Jon Nicol on starting your services promptly:
We aren’t naive about what it takes to change something that’s not only ingrained in the culture of our church, but in the broader culture of our community. So we’re taking a long, slow, multifaceted approach to changing our culture of tardiness.
7 Tactics to Curb Lateness
Here are some of tactics we’re using to encourage on time arrival. Some of these will work for your church. Some will not. But hopefully the list will spark some ideas that can help your situation.
1. We close the auditorium doors at start time. Our new building has two sets of main doors off the lobby that enter the right side of the auditorium. A secondary set of doors are down a large hallway and enter in the back of the auditorium. We now close the main doors right at 9:30. These doors have a sign that reads: “Please enter through the back entrance after the service begins” with an arrow pointing towards the secondary entrance.
It communicates to people that starting the service on time is important to us, and we want to eliminate distractions for those already worshiping. One chronically-late church member jokingly calls the rear entrance “The Door of Shame.” We opted not to use that particular moniker for the rear entrance signage.
2. We shut down kids-check in at 9:30. This one is both an administrative thing and a lateness-deterrent. At our church, we dismiss the kids to their worship time partway through our service. So parents who miss kids check-in have to leave the service with their kids and check them in at the classroom.
A couple things to note here: To avoid new people from missing check-in, we give them the “fast pass.” Our host team is on the lookout for new families. They greet them and lead them to the front of the line. After checking them in, they get a quick tour of the classrooms where their kids will go later.
And one thing we’ve realized: guests aren’t typically the ones who arrive late. It’s our regular attendees. So that led to the next two tactics to help change behavior.
3. We communicate clearly the beginning and end of our kids ministry check-in. Our check-in time runs from 9:10 to 9:30. This time was added to our website and printed material. It’s a subtle hint that people should arrive before the posted service start time.