Half of US Protestant Pastors Say Christmas Eve Services See the Highest Attendance of the Holiday Season

A new Lifeway Research study found that half of U.S. Protestant pastors say a Christmas Eve service is their church’s largest event of the holiday season.

According to the survey, 48 percent of Protestant pastors said attendance rises in the church leading up to Christmas Eve but then tapers off in the new year.

“Christians have many different Christmas traditions, and so do their churches,” said Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell. “Family and church traditions are most likely to coincide for Christmas Eve services, but many evangelical churches see the highest holiday attendance earlier in December.”

John Dobbs, the pastor of the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana, said it’s a stark difference to previous years when at another church, he had to take down a Christmas wreath from the front door of the church building when some members objected to the decorations.

He says their Christmas Eve services have grown so much that they’ve added a Christmas Eve children’s event.

“Since it involves very young children, it’s a fun production of songs and readings that center on the birth of Christ,” Dobbs said. “We had a large number of grandparents, parents and various family members who came last year to see the children participate.”

Christmas Eve is the most popular service, with only 7 percent of pastors saying Christmas Day services draw the largest crowds. Just 5 percent said the same of the first week of January.

At Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Mississippi, senior pastor Rob Armstrong said the most attended services are within the first two weeks of December as the Christmas season begins.

“Excitement about the Christmas season feeds into the higher attendance in the first few weeks of the month,” he said.

In 2012, a Lifeway Research study found that Christmas services had the second highest attendance behind Easter.

The survey also found:

  • Mainline pastors are more likely than evangelical pastors to say their most attended service is Christmas Eve.
  • Evangelical pastors are more likely than mainline pastors to say the event with the highest attendance is during the third week of December.

Photo courtesy: ©Andreas Kretschmer/Unsplash

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

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