Christmas Day services will go on, pastors say
A LifeWay Research study of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that 91 percent of Protestant pastors plan to have services on Christmas Day while 69 percent said they plan to host Christmas Eve services.
"Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years," Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said.
"Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn't mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective," Stetzer said.
According to a LifeWay Research report from December 2010, 74 percent of Americans agree strongly or somewhat that "Christmas is primarily a day for religious celebration and observance," yet 67 percent of all Americans also agree that, "Many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ."
"Churches see these conflicting values, and we wanted to know how many churches plan to conduct services on [Christmas] day -- since that is also such a family day, particularly the morning," Stetzer said.
Pastors were asked, "Christmas and New Year's Day both fall on Sunday this year. As a result, does your church plan to have services on the following days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day?"
Six percent of Protestant churches surveyed plan to have a Christmas Eve service but no service on Christmas Day. Twenty-eight percent plan to have a Christmas Day service but no service on Christmas Eve. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) plan to host both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services.
Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62 percent) to host a Christmas Eve service compared to other regions. Fulltime (71 percent) and part-time (74 percent) pastors are more likely to be planning a Christmas Eve service than bivocational or volunteer (53 percent) pastors. Pastors identifying themselves as mainline (87 percent) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as evangelical (70 percent).
Nearly as many Protestant pastors plan to host services on New Year's Day (88 percent) as Christmas Day (91 percent). Far fewer are planning New Year's Eve services. By comparison, only 26 percent said they were planning for their church to host a Dec. 31 meeting.
The telephone survey was conducted in May, and the calling list was randomly drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called.
Chris Turner writes for LifeWay Research. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).