How can we best reach young families?

Last Sunday we announced an exciting transition in strategy here at Grace.  Hopefully Don, Steve, and I can rock the boat just enough, without tipping it over.

Why did we start Grace @ Night?

Three years ago, a group of us worked to create a new worship service here at Grace that would:

  1. Reach out to young adults and young families in our community.
  2. Give our church as a whole a chance to grow, since building a bigger building was out of the picture.

We thought that we could accomplish these goals by:

  1. Offer a guitar-led musical style service.
  2. Value inter-generational teaching and leadership.
  3. Be at an alternative time slot to Sunday morning.

What has happened since then?

–          We’ve received great support (both financially and emotionally) from our church family.

–          We’ve lived out Jesus’ commission: At Grace @ Night we’ve seen people come to faith in Christ, be baptized, grow in their faith, be sent out on Christ’s mission in their community and around the world.  We’ve worshiped God together, encouraged one another in our faith, and prayed and grieved together.

–          We’ve seen people rise up, come forward and take on leadership roles, from music, to kids clubhouse, to sound and production, to hosting and Scripture reading and prayer.

After 2.5 years of having Grace @ Night, what was once hectic has become comfortable, and we could probably continue doing what we’re doing indefinitely, except that we are still driven by the vision that saw Grace @ Night start: a passion to reach young adults and young families in our community.

–          How can we do a better job at this than we are? This was why we started Grace @ Night in the first place, and it’s the same question we’re asking now as we transition to a new tactic.
April 18th will be the final Grace @ Night, and starting May 2nd we will begin a renewed 11 am service.  That is, much of the mission and resources that made Grace @ Night what it is will now be focused on 11 am. 

–          Travis and most of the Grace @ Night band and sound team

–          The Kids Clubhouse program

–          Host team

–          While Steve and I won’t be preaching regularly at 11 am, I’ll be taking the lead on planning the worship service together with Travis and Pastor Don.


–          The feedback we’ve received repeatedly from young families that visit Grace @ Night is that they love the service, and their kids love the Kids Clubhouse, but that they can’t have their kids out so late on a school night.

–          It’s not just young kids.  Culturally, we’ve found that Sunday evening is a time to be at home and gear up for the week.   Students are finishing homework they’ve neglected all weekend. And at least once/month we’re running up against the culture in terms of Mother’s Day celebrations, the Superbowl, the Oscars, Easter, etc.

  • While we do believe that worshiping God is the most important thing we could do, the question comes up of whether we’re unnecessarily binding ourselves to a time slot when we don’t need to.   Could we do much of what we do at Grace @ Night on Sunday mornings?
  • I’m incredibly grateful for those volunteers who have sacrificed their Sunday afternoons and evenings to make this service happen, and I’m so proud of what we’ve seen our Lord do through it, but I know how rough it is to consistently give up that time with family before the work week starts.

–          Sunday morning is the culturally “normal” time to go to church.  On Mondays when we look at the first timer cards in the church office,  our first time young adults and young families overwhelmingly show up at 11 am first, and 9:30 second.  It makes the most sense to put our ministry that’s aimed at them where they are.

–          And that’s what our church has traditionally done.  11 am was the church’s young adult and young family service long before I was here, and a lot of the young families that are still there originally came to 11 am as college students.  So what we’re endeavoring to do isn’t really something new, as a renewal of what it once was.

  • By giving the 11 am service a specific identity and vision of reaching out to young families and young adults, we’re really excited about what we could see happen.  Not just in terms of reversing the attendance decline at 11 am (from 180 in 2006 to 120 currently), but more importantly in people coming to Christ, being taught in the faith, getting involved in a small group, and serving our community in Christ’s name.

What’s next?

3/28 – Threefold Communion – There will be for me a special significance to the washing of the feet next week, as we follow our Lord’s example of not coming to be served but to serve.

4/4 – Easter

4/11 – “Regular” Grace @ Night

4/18 – Final Grace @ Night – Much of that night will be focused on celebrating what God has done over these last 3 years, and what is still left in front of us to accomplish.

4/25 – Planning and preparation week

5/2 – The start of the Renewed 11 am service

What can you do?

  1. Commemorate – Take the time to thank God and the volunteers here for what has happened.  Tell your part of the story, and don’t be shy about it.
  2. Communicate – Let me know what your plans are in terms of 11 am.  While in my ideal world, all of us would embrace this and transition to 11 am together, I know there might be some hesitation or life realities that make that unlikely for you.  I’d love to know about those.
  3. Participate – Especially for the first couple of months after the transition, we’re really going to need a lot of help with getting the renewed 11 am service up and running.  Especially with transitioning the casual and welcoming culture of Grace @ Night to 11.


  1. Kathy wolff says:

    Bob and Steve,
    Thank you for all your hard work and commitment to finding a way to reach out and meet the needs of our church family.
    David and I enjoyed the pm service – the music (well sometimes better than others), the message, the fellowship, the food. I plan to support the 11 am service – of course I
    will only be able to stay if I can handle the sound!

    Appreciate you both.

  2. I appreciate all the work that went into Grace @ Night. I attended some of the meetings but the “start of the next work week” issue that you mentioned was a problem a lot of the time for me.

    Another possibility would be Saturday night services. At one point, Barbara and I were going to different churches on Sunday (it’s a long story), so we worshipped together on Saturday night at Seacoast. They had a pretty sizeable attendance. There were fewer conflicts with other things on Saturday nights than Sundays.

    BTW here’s something that I think would work well for the Sunday at 11 AM service. Set up some kind of way that people can request specific songs for upcoming services. It could be as simple as writing suggestions on attendance cards. Doing this would give everyone an opportunity to be a little bit involved in the planning of the worship services. And we might hear some great songs that are new to many of us. More variety and less repetition.

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