The psychology of Sunday: what we get up to

As I said in my preface, I’ve entitled my series of reflections “The psychology of Sunday” because of what I perceive as a sizeable influence of the human mind and desires on what we do on a Sunday.

For the average Christian, attending church is one of several activities that constitute a typical Sunday. Besides the small amount of time spent in corporate worship, there may be some shopping to do, lunch or dinner to enjoy with family and friends, sporting activities to watch or play, or other acts of recreation with those we enjoy spending time with. Some of us may also work part or all of the day, potentially limiting the time that we are able to devote to fellowship. This issue is most often the domain of teenagers and young adults, who find that they must devote their weekends to a job in order to be financially viable.

The issue that I wish to bring forth here is where church comes in the planning of our day, and whether our church attendance is squeezed in after figuring out where we’re going to go for lunch, how long we need to take to travel to the local sporting ground to see our favourite footy team play, or the like. Conversely, are we more impromptu with the other events of the day, and do we happily wait until the church service is over before we decide what we will do for the rest of the day?

I fear that for some people, there has to be an absolute maximum amount of time that a Sunday service must go for, to the nearest minute, because if things run overtime, it’ll throw the rest of the day out of whack. Let me conjure an impromptu scenario. Mr and Mrs Davidson have organised a lunch with their neighbours (who are not church goers) for 12 midday, and the church service that they attend starts at 10am. Generally things go for about an hour and a bit, but today, there are some special one off features of the service that mean that come 12pm, the service is only just reaching the end. Before the song finishes, the Davidsons rush off with their children (who have been playing organised games in the courtyard because the formal part of Kids’ Church had finished at 11:15) and are overheard by the group preparing morning tea to say that if the service had finished earlier, they’d not have to be feeling guilty that they were running late, and that 2 hours is just too long for a church service. Seems a bit harsh for what may well have been a one off affair.

One of Steve’s responses to my questionnaire was slightly alarming:

4. How long does a typical service go for from beginning to end?

Morning 1 1/4 hours maximum, evening 1 hour maximum. If we go over, the staff team has made a blunder somewhere

I daren’t speculate whether it’s congregational feedback that dictates whether it’s a staff blunder or not, but based on the grumbles that people have overheard at St Thomas’, I would not be at all surprised. It almost seems like a debate in that you have a specified time to get your speech over and done with, and if you go over your allotted time, the moderator rings a bell until you stop. Whilst having that set time may be necessary for churches where multiple services are run in a building and sufficient time is needed for transitions between services, it hardly seems as conducive for meaningful fellowship and Bible teaching as a service where the time allotted is more leisurely and casual and loose ended. I’ll talk more about this at a later time.

I’ll come back to this at a much more time friendly hour (seems ironic, I know), but suffice to say that some people have a strict regimented layout of their Sunday where activities at church must start at this time and finish at that time, otherwise all hope is lost for keeping track of what else needs to be done. However, it would be prudent for them to remember the basis behind the seventh day of the week and the fact that God designated it for his people as a day of rest and reflection with Him at the forefront. Maybe we don’t have as much a right to dictate the amount of time that we spend with Him and His people than we sometimes are led to believe we do.


5 Responses

  1. There’s a saying that goes something like “plan your life around the gym, don’t plan the gym around your life”

    Seems like the same thing to me, but I guess we just worship different gods.

  2. The reason we do things in this way is pragmatic. Theologically, I dont believe that there is any length of time which is prescribed in the Bible. So neither short nor long is anything, but faihfulness is key. In fact what is more important is the community doing the things of God together. (Acts 2:42ff, Acts 4 etc). As a result, we believe that we can do all of these things within this specific timeframe.
    So in our services we have 4 songs, prayers, bible reading, talk, communion, mission spot, announcements and a creed, and still be under an hour. Usually in most churches this is the normal format. What it therefore requires of everyone involved is good preparation.
    The better the prep, the tighter it can be.
    I agree that we ought not to be giving people what they want, for this is the itching ears syndrome of Philippians, however the same must apply in reverse, that is, I want people to be in church, and mature to a point where they can accept any timeframe, but becasue of the varying maturity levels, I am going to try and work within that, doing my best to make sure that people arent alienated in that purpose.
    I guess it is a judgement call. In a world of short attention spans, ad breaks and in car DVD players, should we do long and wait for the others to come up to our maturity level, or should we do short and play for the newcomer? It is a hard one, and becasue it is unprescribed in the Bible, it becomes a question of wisdom….
    We try to err on the shorter side, that more would feel comfortable to come, and stay and learn the things of the Lord. We dont want to alienate people from coming to hear about the Lord, and so we try to be really tight. Plus as I said, no one should be subjected to listening to me any longer than 25 minutes. Their ears will bleed.

    Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Davidson, perhaps we expect a level of maturity which they do not yet have, and if they choose to leave church, that they will never have, I agree that it is a tender balancing act!

    By the way, I agree with you, whether short or long, faithfulness is key.

  3. Nobody’s ears seemed to bleed at TBWA, Carl…then again it could be the fact that we’re used to the longer Bible talk.

  4. i goto the real football (AFL) that go for 3hr i be looking at poeple faith if they what 1 hr on Sunday to be with God look up revival Hymn on you tube i would not goto a church that put God in a box

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