On September 7, 2014, Portage Free Methodist launched a Third Sunday Morning worship gathering at 12noon. We weren’t sure exactly what we were getting into or what it would even look like. We had a couple of ideas combined with a lot of sense that God was clearing the path for this. So we jumped out on a limb. I’m thankful to say that the 12 noon service will be three months old this Sunday, and that, as far as baby services go, it’s doing very well.
We wanted to do something different. Contemplative. Interactive. Simple. Optimal. Now, three months in and with an average attendance hovering around 43ish, we have some lessons learned and reasons to celebrate.
Third Service is demographically diverse. It’s not just young couples. We’ve got kids with families, teens, and even the movers and shakers with empty nests. Kids, parents, and 20 somethings all feel right at home, but so do some 60-70 somethings. And that’s pretty neat.
Third Service is unexpected. There are no architectural cues that hint toward any kind of post-evangelical counter-cultural ironic hipness. From the street to the parking lot to the sanctuary, everything seems pretty standard church. Then a bald guy gets up and says “text me during the message” and “try the CheezIts”, which has caught some people off guard. Once they get it, it’s gotten and appreciated.
Third Service is really, really fun. Of course all three services are fun, from the joy I get from Pearl Lee’s weekly written jokes for me to fall back on if the sermon bombs (1st service) to the sound of Rob’s joy-packed laugh (2nd service). Third service is fun because we’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen. The message is mostly the same, the music is laid-back and flexible, but the variables go wild when someone texts in a thought or says something back during a dialogue with the sermon — and that’s just really, really fun. The Holy Spirit leads all three gatherings — it’s just that some of the planning for Third Service happens, well, during Third Service.
Third Service reaches people who want to talk about Jesus. Someone sat next to me after the message a few weeks ago and said that they believe in God but don’t believe in Jesus. It was our Student Ministry Pastor. Just kidding! It was a new person — out of the church for years and feeling like he was “just supposed to be here today”. I was so overjoyed that they felt comfortable enough to come and to start this dialogue — during the service! That’s what this is all about.
Third Service is supposed to be laid back like a coffee house. God has raised up gifted people to lead worship in all three services. We’ve been mostly acoustic in Third, except for a few different times where we tried a big ol’ band (drums, electric, bass, etc.) It just wasn’t right — like trying to fit a Volkswagen into a mailbox, which voids the warranty for both. Until then, worship leaders like Bob just roll with it real smooth, like a good game of Worship Yahtzee. I see the musical style morphing as we move along, but in more eclectic directions than just toward a rock band. I see bagpipes in the future, and I am both overjoyed and scared.
Coming up: Third Service, Part 2: The Text Messages That Help Shape the Message