, who does viewing parties anymore? I have to be honest, I never cared much for the show, and never watched a single episode that I recall after those viewing parties ended – I just loved being in that crowded room making memories and experiencing something spontaneous together. There is just something about being together that can change any situation.
The story of our two services are the outcome of a similar excitement to cram into a room together and experience something together. It all spawned out of our deep desire to make the Disciples family as accessible as possible for everyone who wanted to be together. You see, in the spring of 2015 we heard stories of new families struggling to get their kids checked into KidsChurch in time for our 10AM service. The Nursery was getting really full with babies, and there were just not enough volunteers trained and engaged. Additionally, we were excited that our main service was growing but we were concerned people might not be connecting as deeply as we hoped. In their personal battle of the crowds to get kids checked in, find a classroom and then find a seat in our small crowded auditorium we wondered if the obstacles of togetherness were deterring the very togetherness we prayed for back when the church was just a small group of committed families. Finally, and candidly, I pushed for the move to two. I was overjoyed by the momentum and did not want to do anything that would slow our growth as a church – I wanted our church to grow then, and I still want that now! Adding a second service seemed like a natural next step to insure we served the people of Disciples the best we could and kept seats free for the new people seeking to nudge closer to Christlikeness with us.
But in recent months those problems that led us to discuss adding a service have been mitigated. Ruth Zive has built an excellent team of KidsChurch Ministry leaders to love, care for, and teach children: three separate environments provide ample space for kids and adults who teach them. In fact, we could double and in some cases, triple the number of children in classes before we needed to address the issue. Additional check in stations have been added as well as volunteers in the lobby to help newcomers navigate their registration process. And as silly as it may sound, our new auditorium chairs which were donated last year are smaller than the old ones and we can now seat nearly 30 more people in our auditorium than we could previously.
Add all that to our deep desire to increase depth and excellence on Sundays, we feel the palpable energy and sense of momentum when the room is full. So we did a few experiments in the past few months just to see what we might learn. Our single-service gathering on New Year’s Eve was beautiful, we were even able to accommodate everyone on that Sunday, even seated in the round. Then there was Super Bowl Sunday, again a huge success! There is something about hearing a hundred or more cry out to God in song, share communion in unity, or celebrate with shouts and clapping after a baptism. All of these have led us to the decision to go back to one service on Sundays beginning February 25th.
I am convinced this will be a season of unity unlike any we have experienced in years. Please make it a point to be with me in church on Sunday February 25th and each Sunday following through Easter. I am confident you will notice the impact in your life with God and the impact will be felt in your family and friends lives too. Consider it our own viewing party every Sunday of the move of the Holy Spirit and in hearing the stories of life change. I trust you’re as encouraged as I am for this new season of unity, especially as we draw close to Easter, so start inviting your friends and family now – I’ll see you Sunday February 25th.