MOUNT VERNON — It’s Friday night. For many people, it is a chance to relax after a busy week, a chance to get away from the pressures of the world and refocus and recharge. For several hundred people in and around Mount Vernon, Friday night means church.
Yes, church. For nearly a decade, Central Christian Church has offered a Friday night worship service, giving attendees the exact same experience as Sunday morning, just in a different time frame. Originally, church leaders were looking for options to ease a shortage of parking spaces on Sundays. Like many other congregations, the church began offering a Saturday night service. Even though Saturday attendance was good, Senior Pastor Jamie Allen says he discovered a way to reach even more people.
“I first heard about this from a church in Idaho that had two services on Sunday morning and two on Friday evening. That’s where I got the idea,” he said. “At first after we decided to try it instead of Saturday night, the reaction was, ‘huh?’ but after a while people really took to it."
Allen says about 335 of the church’s nearly 2,000 attendees come on Friday night, and they really seem to like the timing, because it works well in their schedules.
“We found that on Saturday, people are out working in the yard or doing other things and they didn’t want to change gears and go to church, but on Friday, they’ll just come from work or school for our 6 p.m. service,” he explained.
The Friday night service is a contemporary service with a praise band, just like two of the church’s Sunday services. The church also offers a Sunday morning traditional service.
Pat Vore and her husband, Tony, of Fairfield, have been regulars at the Friday night service since the beginning.
“I like everything about going on Friday night,” she said. “If you go on Friday, it opens your weekend up for other things. It gives you options.”
Vore said that many of the Friday night churchgoers work weekend shifts.
“There a lot of people who, if they didn’t come on Friday would not be able to go to church,” she said. She added that occasionally, people who usually attend Sunday services will come on Friday night if they plan weekend travel or have other Sunday plans.
Allen said the Friday night service also gives other ministers an opportunity to worship without having to be responsible for all aspects of the service.
“I really like that the service gives other pastors and ministry leaders a chance to worship on the weekend if they want to,” he said. “When you are in ministry, sometimes you do not feel as though you get a lot of opportunities to worship yourself. We have a lot of ministers who come and get to participate in worship.”
Allen added that the church has actively marketed the Friday night service through announcements and advertisements in social media, newspapers and Christian radio stations.
“We don’t want to steal people away from other churches, but we understand that we are offering something that maybe other churches aren’t offering and if those people cannot attend their regular church, they can join us.”
He said even after eight years, the Friday night service remains popular and said that several other churches have called to ask about starting their own Friday night gathering.
“People like Friday night church. It works. There’s never a wrong time to worship God,” he said.