A Lutheran Divine Service in the United States
A Lutheran Divine Service in the United States
A Catholic Mass at St. Maria Church, Sehnde, Germany
A Catholic Mass at St. Maria Church, Sehnde, Germany

A church service (or a service of worship) is a formalized period of Christian communal worship, often held in a church building. It often but not exclusively occurs on Sunday, or Saturday in the case of those churches practicing seventh-day Sabbatarianism. The church service is the gathering together of Christians to be taught the "Word of God" (the Christian Bible) and encouraged in their faith. Technically, the "church" in "church service" refers to the gathering of the faithful rather than to the building in which it takes place. In most Christian traditions, services are presided over by clergy wherever possible.

Styles of service vary greatly, from the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran traditions of liturgical worship to the evangelical Protestant style, that often combines worship with teaching for the believers, which may also have an evangelistic component appealing to the non-Christians or skeptics in the congregation. Quakers and some other groups have no formal outline to their services, but allow the worship to develop as the participants present feel moved.

The majority of Christian denominations hold church services on the Lord's Day (with many offering Sunday morning and Sunday evening services); a number of traditions have mid-week Wednesday evening services as well.[A][2] In some Christian denominations, church services are held daily, with these including those in which the canonical hours are prayed, as well as the offering of the Mass, among other forms of worship.[3] In addition to this, many Christians attend services of worship on holy days such as Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Ascension Thursday, among others depending on the Christian denomination.[4]


See also: Early Christianity

Depiction of early Christian worship in the Catacomb of Callixtus
Depiction of early Christian worship in the Catacomb of Callixtus

The worship service is a practice of Christian life that has its origins in the Jewish worship.[5] Jesus Christ and Paul of Tarsus taught a new form of worship of God.[6] As recorded in the gospels, Jesus met together with His disciples to share teachings, discuss topics,[7] pray, and sing hymns.[8]

The holding of church services pertains to the observance of the Lord's Day in Christianity.[9] The Bible has a precedent for a pattern of morning and evening worship that has given rise to Sunday morning and Sunday evening services of worship held in the churches of many Christian denominations today, a "structure to help families sanctify the Lord’s Day."[9] In Numbers 28:1–10 and Exodus 29:38–39, "God commanded the daily offerings in the tabernacle to be made once in the morning and then again at twilight".[9] In Psalm 92, which is a prayer concerning the observance of the Sabbath, the prophet David writes "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night" (cf. Psalm 134:1).[9] Church father Eusebius of Caesarea thus declared: "For it is surely no small sign of God’s power that throughout the whole world in the churches of God at the morning rising of the sun and at the evening hours, hymns, praises, and truly divine delights are offered to God. God’s delights are indeed the hymns sent up everywhere on earth in his Church at the times of morning and evening."[9]

The first miracle of the Apostles, the healing of the crippled man on the temple steps, occurred because Peter and John went to the Temple to pray (Acts 3:1). Since the Apostles were originally Jews, see Jewish Christians, the concept of fixed prayer times, as well as services therefore which differed from weekday to Sabbath to holy day, were familiar to them. Pliny the Younger (63 - ca. 113), who was not a Christian himself, mentions not only fixed prayer times by believers, but also specific services—other than the Eucharist—assigned to those times: "They met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity ... after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal."[10]

The real evolution of the Christian service in the first century is shrouded in mystery. By the second and third centuries, such Church Fathers as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Tertullian wrote of formalised, regular services: the practice of Morning and Evening Prayer, and prayers at the third hour of the day (terce), the sixth hour of the day (sext), and the ninth hour of the day (none). With reference to the Jewish practices, it is surely no coincidence that these major hours of prayer correspond to the first and last hour of the conventional day, and that on Sundays (corresponding to the Sabbath in Christianity), the services are more complex and longer (involving twice as many services if one counts the Eucharist and the afternoon service). Similarly, the liturgical year from Christmas via Easter to Pentecost covers roughly five months, the other seven having no major services linked to the work of Christ. However, this is not to say that the Jewish services were copied or deliberately substituted, see Supersessionism.

Contemporary church services

Worship service at Dream City Church, affiliated to the Assemblies of God USA, in 2007, in Phoenix, United States
Worship service at Dream City Church, affiliated to the Assemblies of God USA, in 2007, in Phoenix, United States
A Worship service at Hillsong Church UK, London, UK
A Worship service at Hillsong Church UK, London, UK

Contemporary worship services have their origins in the Jesus Movement of the 1960s.[11] In the 1980s and 1990s, contemporary Christian music, comprising a variety of musical styles, such as Christian rock and Christian hip-hop was adopted by evangelical churches.[12][13][14] Over the years, the organs have been replaced by pianos, electric guitars and drums.[15][16] These contemporary worship services feature a sermon based on the Bible.

Worship service in Evangelical churches is seen as an act of God's worship.[17][18] It is usually run by a Christian pastor. It usually contains two main parts, the praise (Christian music) and the sermon, with periodically the Lord's Supper.[19] [20][21][22] During worship there is usually a nursery for babies.[23] Prior to the worship service, adults, children and young people receive an adapted education, Sunday school, in a separate room.[24]

With the 1960s' charismatic movement, a new conception of praise in worship, such as clapping and raising hands as a sign of worship, took place in many evangelical denominations.[25]

In the 1980s and 1990s, contemporary Christian music, including a wide variety of musical styles, such as Christian Rock and Christian Hip Hop, appeared in the praise.[12][13][14]

In the 2000s and 2010s, digital technologies were integrated into worship services, such as the video projectors for broadcasting praise lyrics or video, on big screens.[26][27] The use of social media such as YouTube and Facebook to retransmit live or delayed worship services, by Internet, has also spread.[28] The offering via Internet has become a common practice in several churches.[29][30]

In some churches, a special moment is reserved for faith healing with laying on of hands during worship services.[31] Faith healing or divine healing is considered a legacy of Jesus acquired by his death and resurrection.[32]

The offerings and the tithe typically occupies a little time in the worship services.[33] Often associated with the tithe mandatory, this doctrine is sometimes compared to a religious business.[34][35][36][37]

The main Christian feasts celebrated by the Evangelicals are Christmas, Pentecost, and Easter for all believers, among others depending on Christian denominations (cf. evangelical feasts).[38] [39][40]

Quaker Meeting for Worship

Main articles: Meeting for worship and Quakers § Worship

Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends), like other Nonconformist Protestant denominations, distinguish between a church, which is a body of people who believe in Christ, and a 'meeting house' or 'chapel', which is a building where the church meets.[41][42]

Quakers have both unprogrammed and programmed Meetings for Worship. Unprogrammed worship is based on waiting in silence and inward listening to the Spirit, from which any participant may share a message. In unprogrammed meetings for worship, someone speaks when that person feels that God/Spirit/the universe has given them a message for others. Programmed worship includes many elements similar to Protestant services, such as a sermon and hymns. Many programmed meetings also include a time during the service for silent, expectant waiting and messages from the participants.

Common features

Church choir singing at a service, Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, Nigeria
Church choir singing at a service, Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos, Nigeria

Vocal music is traditionally sung by a choir or the congregation (or a mixture of the two), usually accompanied by an organ.[43][44] Sometimes other instruments such as piano, classical instruments, or modern band instruments may be part of the service, especially in churches influenced by the contemporary worship movement. Some churches are equipped with state-of-the-art multi-media equipment to add to the worship experience. The congregation may sing along in hymnals or words to hymns and worship songs may be displayed on a screen. More liturgical denominations may have the words to specific prayers written in a missalette or prayer book, which the congregation follows.

Though the majority of services are still conducted in church buildings designed specifically for that purpose, some services take place in "store front" or temporary settings.[45][46] For those unable to attend a service in a church building a burgeoning televangelism and radio ministry provides broadcasts of services.[47] A number of websites have been set up as "cyber-churches" to provide a virtual worship space free to anyone on the internet.

Church services are often planned and led by a single pastor or a small group of elders or may follow a format laid out by the dictates of the denomination. Some churches are "lay led" with members of the congregation taking turns guiding the service or simply following format that has evolved over time between the active members. But most commonly, the pastor will preach a sermon (which may cover a specific topic, or as part of a book of the Bible which is being covered over a period of time). Depending on the church, a public invitation follows whereby people are encouraged to become Christians, present themselves as candidates for baptism or to join the congregation (if members elsewhere), or for other purposes.

A few begin their church services with the ringing of a bell (or a number of bells); a current trend is to have an introductory video which serves as a "countdown" to the beginning of the service. The service usually involves the singing of hymns, reading of scripture verses and possibly a psalm, and a sermon. If the church follows a lectionary, the sermon will often be about the scripture lections assigned to that day. Eucharistic churches have usually Holy Communion either every Sunday or several Sundays a month. Less liturgical congregations tend to place a greater emphasis on the sermon.

Many churches will take up a collection of money (offertory) during the service. The rationale for this is taken from 1 Corinthians 16:1–2, 1 Corinthians 9:9–11, and 1 Timothy 5:16–18. But some churches eschew this practice in favor of voluntary anonymous donations for which a box or plate may be set up by the entrance, or return-address envelopes may be provided that worshippers may take with them. Offering through the Internet has become a common practice in many evangelical churches.[29][30] On occasion, some churches will also arrange a second collection, typically occurring after Communion, for a specific good cause or purpose.[48]

Some churches offer Sunday school classes.[49][24][23] These will often be for younger children, and may take place during the whole of the service (while the adults are in church), or the children may be present for the beginning of the service and at a prearranged point leave the service to go to Sunday school. Some churches have adult Sunday school either before or after the main worship service.

Following the service, there will often be an opportunity for fellowship in the church hall or other convenient place. This provides the members of the congregation a chance to socialize with each other and to greet visitors or new members. Coffee or other refreshments may be served.

Types of church service

Church services take many forms, and set liturgies may have different names. Services typically include:

Places of worship

Further information: Church (building)

Places of worship are usually called "churches" or "chapels".[50][51][52] Some services take place in theaters, schools or multipurpose rooms, rented for Sunday only.[53][45][46]


IFES are groups of Evangelical students coming together on campuses in 150 countries around the world to share their ideas on the Bible.[54]

Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International meetings are held in restaurants or hotels and Christian businessmen talk about their faith.[55]

See also



  1. ^ The majority of Christian denominations teach that Sunday is the Lord's Day on which all the faithful must assemble to offer worship to God (cf. first-day Sabbatarianism). A minority of Christian denominations that follow seventh-day Sabbatarianism organize worship on Saturdays.[1]


  1. ^ Hughes, James R. (2006). "The Sabbath: A Universal and Enduring Ordinance of God" (PDF). Reformed Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  2. ^ The Korean Repository, Volume 3. Trilingual Press. 21 August 1896. p. 361. The Sunday morning service has been well attended, as have also the Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services.
  3. ^ "Times of Worship". Saint Paul's Free Methodist Church. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  4. ^ Morgan, Bonnie (19 December 2019). Ordinary Saints: Women, Work, and Faith in Newfoundland. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 978-0-2280-0028-0. Starting with Shroe Tuesday (locall known as Pancake Day), and proceeding through Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, families increased their church attendance and, especially, engaged in the embodies practices of fasting and/or "giving up something for Lent."
  5. ^ BBC, Christian worship, bbc.co.uk, UK, June 23, 2009
  6. ^ Geoffrey Wainwright, The Oxford History of Christian Worship, Oxford University Press , USA, 2006, p. 465
  7. ^ Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison Jr., John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus in Context, Princeton University Press, USA, 2009, p. 2
  8. ^ Mark 14.26, Matthew 26.30; see John J. Pilch, "A Cultural Handbook to the Bible", Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, USA, 2012, p. 263
  9. ^ a b c d e "Why an Evening Worship Service?". Christ United Reformed Church. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  10. ^ Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, Book X, Letter xcvii.
  11. ^ Don Cusic, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock, and Worship: Pop, Rock, and Worship, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2009, p. 79
  12. ^ a b Suzel Ana Reily, Jonathan M. Dueck, The Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities, Oxford University Press, USA, 2016, p. 443
  13. ^ a b Mathew Guest, Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation, Wipf and Stock Publishers, USA, 2007, p. 42
  14. ^ a b Don Cusic, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock, and Worship: Pop, Rock, and Worship, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2009, p. 85-86
  15. ^ Monique M. Ingalls, Singing the Congregation: How Contemporary Worship Music Forms Evangelical Community, Oxford University Press, USA, 2018, p. 7
  16. ^ William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, Scarecrow Press, USA, 2009, p. 403
  17. ^ Gerald R. McDermott, The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology, Oxford University Press, UK, 2013, p. 311
  18. ^ Roger E. Olson, The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology, Westminster John Knox Press, UK, 2004, p. 284
  19. ^ Bruce E. Shields, David Alan Butzu, Generations of Praise: The History of Worship, College Press, USA, 2006, p. 307-308
  20. ^ Robert Dusek, Facing the Music, Xulon Press, USA, 2008, p. 65
  21. ^ Gaspard Dhellemmes, Spectaculaire poussée des évangéliques en Île-de-France, lejdd.fr, France, June 7, 2015
  22. ^ Michael Lee, The Diffusion and Influence of Contemporary Worship, christianitytoday.com, USA, March 18, 2017
  23. ^ a b Greg Dickinson, Suburban Dreams: Imagining and Building the Good Life, University of Alabama Press, USA, 2015, p. 144
  24. ^ a b Jeanne Halgren Kilde, When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship in Nineteenth-century America, Oxford University Press, USA, 2005, p. 159, 170, 188
  25. ^ Robert H. Krapohl, Charles H. Lippy, The Evangelicals: A Historical, Thematic, and Biographical Guide, Greenwood Publishing Group, USA, 1999, p. 171
  26. ^ Christina L. Baade, James Andrew Deaville, Music and the Broadcast Experience: Performance, Production, and Audience, Oxford University Press, USA, 2016, p. 300
  27. ^ AARON RANDLE, Bucking a trend, these churches figured out how to bring millennials back to worship, kansascity.com, USA, December 10, 2017
  28. ^ Mark Ward Sr., The Electronic Church in the Digital Age: Cultural Impacts of Evangelical Mass, ABC-CLIO, USA, 2015, p. 78
  29. ^ a b Michael Gryboski, Millennial-Majority Churches Detail Challenges, Success Stories in Growth and Finances, christianpost.com, USA, June 18, 2018
  30. ^ a b Ghana News Agency, Asoriba launches church management software, businessghana.com, Ghana, February 3, 2017
  31. ^ Cecil M. Robeck, Jr, Amos Yong, The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2014, p. 138
  32. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer, Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism: Revised and expanded edition, Baylor University Press, USA, 2004, p. 212
  33. ^ Marie-Claude Malboeuf and Jean-Christophe Laurence, Églises indépendantes: le culte de l'argent, lapresse.ca, Canada, November 17, 2010
  34. ^ Laurie Goodstein, Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich, nytimes.com, USA, August 15, 2009
  35. ^ Jean-Christophe Laurence, Le business religieux, lapresse.ca, Canada, November 17, 2010
  36. ^ Trésor Kibangula, RDC : pasteur, un job en or, jeuneafrique.com, France, February 06, 2014
  37. ^ Raoul Mbog, Le juteux business du pasteur évangélique Dieunedort Kamdem, lemonde.fr, France, December 25, 2015
  38. ^ William H. Brackney, Historical Dictionary of the Baptists, Scarecrow Press, USA, 2009, p. 402
  39. ^ Daniel E. Albrecht, Rites in the Spirit: A Ritual Approach to Pentecostal/Charismatic Spirituality, A&C Black, UK, 1999, p. 124
  40. ^ Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Academic, USA, 2001, p. 236-239
  41. ^ Wakeling, Christopher (August 2016). "Nonconformist Places of Worship: Introductions to Heritage Assets". Historic England. Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  42. ^ Jones, Anthony (1996). Welsh Chapels. National Museum Wales. ISBN 9780750911627. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  43. ^ William J. Collinge, Historical Dictionary of Catholicism, Scarecrow Press, USA, 2012, p. 280
  44. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of Protestantism, Infobase Publishing, USA, 2005, p. 345
  45. ^ a b Helmuth Berking, Silke Steets, Jochen Schwenk, Religious Pluralism and the City: Inquiries into Postsecular Urbanism, Bloomsbury Publishing, UK, 2018, p. 78
  46. ^ a b George Thomas Kurian, Mark A. Lamport, Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, Volume 5, Rowman & Littlefield, USA, 2016, p. 1359
  47. ^ George Thomas Kurian, Mark A. Lamport, Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States, Volume 5, Rowman & Littlefield, USA, 2016, p. 2275-2276
  48. ^ Zech, C., The Problem of the Second Collection, America Magazine, published 5 November 2001, accessed 29 May 2021
  49. ^ George Thomas Kurian, Mark A. Lamport, Encyclopedia of Christian Education, Volume 3, Rowman & Littlefield, USA, 2015, p. 229
  50. ^ D. A. Carson, Worship: Adoration and Action: Adoration and Action, Wipf and Stock Publishers, USA, 2002, p. 161
  51. ^ Jeanne Halgren Kilde, Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture and Worship, Oxford University Press, USA, 2008, p. 193
  52. ^ Harold W. Turner, From Temple to Meeting House: The Phenomenology and Theology of Places of Worship, Walter de Gruyter, Germany, 1979, p.258
  53. ^ Annabelle Caillou, Vivre grâce aux dons et au bénévolat, ledevoir.com, Canada, November 10, 2018
  54. ^ IFES, OUR PEOPLE, ifesworld.org, UK, accessed January 27, 2018
  55. ^ Vinson Synan, Amos Yong, Global Renewal Christianity: Europe and North America Spirit-Empowered Movements: Past, Present and Future, Charisma Media, USA, 2017, p. 26