When you visit either of the Southlake Wards, you might find some aspects of our worship service to be a little different than what you are used to at other churches. You can get a fuller idea of what to expect when attending our services on our “What to Expect” page… but here is a short list of some of the major differences that might stand out when you visit us for the first time:
When you attend a Mormon Church service, one of the first things you’ll notice is the relatively small congregation. The church has over 15 million members worldwide, but instead of meeting in giant arenas or auditoriums, we prefer smaller, family-like congregations (called “wards”). Southlake has two wards, each with about 100 to 150 members in attendance. This allows members to get to know one another, and provides opportunities for everyone to serve and participate.
While Mormons have no objection many forms of modern music, we prefer to stick to more traditional and reverent music in our worship services. Sacrament meetings always feature 3 congregational hymns (opening, closing, and pre-Sacrament) that are led by a chorister and accompanied by an organ or piano. A fourth musical number is also usually included, and can either be another congregational hymn, a performance by a ward choir, or a small group performance, by invitation. Participation in congregational hymns is encouraged but not required.
On a related note, Mormon churches also do not have coffee shops, gift shops, restaurants, lounges, or video game centers. We also do not make videos of our services that can be watched online on demand (with the exception of twice annual General Conferences). There is no child care available during our Sacrament meetings (we encourage families to worship together), but there is a nursery for children 18 months to 3 years during our 2nd and 3rd hour meetings.
The leadership of each ward is provided on a volunteer basis on the local level. The highest ranking ward-level leader is the bishop; he is called to serve on a volunteer, unpaid basis for a period of usually about 5 years. He is responsible for extending callings to other ward members to teach classes, lead auxiliary groups (children, youth, men, women), and administer the affairs of the ward.
The bishop (and his counselors) also call on members of the ward each week to give talks in church. On a given Sunday, there will usually be two youth speakers and two adults speakers. The talks are generally 5 to 15 minutes in duration, and are focused on gospel topics assigned by the bishop. There are no paid, professional speakers; there are no multi-week themed sermons; there are no rousing motivational speeches. The intent of our format is to give members an opportunity to participate and share their unique perspectives and experiences. Together, we form a body of Christ that serves, encourages, and teaches each other.
There will be no “passing of the plate” or other overt solicitations for donations when you attend church with us. We do believe in the principle of tithing (donating 10% of income) and fast offerings (donations intended for less fortunate people), but they handled in a discreet manner—either via online donations, or envelopes that are handed directly to a member of the bishopric. If you attend our church regularly and desire to become a baptized member, then the missionaries will teach you about tithing and fast offerings and instruct you how to participate.
Another thing you’ll immediately notice when attending either of the Southlake Wards in the Mormon Church is our 3-hour block of meetings. Each block consists of a 75-minute Sacrament meeting, a 50-minute Sunday School meeting, and 50-minute split class where members meet in age- and gender-specific classes. While this may seem extreme to some who are used to church services that last about an hour, we feel it is a critical building block of fellowship and discipleship. We are strong believers in the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy; and as such, dedicating a block of time to worship and learning is consistent with that objective. If you visit, you are not obligated to stay for all three hours—we welcome you for however long you want to stay!