A View from the Pew: The Problem with Wednesdays

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I’ve got a Wednesday night church attendance track record that rivals the Apostle Paul’s Pharisee credentials.

As an infant, I spent Wednesday evenings in the church nursery. I went to children’s choir and other special activities throughout childhood. As a teen, I regularly offered the prayer over the sick and afflicted during prayer meeting. Into my young adulthood, I faithfully ate fried chicken and collard greens at Wednesday night church supper and led the Royal Ambassadors. When I had kids of my own, I taught children’s missions classes. I have even filled in for the preacher a time or two leading midweek services at various congregations.

But now, for the first time in my life, I’m an erratic Wednesday night church attender.

This was brought to my attention recently when I miraculously made it to church on Wednesday night for the school year kickoff of our children’s activities. It just so happened that homemade ice cream was being served. Despite my proactive declaration that “I came for the Bible study!”, my attendance was seen by at least one cynical person as driven more by my fleshly appetites than spiritual ones. (The ice cream was delicious, and my attendance was appreciated.)

This lighthearted moment prompted me to reflect more seriously on why Wednesday night church attendance has become so difficult for me and possibly for others. After careful consideration, here are a few reasons I think I’ve backslidden on Wednesday nights:

Work schedule. The starting time of churches’ Wednesday night activities varies from as early as 5 p.m. to as late as 7 p.m. I’ve been a part of churches on both ends of that range. Our church begins officially at 6:30 p.m., but people gather for a “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bag) supper at 5:30 p.m.

My workday whistle doesn’t blow at 5 p.m. In fact, it doesn’t predictably blow at any time. Because of my job, I could be there until later in the evening, or things could be calm enough for a 5 p.m. departure. I just never know. More and more people have jobs like this nowadays, and I by no means feel like a special case.

If we started at 7 p.m., the poor choir wouldn’t be getting out of rehearsal until 9 p.m. or later, and school-aged and younger kids would have trouble making their bedtimes. I think 6:30 p.m. makes the most sense, it’s just a challenge.

Commute distance. When I lived in Macon and had an eight-minute commute, Wednesday night church wasn’t a problem. But I live in the Atlanta suburbs. Every night is a 60-90 minute, white-knuckle battle with two million of my closest friends and neighbors. My commute into Midtown is 24.4 miles. Work to church is 24.9 miles.

And like my inability to select the best line at the grocery store or gas pump, I seem to have terrible luck at picking the best route, even with the help of such modern technological marvels as Waze and Google Maps. Where is Moses and his sea-parting skills when you need him?

Traffic. The real problem with the commute, though, isn’t the distance. It’s the traffic. Atlanta is one of those cities in which you have to plan your life around the traffic, even out in the suburbs. If you can help it, you don’t leave your house between 5 and 7 p.m. to to go anywhere.

Time vs. money opportunity cost. Back when our church offered an evening meal, Wednesday supper was a regular part of our weekly menu. But when budget cuts and volunteer staffing burnout caused the church to go to the BYOB model, we fell into the expensive rut of drive-thru lines on the way to church.

We’ve since converted to a more economical and healthier habit of eating after church at home, but we’ve found that goes a lot better when I come home from work around 7 or 7:30 p.m. and get supper on the table for the family. Homework is easier to complete and bedtime targets are easier to hit. Again, it’s a tradeoff of time and money, but families have to make those kinds of choices these days.

I believe there is no better way to become an integral part of a congregation than by participating in Wednesday night activities. When you are in prayer meeting, you learn about the struggles and celebrations of your sisters and brothers. When you help with the children’s activities, you get to play a role in their spiritual formation. When you serve on a committee or sing in the choir, you form bonds with fellow believers around your shared labor for God’s glory.

The value of church is most acutely felt on Wednesday night, and I, for one, am worse off for not being a more consistent part of my family of faith at this time.

My prayer for my Wednesday night dilemma: May reasons not be excuses and may they be temporary setbacks on my journey of faith.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this Lance. I share your pain regarding going to church on Wednesday nights. My church is in Mid-Town Atlanta which only adds to the traffic woes. I finally decided that it was not worth the wear and tear on my mind and body to spend more time at traffic lights than during the entire Wednesday night prayer service. Often, I would arrive 5-8 minutes late and just in time for the service to end. Those were especially disappointing efforts which left me disillusioned. I agree about the depth of the fellowship when attending is possible. For the moment, however, I’ve given up on even trying to make it to my church on Wednesday evenings.

    • Lance Wallace says:

      Seems that Midtown, coming or going, is a problem!

      Maybe there’s something different metro-area churches can do midweek that would serve the same purpose, just not at the same time.

      Thinking outside the box…

      • Janice Masters says:

        Maybe online Wednesday service? Wednesday in PJ’s service? Eat at home, gather around the computer that is showing on the big screen TV? I cannot even begin to imagine trying to get to a Wednesday night service in Mid-town Atlanta!

  2. Paula Parris says:

    Thanks, Lance. You’ve dealt very honestly with the dilemma so many people have, particularly in our heavy-traffic area. Just a quick suggestion–you might have Chef Carlton prepare brown-bag suppers for the family!!

  3. Lance Wallace says:

    Paula,
    You’re absolutely right! He could do it, no doubt.