Why I Insist Every Event Has An Ending Time

When gathering information on events to be printed in the church worship folder, posted on the website, etc. I insist that I’m given both a STARTING and ENDING time. I do this for several good reasons.

  1. It helps set expectations for the people that are attending – Is this a 15 minute meeting or a 8 hour seminar? People are going to plan differently for one vs the other.
  2. It shows you are expecting new people – Just as we avoid using “insider language” to avoid confusing our guests, you may know that (fill in the blank) ______ is an hour and half, but somebody new to church and looking to get involved does not. Help people get involved by helping them know what to expect.
  3. Online Calendars need an end time – If you plan on using an online calendar on your website (and you should), 99% of the time you need to specify an ending time in order to upload the event.
  4. It helps parents with young children – This is especially true of families with young children. Often, only one spouse will attend the event. In my case, when my wife attends a Women’s event, as a dad I want to know is this a “Barney episode” event, “Disney Movie” length event, or do I need to plan on a McDonald’s run, because the event ran over a meal time.
  5. People have a life before and after your event – Believe it or not, your event is not the only “event” people have planned in their day. Having clear start and end times helps them plan and coordinate their other God given priorities and commitments.
  6. Volunteers want to know what they are signing up for – If your event needs volunteers, typically they need to show up earlier and stay later. People want to know what they are getting themselves into.
  7. It holds your leaders accountable – A well planned event should be well organized and have a built in time-cushion. Guest speakers rarely stop at their all allotted time. PLAN ON IT. Know in advance which songs you can cut…or cut short. The “time-expansion” of events, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Having printed end-times, is all about setting and managing expectations. If you say you can do a job in an hour and it takes you an hour and a half, I’m upset. If you say you can do it in two hours and you do it in an hour and a half I’m thrilled. The time is the same…it’s my expectations that are different. Disneyland mastered this  years ago with their “Wait Time” signs. If it says 45 minutes from this point, you know it’s going to be a long wait, but you’re choosing to stand in the line. You know ahead of time. But please take note…it’s never actually 45 minutes. It’s always faster.

But what if your church events always run late?

I don’t think church leaders recognize how big of a problem chronic “lateness” is…or what it communicates to your congregation. (You can read more about my thoughts here.) The long term “fix” is to add “ending on time” to your list of ministry success factors. Track it. Hold your leaders accountable. Make ending on time part of your ministry culture. 

In the meantime, don’t eliminate the ending times…CHANGE THEM. If you always run 5-10 minutes over, change the ending time by 15 minutes. No one minds ending early!

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