The overwhelming majority of Protestant churches will be open for services on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day this year, both of which fall on a Sunday, according to a new Lifeway Research survey.
The poll of Protestant pastors found that 84 percent of churches plan on opening for services on Christmas Day, and 85 percent plan on being opened on New Year’s Day. More than 7 in 10 (71 percent) say their churches will be open on Christmas Eve, and 21 percent on New Year’s Eve.
On average, Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on a Sunday once every seven years.
“Families have many traditions on Christmas morning, and most pastors acknowledge not as many of their members will be present compared to Christmas Eve and services earlier in the month,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “However, churches not holding services on Christmas Day are still the exception.”
The numbers are little changed from a 2016 survey, when 89 percent of pastors said their churches would hold services on Christmas Day, and 85 percent said the same about New Year’s Day.
“Only 6 percent of Protestant churches will skip both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day services, likely including traditions that don’t meet on Sundays,” McConnell said. “Churches that do not meet when these holidays land on Sunday often say it’s for staff and members to spend time with their families. But few want to disrupt the churchgoing rhythm by missing two weeks in a row.”
Meanwhile, 48 percent of pastors say the Christmas Eve service is their highest-attended Christmas event, with only 7 percent saying that about Christmas Day. One-fourth (26 percent) say “an event the third week of December” is their highest-attended Christmas event.
Christmas Eve services are more prominent among Lutherans (95 percent), Methodists (91 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (84 percent) than non-denominational pastors (64 percent), Baptists (60 percent) and Pentecostals (45 percent).
The poll surveyed 1,000 Protestant pastors.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Winyuu
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.