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Canceling a Church Service to Do Service

October 27, 2006 by

This is what church is supposed to be.

Gateway Community Church in South Riding, Va. had “The Big Event” on Sunday, October 15. Instead of a typical Sunday morning worship service, the congregation went out and did volunteer work for 61 area homes. One member even blogged about the experience.

The event included business sponsors, a web site and balloons and yard signs to mark the “winners”–the homes that received the free work. While all those extras help maximize the impact of the event, I just love the simple idea. (link via Church Tech Matters)

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Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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20 Responses to “Canceling a Church Service to Do Service”

  • Matt Singley
    October 27, 2006

    I love this idea! We’ve been knocking around something similar. We recently cancelled our 5pm church service and are considering ideas like this, a Sunday evening “Church Service” where one goes into the community to serve. Kudos to Gateway Church!


  • patrick
    October 27, 2006

    i attend a church that was planted a few years ago in frisco, tx (north of dallas) called genesis metro church. after hurricane katrina, with less than a week’s worth of planning, the church’s leadership canceled service, got the word out on local rock radio that we were organizing a drop off point, that eventually filled two 53′ tractor trailers on a saturday. that saturday night, 21 one of the congregants (two pastors, a worship leader, and myself included) drove overnight 9+ hours from north dallas to covington, la (outside of new orleans) with these trucks, unloaded them at a church that had a relief distribution house, had a impromptu worship service at a primarily black church that was just incredible, and turned around and drove 9+ hours back to dallas.
    canceling services for service was an idea that some folks didn’t like and the church lost a few members because we did that (which was silly to me), but this service had a life-changing impact on those who were involved and it changed the way we ‘do’ church. the concept of canceling services for service is one that i think needs to be embraced by more churches, in some kind of balance that allows for worship services to occur.
    sorry for the long comment.


  • Jody
    October 27, 2006

    Calvary Chapel Wilmington in N.C did something similar. They had an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition type program for members of the church. They fixed up houses of some of the widows in the community and assisted single moms, poor families, and the sick. The whole church got involved and had a blast. Even the young kids helped out. It fostered a lot of compassion for one another.
    Last weekend, some of the churches here in Santa Cruz hosted an event called Share Fest, where people went out into the community to clean up graffit, fix up schools, and help landscape areas. So cool!


  • Need More Cowbell
    October 27, 2006

    I live in South Riding, and think this is a good thought, but not an effective form of service.
    South Riding is one of the wealthiest towns, in the wealthiest county in the US. A church serving a community should be done in the context of feeding the hungry or some kind of need, not inventing a need and mulching the yards of people who are more than capable of doing it for themselves. The average household income here is over $120k.
    Let’s make good use of our church resources, and serve people who have needs.


  • Ed
    October 27, 2006

    I guess I’m addressing Need More Cowbell. I’m part of the church that performed the service in South Riding (so thank you all for your comments). This was our second year trying the Big Event and we struggled with the same question that Need More Cowbell has introduced here. We struggled with this especially the first year.
    We finally came to feel very good about offering this service to this population based on the belief that everyone needs service. Hopefully it will not be our only service project and hopefully we will find ways to serve other people who live in other areas, but South Riding is our community — and so we wanted to serve it.
    As I write this I’m thinking of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. They were certainly capable of washing their own feet. So, the point of our service doesn’t seem to be to meet needs that the recipient cannot meet for themselves. Jesus certainly commends that kind of action (the Good Samaritan comes to mind). But, again, I don’t think our service is limited to meeting needs that cannot be met by the one being served.
    It’s interesting to me that our project has made its way to this site. I want to add that this event was not primarily a way to raise awareness about our church. Of course, we would be delighted if our efforts made our church part of the conversation in South Riding, but our primary purpose is to get ourselves outside the church serving. We even gave each team a sheet with the names of five local churches. We asked them to hand this list out if they were asked about church. We worked pretty hard at trying to make this event about expressing God’s love in a tangible way and not about Gateway. Don’t know if we were successful, but that was the intent.


  • lingermoose
    October 27, 2006

    cowbell —
    how should we define who is worthy to be served? what are we defining as needs? who are we called to love? could i serve someone who was wealthy, even if they could pay to get it done? don’t rich people have needs too?
    could i simply express love to someone through service, whether they were rich or poor, whole or not whole?


  • Jim Walton
    October 27, 2006

    I agree, lingermoose. Let me add to that thought, as well.
    I think this idea is not so much about providing for a need, such as homeless, jobless etc. and more about being Jesus in the community around you. True, we are called to help the widows and elderly etc. but to selflessly help a person or a family is blessing their life and showing them the love of Jesus in a real tangible way. There are so many people that have been burned by the church and won’t come back or others that just don’t see the need. By serving people, regardless of wealth, we are giving them a glimpse into what we, as Christians, are all about.


  • steve carr
    October 27, 2006

    I would pose a question: is canceling a church service in order to do service projects really “what church is supposed to be?”
    I wouldn’t argue against being out in our communities showing God’s love through service. However, I’m not sure replacing a normal worship gathering to do sends the proper message. If the only way we can get a good response from our people is to do it when we usually celebrate God corporately, then maybe it’s not what church is supposed to be at all.
    I know I’m really exposing myself to criticism here, as doing service projects has now become as reverent as communion, but does this move diminish the way outsiders view Sunday worship [such as non-believers questioning, "why aren't they always out doing go things?"].


  • pete
    October 27, 2006

    Would you consider a typical church worship service on a Sunday morning to be a corporate gathering? And what would this corporate gathering to? Would they fellowship together? Would they learn about God and the Savior, Christ? Would they express praise and worship to God the Father? Would they love and serve one another?
    I’d like to think of this event that we did as a different form of worship than what we view as “typical” worship — be it traditional, or contemporary, or modern, or progressive.
    Steve asks the question about “what church is supposed to be.” I think that’s a great question to ask and worth answering. I don’t have all the answers, but here’s my take…
    I think Church is supposed to be a gathering of two or more people that are learning to love God and one another… and together learning how to express the love of God to those outside of the fellowship of God. I think the Church is a people who fellowship together — share their lives with one another. And I believe Church is not just for us to grow inward, but to expand the Kingdom.
    I believe that’s what we did on Oct. 15. And I wouldn’t say we cancelled church — we just had church elsewhere. We had it at the homes of 61 different families — some of these homes were quite well-to-do, and others trying to look all put together. Some were believers in Christ and others were far from grasping hold of the love of God, alone and or hurting.
    I think that’s the case for even us Christians and even those in my own church. But I think this was a great object lesson for us to understand that this is what we’re called to be — a light unto the world. So, we had church outside of our “normal” meeting place. We grew inward — grew together as a community of believers, and we, as a body of mature and not-so-mature Christians, learned how to share God’s love outside of ourselves.
    Yes, corporate worship is important. Absolutly! But, if visitors that day missed out and or are weirded out by this event, then I hope they find another fellowship elsewhere — there are TONS of churches in our area. But doing something like this once in a while helps us see that the Church (cap C) is more than about meeting on Sunday mornings… it’s about stepping out and doing something… it’s about giving up our rights so that someone else might benefit… it’s about laying down our lives — as Christ did for us — so that others might be lifted up.
    I think the better example of Church is going out into the world and meeting people where they are — rich or poor, affluent or not… because everyone needs to know the love of God.
    We didn’t do this to promote our own church and draw more people in. In fact, we went out and told them that there were other churches in the immediate area they could look into. We did this 1) so we could learn how to express our faith outwardly; and 2) so we could let them know that we are motivated to love and serve because of how much God loves us!
    They will know we are Christian by our love for one another!


  • The Aesthetic Elevator
    October 31, 2006

    Great idea, something our church has been moving toward the past few years.


  • Big Mike Lewis
    November 2, 2006

    I think every person who follows Jesus should do this.


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • Geoff Steele
    November 9, 2006

    I have to agree with Pete – but would throw a little different spin to it.
    To Steve Carr, who I respect for raising the question, I would ask that you consider how we are limiting God when we define His Church as a Sunday morning or Sunday evening corporate gathering.
    I love the gathering together of God’s people in corporate worship of a truly worthy and just God. But I also recognize that what we call the “church” when defined by our services and practices is completely lost in the light of scripture.
    The choregraphed altar call of America, with a couple of verses of “Just As I Am’, is hardly the same as the call that Jesus or Paul made. It wasn’t long ago that a church service with drums and electric instrumentation would be met with folks walking out of the service – I have been there!
    Rather I would pose the question – is it too much to ask that we ADD service to our lives, rather than REPLACING corporate worship?
    Our church has performed “Mission:Possible” for nearly ten years now. It’s a Saturday spent entering the community and helping those who may not be able to afford assistance, helping special needs families by building ramps and handicap accessible restrooms. We also have sponsored public schools, going in and painting, refurbishing playgrounds, whatever the need. All of this happening in ADDITION to the Sunday programs.
    I believe service is essential to the believer, but I also believe that worship is a lifestyle, not to be a choice between service and worship – though to me service is a pure form of worship.
    Enough of the droning – I love this site!


  • James Laws
    November 9, 2006

    I am new to this website but I love the content and I just thought I would throw in my two cents.
    Since this website is about church marketing I think there are two important elements that need to be looked at.
    Perception: Going out into the community isn’t just a good idea it is a commission. It tells the community that is cares for a lot more than just what happens inside the walls of the church building. A++. Do it big, do it often.
    Consistency: Now we all know that if people are going to go to church it will most likely be on Sunday. If we have been marketing in any capacity there is always a chance that this will be the Sunday they decide to come. What does it tell them if we just packed it up to do something else, no matter how good it is. Our intentions may be great, our task may be even greater but all they know is that they got the family up and ready for nothing.
    Please don’t take this as critism. I’m merely trying to look at all sides of the issue.


  • Jim
    December 20, 2006

    This is a wonderful expression of God’s love and an excellent example of faith taking action. I pray that more Christians can think outside of the box and participate in activities such as these. Amen!



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