By Karen Vance
MIAMI TOWNSHIP - Sunday mornings may be a time for church, but for many busy families, the day is no longer off-limits to soccer games and work.
That's led some area churches to offer Saturday-evening worship. Long a staple in the Roman Catholic Church and common among many non-denominational churches, Saturday-evening services have been slower in coming to many mainline Protestant churches.
Epiphany United Methodist Church in Miami Township launched its 5 p.m. Saturday service Sept. 18, becoming one of the first Methodist churches in the area to do so.
"We find that every weekend we have families torn between church and sports, especially soccer," said Pastor Doug Damron. "The church can either lament or meet people where they are."
The church, at 6635 Loveland-Miamiville Road in Clermont County, anticipated about 50 people and instead had an attendance of about 140. And on a recent weekend, the church saw the same size crowd with no dip in Sunday attendance.
"There was a time when the Methodist Church said there is one service at 11 a.m., and if you can't make it, tough luck," Damron said.
"This really seemed to scratch an itch for people. It's really energized the church and all the services."
Main Street Baptist Church in Alexandria started a 6 p.m. Saturday service a couple years ago because the Sunday service was full and parking issues prevented adding a second Sunday service at the church, 306 W. Main St.
"A growing part of our congregation had to work on Sundays, so a Saturday evening service was a great option for them," said Pastor Robert Franklin.
As society continues to schedule more Sunday-morning events, Franklin thinks more Baptist churches will follow.
But he doesn't encourage people to opt out of Sunday service for just any activity.
"We encourage our young people to tell their soccer coaches or sports teams to schedule events for a different time.
"We recognize the culture has changed, but we don't want to cede the ground," Franklin said.
For Springdale Church of the Nazarene, the 5:30 p.m. Saturday service serves a dual purpose of reaching people who might be intimidated by church.
"There are people who don't consider themselves to be religious, and they have reservations about attending a church service,'' said Pastor Rick Harvey. "Saturday night doesn't sound churchy; it's more casual."
That service does seem to be attracting new people to the church, at 11177 Springfield Pike, south of Interstate 275. The congregation of 1,400 had about 30 visitors on its first weekend.
"We're overwhelmed by the response," he said.
Damron said the style of the service is also reaching a different group of people.
"It's a different style. All four services have the same message, but this one is the most casual. I preach in jeans," he said. "It's a come-as-you-are service, geared toward families."
Festival Choir Concert Sunday
The Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church will host the October Festival Choir, made up of more than 100 voices from across Greater Cincinnati, in a concert called "Requiem 4 the Living" at 4 p.m. Sunday.