At some point in the late 80s and early 90s, churches — feeling pretty cocky off their ballooning megachurch numbers and stadium-filling CCM acts — were brainstorming other ways to get younger people in their pews. They had dumb parody T-shirts, young adult ministries and seeker sensitive services, and they were eager to keep the ball rolling. It was around this time that you started seeing later services — 11 a.m., noon, maybe even early afternoon — in an attempt to woo anyone who may have spent Saturday night out having fun and didn’t feel up to rising with the sun for church the next morning. Now, such services are everywhere.
Call it the Brunch Considerate Service. You can get a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich and some French Pressed coffee at your favorite hole in the wall and still make church, maybe even with a mimosa or two in your system. It’s great and, for some people, it’s genuinely useful. People who work late weekend shifts or deal with odd hours because of their kids can use a later service. It’s a good thing they exist. But I’d like to make a suggestion that if you can make the early service, you should do it. The earlier the better, honestly.
There are a few good reasons for this. One big one: You’re starting your day out on the right foot. There’s something to be said for using the church service as a way to set the tone for the rest of your day. You know how hard it is to get your day back on track if it starts out on the wrong foot? If you wake up late, burn your breakfast or get in an argument early in the morning, the rest of the day can feel off. But the inverse is true too. That’s why so many people like to start their days with meditation, a nice walk, exercise or a little reading — it provides grounding for whatever else the rest of the day might have to offer. So if you start your day off with an early morning church service, you’re giving an invitation to the rest of the day.
Another reason to aim for the early service? Check out the Bible. From the Psalms to the Prophets to Jesus himself, the Bible is full of encouragements to seek God early in the morning. “In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice,” says Psalm 5. “In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” In Mark’s Gospel, he says that “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Jacob, Moses, Hezekiah, Daniel, Mary Magdalene and many more are all described at some point as seeking God early.
Psalm 57 even has this beautiful refrain: Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
The Bible doesn’t exactly give a specific reason for why rising early was so important to so many of God’s people, but it’s surely not a coincidence that this was so many people’s chosen time to seek God. Days can be very busy and the longer you’re awake, the more your mind gets weighed down with the life’s usual buffet of stress, concern, schedules and trivia. Giving God that first part of the day, before your mental shelves get cluttered, can go a long ways towards keeping things prioritized. Hopefully, that’s what going to a church service does for you.
A third reason to hit the early service, especially if you’re younger? You’re likely to run into some older Christians there. Early services tend to be the domain of older believers, many of whom were raised on 7 a.m. services and aren’t about to change just because there’s an 11 a.m. option. In an era where intergenerational friendships are hard to come by, going to the early service is a great way to meet some older Christians and diversify the age range of your friend groups. If you’ve never cultivated a meaningful friendship with someone twice your age, you have no idea what you’re missing out on.
Obviously, there are plenty of reasons that the early service might not be your best option, and that’s completely fine. A church is much more than just a Sunday morning service, so the exact time you end up in the church building on Sunday mornings isn’t going to be the deciding factor on what kind of Christian you’re becoming. But if you are looking to shake up your routine and get the most out of what a church service can offer, consider giving the early service a shot.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.