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Many shuls worldwide run combined weekday Mincha/Maariv services. How long before sunset do these services tend to start? Please specify a range, measured in "number of minutes". Also, please cite your sources, if any.

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This might be interesting sociological information to have, but I don't see how it is constructive from a Jewish Life & Learning perspective. (No downvote from me, though - yet.) Can you clarify what you're trying to get out of this question? – Seth J Feb 17 '12 at 18:55
    
@SethJ, I can't answer for unforgettableid, but if I were starting up a minyan, I'd be very interested to know the best practices for this scheduling consideration. Each minyan can pick its own scheduling rules by fiat or trial and error, but it would be cool to bring some data to the table. – Isaac Moses Feb 17 '12 at 19:18
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@IsaacMoses, that's a fair point, but wouldn't most people starting up a new Minyan have an idea already about what works and what doesn't, and wouldn't it primarily need to be tailored to the local community's patterns of behavior? – Seth J Feb 17 '12 at 19:28
    
@SethJ, I wanted to know how long before sunset I should arrive at a shul if I didn't know their scheduling practices. – unforgettableid Mar 28 '12 at 4:33

The proprietors of goDaven were kind enough to supply me, for the purposes of answering this question, with their table of 5,960 mincha and/or maariv services. I used a Perl script to extract 1,046 where weekday mincha both preceded maariv and was listed as a certain number of minutes before sunset, p'lag, tzes, or candle-lighting time. Because some times are sunset-based while others are e.g. p'lag-based, I find them too hard to reliably (and without bias toward one shita or another) summarize and instead will supply just the results for people to interpret as they deem appropriate. Note that ~ means "approximately". Note also that parsing user-submitted natural language is very hard to do accurately with an algorithm, and I make no warranty that the following faithfully represents the times in the original table from goDaven. It should be close, though.

ARGENTINA
    4 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~10 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets at sunset
AUSTRALIA
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets 18 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
    4 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 5 minutes before sunset
    3 minyanim meet at sunset
AUSTRIA
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 40 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 25 minutes after sunset
BELGIUM
    2 minyanim meet 15 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 30 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 40 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes before tzes
    1 minyan meets at tzes
BRAZIL
    3 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
CANADA
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets 14 minutes before plag
    3 minyanim meet 10 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets at plag
    2 minyanim meet at candle
    1 minyan meets 45 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
    9 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet ~15 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 14 minutes before sunset
    9 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~10 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 5 minutes before sunset
    7 minyanim meet at sunset
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 25 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 35 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 50 minutes after sunset
CHILE
    1 minyan meets at sunset
CHINA
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before sunset
COSTA RICA
    2 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
CZECH REPUBLIC
    1 minyan meets at sunset
ENGLAND
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before plag
    4 minyanim meet at plag
    1 minyan meets at candle
    1 minyan meets 60 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before sunset
    6 minyanim meet at sunset
FRANCE
    4 minyanim meet 20 minutes before plag
    5 minyanim meet 15 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets at plag
    4 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
    8 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before sunset
    7 minyanim meet at sunset
GERMANY
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before plag
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets at sunset
HONG KONG
    1 minyan meets at sunset
ISRAEL
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before candle
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before candle
    27 minyanim meet at candle
    1 minyan meets 5 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 60 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 40 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 35 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~30 minutes before sunset
    7 minyanim meet 30 minutes before sunset
    4 minyanim meet 25 minutes before sunset
    35 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 18 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet ~15 minutes before sunset
    36 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    24 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    3 minyanim meet 5 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 3 minutes before sunset
    21 minyanim meet at sunset
    1 minyan meets ~5 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets ~15 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets ~60 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets at tzes
ITALY
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes before sunset
MEXICO
    1 minyan meets 25 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 18 minutes before sunset
    3 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    3 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets at sunset
MOLDOVA
    1 minyan meets 18 minutes before sunset
PERU
    1 minyan meets at sunset
POLAND
    1 minyan meets at candle
    1 minyan meets ~15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
SOUTH AFRICA
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
SWITZERLAND
    2 minyanim meet at plag
THAILAND
    1 minyan meets at sunset
UK
    1 minyan meets 50 minutes after candle
UKRAINE
    2 minyanim meet at plag
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
URUGUAY
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before sunset
USA
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes before plag
    9 minyanim meet 15 minutes before plag
    3 minyanim meet 10 minutes before plag
    6 minyanim meet at plag
    2 minyanim meet 20 minutes before candle
    1 minyan meets 10 minutes before candle
    35 minyanim meet at candle
    2 minyanim meet 5 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 8 minutes after candle
    11 minyanim meet 10 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 12 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 20 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 30 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 50 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets 55 minutes after candle
    1 minyan meets ~60 minutes after candle
    2 minyanim meet 60 minutes after candle
    5 minyanim meet 30 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~30 minutes before sunset
    4 minyanim meet 25 minutes before sunset
    67 minyanim meet 20 minutes before sunset
    10 minyanim meet ~20 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~18 minutes before sunset
    3 minyanim meet 18 minutes before sunset
    16 minyanim meet ~15 minutes before sunset
    180 minyanim meet 15 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 14 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~13 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 12 minutes before sunset
    172 minyanim meet 10 minutes before sunset
    10 minyanim meet ~10 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 9 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets 8 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 7 minutes before sunset
    16 minyanim meet 5 minutes before sunset
    1 minyan meets ~4 minutes before sunset
    2 minyanim meet 3 minutes before sunset
    59 minyanim meet at sunset
    3 minyanim meet 5 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 10 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets ~10 minutes after sunset
    4 minyanim meet 15 minutes after sunset
    8 minyanim meet 20 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 25 minutes after sunset
    9 minyanim meet 30 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets ~30 minutes after sunset
    7 minyanim meet 35 minutes after sunset
    14 minyanim meet 40 minutes after sunset
    8 minyanim meet 45 minutes after sunset
    4 minyanim meet 50 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 55 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 60 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 63 minutes after sunset
    2 minyanim meet 72 minutes after sunset
    1 minyan meets 15 minutes before tzes
1046 minyanim total
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In my local Shul they start Mincha at least 10 minutes earlier than that weeks earliest sunset rounded off to the 5 minutes. For example if the earliest weekly sunset is 5:33 they will start all week at 5:20

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Isaac Moses, you inspired me. I've now done a Google search for [ mincha | minchah maariv minutes before sunset ]. Based on some of the first ten search results:

  • MIT's Hillel Orthodox minyan, Cambridge, MA: 15 min. before sunset.
  • Anshei Minsk Congregation, Toronto, Canada: 15 min. before sunset.
  • Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, Wynnewood, PA: 20 min. before sunset.
  • Congregation Shaarei Tefila, Los Angeles, CA: 10 min. before sunset.
  • Beth Jacob Congregation, Oakland, CA: 25 min. before sunset during DST.[Source.]

So I conclude that average shuls in North America tend to start their combined weekday mincha/maariv services between 10 and 25 minutes before sunset.

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Yeshiva University's last mincha minyan is 15 minutes before the earlist shkia of the week rounded to the 5 minute mark before. So if the earlist shkia of the week is 7:44, mincha will be at 7:25. When I lived there, most of the synagogues in Highland Park, NJ & Edison had mincha/maariv at 15 minutes before shkia. Likely, some rounded to the nearest five minutes, and some didn't.

If I wanted to go to an unfamiliar shul that I expected to have a minyan somewhat before shkia (as opposed to say a chassidic shul that davens mincha after shkia), I'd aim to arrive 20 or 25 minutes before shkia because I'd rather wait a couple of minutes in most cases than miss the beginning, particularly for mincha.

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