LDS meetinghouse (photo from LDS Media Library)

In my stake, we change schedules every fall, instead of in January like every other stake I’ve ever lived in. This means, my friends, that come September, we will have eleven o’clock church. Bleh.

I have long held that the Church is most true at 9 a.m., and gets progressively less true as the day goes on. One p.m. church is practically apostate (especially on Fast Sundays with a group of grouchy kids–and teachers–in third block), and if you are one of the poor souls who have to attend from from three p.m. on you might as well get rebaptized every week.

But eleven o’clock is the only schedule for which my kids miss an actual meal, and that has its own disadvantages. I can feed people breakfast and then scramble to do a pre-church snack as well. I can open up the kitchen after church and let everyone graze, but that will delay my preparation of Sunday dinner. Throw choir in there someplace (but when?) and the odd Sunday meeting, and the day feels packed.

Part of my preference for early church comes from an inherent lack of self-discipline. Give me a place to be and a time to be there, and I will do my darnedest to get my family there on time. We may not have ironed shirts on, or matching shoes (the day of my two-year-old’s blessing two of his brothers had on mismatched shoes. And socks. And we got there a tad late), but we’ll be there. With late church, though, I have the illusion of time–no place to be until eleven! wahoo!–without the substance thereof. It’s easier for me to get my family up and out the door at 9 than it is to gather everyone later on.

In a more serious way of putting it, I feel that I keep the Sabbath holy much, much better when church is the first thing I do in the day. It’s easier to set a reverent tone, easier to fill my afternoon with good things. When I have late church I find myself puttering about, squandering Sabbath time that I fill in much better ways when I have early church.

I suspect that you also have strong preferences for when church starts. So let me hear them! Tell me why, and how you make different schedules work for your family. (Especially those poor napless toddlers.) Right now my strategy is just power through and remember that in two years, I’ll be back on the celestial schedule again.

August 5, 2015

23 Comments

  1. eljee

    August 4, 2015

    Ours starts at 9:30 am, with a 40-minute drive to get there. My big thing is that because we’re the only unit in our building, our time will never ever change. I like 11:00 am the most because it is so hard to get everyone to bed on Saturday night, and mid-morning feels so much more relaxed. I also like to be able to fit in a little lesson-prep or re-do on Sunday mornings before having to go teach. Our current schedule is exhausting, especially with both of us in demanding callings. DH usually has to go even earlier, so it’s up to me to wrangle three kiddos out the door. I crash for a nap every single Sunday, which is something I did only occasionally before. Because of the distances involved and the length of time we’re both at church and traveling, packing snacks is a must regardless of which schedule we’re on.

  2. Amira

    August 4, 2015

    I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a good time for church to start since it lasts three hours. We’ve done 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 2, and 3 PM and some :30’s mixed in with sacrament meeting both first and last. And we’ve homechurched for several years so there was no set starting time then. I actually liked starting at 8 AM because at the time we lived very close to the church and I just had two little children who woke up early but most of the ward thought it wasn’t so great. I dislike having church at 11 or 12 because it doesn’t leave much time for anything before or after church but I know some people love it. And I never saw anything redeeming about starting at 3 PM, but our bishop at the time loved it because it meant no early meetings. Apparently when I was little we had church at 3:45 one year. I cannot imagine that anyone would have liked that. If I were able to choose, I’d take 10 AM (and many people seem to agree since that’s a fairly typical start time if there’s only one unit in a building) if homechurching isn’t an option.

    Mostly though, I just don’t care much any more about the time. It starts when it starts and if there’s a good ward to go to where everyone in my family feels welcome and needed, then we’re winning.

  3. M2theh

    August 4, 2015

    Before I had a kid I liked 11 church. Now I love 9:00am church because you get up, get it done, have the rest of the day. Last year we had 8:30 church with sacrament last, primary was pretty much empty and sacrament almost filled up by the end of the meeting. We have 1:00 now and I do not like it.

  4. Marm

    August 4, 2015

    I like 11:00 church. I don’t have children at home anymore, so it works great for me. I put on some inspirational music in the pre-church hours and it sets the mood for me to attend church without a rushed feeling.

  5. Stephanie Black

    August 4, 2015

    When my kids were little, I was a definite fan of morning church. Now that they’re older, I think there are pluses and minuses to both schedules (we rotate every year between 9:30 start and 1:00 start).

  6. KR

    August 4, 2015

    There is no perfect time for toddlers, but in my pre-kid days my favorite was 10:30 – we could sleep in a little, get ready, come home for lunch and naps, and still have time for a family dinner with extended family in the area. It was possible to do meetings, visiting teaching, lesson planning, etc before or after church according to need. Now with kids, I think 9 is my preferred time, and I dread the day I have 1 pm.

  7. Peyton

    August 4, 2015

    Our Ward starts at 10:20, which would normally be totally acceptable (10:00 is my preferred time). However, we have a dependent Spanish ward, and so our sacrament meeting is last. I want to know what horrible person came up with that schedule.

  8. Bonjo

    August 4, 2015

    Our stake also switches in September. It’s a pretty strange time to make the switch (hearing the logic behind the decision made no sense to me). We will be moving to 1:30, which basically means I will get nothing done on Sunday other than going to church meetings. Once everyone is dressed and we are at church, 9:00 is my favorite.

  9. Shelah

    August 4, 2015

    The only time that is better than 9am church is 8am church. The year we had 2pm, with sacrament last, in a singles ward where the bishop let fast and testimony meeting run long every month was as close to murder as I ever came.

  10. Allison

    August 4, 2015

    Right now we have 1:00 church, 2:50 Sacrament meeting. My husband is in meetings from 7:00 am until church starts with sometimes a half-hour break but he’s usually gone the whole morning. We are making it work but the morning feels so long as I try to find ways to observe the Sabbath with a 20-month-old. I can usually sneak an early nap in for my little guy but even with a nap he’s so cranky by the end of church. I know the current nursery workers get extra blessings because of 1:00 church–and the parents should be getting them too with 2:50 Sacrament meeting after the kids have been running around in nursery for two hours! 9:00 would be so nice–and there’s a chance with early church my husband might finish his appointments earlier and we could actually see him before dinnertime! End rant–this is a time when I am being tested. 😉

  11. Tay

    August 4, 2015

    9AM is my preference, but I’d do 8AM before 1PM hands down. Or, awesomer, 3PM. And as stated above, there is no good time for toddlers. Church and toddlers just feels so very pointless. Especially when said toddler won’t go to nursery without mom or dad joining him and his naptime is at 11AM. Fun times.

  12. Pualele

    August 5, 2015

    I’m a reluctant but terribly hopeless night owl, so the later the better. 3pm would be pushing it though. However, my last ward rotated between 7:30am and 11am start times. As absurd as a 7:30am sacrament sounds, it always surprised me that our numbers seemed higher during the 7:30am block.

  13. Rozy

    August 5, 2015

    While raising children there is no good time; whatever time church is it will interfere with someone’s feeding and/or nap time. All a mother can do is her best to endure and keep attending to establish the habit in children. It is especially difficult when a husband is either in leadership and gone for meetings, or is inactive and unhelpful. Life does get better as children get older and if the habit has been set, then Sunday’s become easier. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we must understand that the Lord commanded us to rest from OUR labors, but not from HIS labors. The Sabbath is a day that should be different from the rest of the week. My mother loved a late start when she was older as it gave her time to study the scriptures or lessons before attending church, listen to inspiring music and enjoy a peaceful morning. I’m not there yet as we still have a couple of teens at home. We live in a tiny branch, I call it a twig, and have to drive 30 minutes to get there. Some of the members here are so averse to change that if we changed the time of the meetings they would fall away! While the gospel is the same all over the world, the church organization and the strength and knowledge of the members is quite different. I miss being in a ward with knowledgeable, deep testimonied members. Be strong! The sifting has begun and we must remain on the Lord’s side without complaining about the hardships and sacrifices me must make for the gospel’s sake. Would you like to trade places with the Willey or Martin handcart companies? I don’t think they’d be complaining about the start time of church.

  14. Anon

    August 5, 2015

    Amen to Rozy and her comments about the handcart companies. I’m not negating the challenges of church attendance with children, no matter the hour it meets. The church always stretches us – into Godhood if we choose.
    I continue to be awe struck that out of the billions of people on the earth, I’m privileged to belong to the Savior’s church; to have the sacred honor of making eternal covenants; to really, really know that God is my Heavenly Father and who He and my Savior are.
    How dare I complain about whatever is asked of me?

  15. Amira

    August 5, 2015

    Sure, there are always harder things that almost anyone could be dealing with and we all have a lot to be grateful for. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard to get through three hours of church with a tired toddler and I don’t think it’s wrong for people to talk about that. It sounds to me like the people here who don’t like different church starting times are still going to church and that’s what really matters. I think there are times when people need to be able to talk about things that are hard for them. Doing that online, even if some see it as complaining, seems a pretty innocuous way to do that.

    • Emily M.

      August 5, 2015

      Thanks, Amira. I agree.

  16. Sandra

    August 5, 2015

    I’m with you. Afternoon church is not ideal. Especially with little kids- as a parent or a primary teacher. Amen. All praises be earlier church.

    Most of my last decade I’ve lived in areas where we don’t share a building and church stays fixed at an early slot. It is very, very good. 9:30 AM for life.

  17. Hildie

    August 5, 2015

    We have 1 pm church and I kind of like it. I don’t have any babies or toddlers so that’s not an issue. It’s really great to be able to tell my kids “no screens before church” and have a really nice long morning where everyone is playing and not on their phones or TV (we don’t do the whole day without TV like some families do. Half the day is just fine for us.) It’s also nice to have the whole morning to prepare for my Primary lesson. I never seem to get around to it when I have to do it during the week.

    The only bummer for me is that I don’t get an afternoon nap.

    10 am is the best time for church, if you ask me. With 11 am in second place. I HATE waking up early for church. I feel like it’s a total drag to have to get up early six out of seven days of the week. Give me one more day for sleep! It is the Day of Rest, after all.

  18. Dionne

    August 5, 2015

    First time commenting, but I had a good chuckle at your title because I’m moving later this month, and excited to have something I’ve missed since my childhood. I grew up in a district in northern Alberta, Canada, and church was at 10:00. It is the best time. 9:00 is second-best, I’ll grant you, but it doesn’t beat 10:00.

    I moved further south at 18 to attend university in a large city, where I met my husband and settled down, and haven’t had 10:00 church since.

    So lately I’ve been saying things like, “The gospel is just a little bit more true when you have ten o’clock church” and “I’ve waited 24 years for my husband to repent and take me someplace where there’s ten o’clock church” and “If more people knew how wonderful ten o’clock church was, they’d all be moving out of the jello belt (which extends into Canada, BTW) and dispersing themselves more evenly across the continent so they could have the blessings of ten o’ clock church.”

    Nine is just a bit too early. Eleven is a bit too late. Ten is Goldilocks time. 😉

    • Michelle

      August 5, 2015

      yes, yes, yes! We have had 9, 10, 11, and 1 o’clock church and my favorite with children is 10 o’clock.

  19. M2theh

    August 5, 2015

    My SIL has 9:00am church with sacrament last, and the next ward starts at 9:30 so all the families can be out of the building by the time the singles ward starts. Because of fairness, the singles ward has been assigned a nursery cupboard, even though they don’t have any children. They are always pulling the table and chairs out of the nursery because they don’t need them. Why they are using the nursery rooms is beyond me, as this is in a stake center and there are plenty of classrooms. My SIL says this is besides the fact that several buildings in the stake have less than 3 wards per building. And the singles ward will only take the 1:00 slot.

  20. E

    August 6, 2015

    When my children were younger 9 was best for us but now that they are teenagers, I prefer 11 am so that they can sleep in.

  21. Random

    August 6, 2015

    I like 9, but my husband and daughter have a rough time getting up that early. As my son is a teacher, I often take him and wait for the other two. I wonder sometimes if people wonder about our marital status, if my husband isn’t there? We split the building with a branch that has Sacrament last, so Primary is combined and it makes for an awfully crowded hallway sometimes. I don’t know if we will ever move off the 9 a..m. time — the branch has a rough time getting there at 10:20, so any earlier would be incredibly rough.

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