Recommended

More mainline than Evangelical pastors say Christmas Eve service brings highest attendance: poll

Candlelight service, Christmas Eve,
Getty Images

Nearly half of Protestant pastors say that Christmas Eve is the most attended Christmas event at their church while a significant number of pastors draw bigger crowds at events taking place earlier in December, according to a new poll. 

Lifeway Research released the results of a poll asking 1,000 Protestant pastors in the United States about attendance at Christmas events hosted by their church. The survey, conducted from Sept. 6–30, found a plurality of respondents (48%) identifying Christmas Eve services as the “most attended Christmas event” at their church. Participants in the survey included either the senior or sole pastor at a church or a minister serving there. 

On the other hand, just 7% of pastors surveyed cited Christmas Day services as their church’s “most attended Christmas event.” Twenty-six percent of pastors pointed to a Christmas-related event taking place in the third week of December as the most popular gathering at their church, followed by 10% who listed an event taking place in the second week of December. Six percent reported the highest level of attendance at an event in the first week of December or earlier, and 5% said their church’s most popular Christmas event occurs in the first week of January. 

The survey examined differences in pastors’ responses to Christmas-related events at their church based on the region of the country they reside in, the denomination they belong to, the average attendance of their church as well as the pastor’s age, ethnicity, gender and level of educational attainment. 

Eighty-four percent of Lutheran pastors said Christmas Eve services are the most attended Christmas event at their church. 

By contrast, just 7% of Lutheran pastors listed an event occurring in the third week of December as the most well-attended Christmas event at their church. Substantial shares of Pentecostal pastors (45%), pastors affiliated with the Church of Christ (37%) and Baptist pastors (35%) cited such events as the best-attended Christmas gatherings at their churches. 

Sixty percent of mainline pastors told pollsters that Christmas Eve services were the most-attended Christmas events at their church, compared to 44% of their Evangelical counterparts. Thirty percent of Evangelical pastors selected an “event the third week of December” as their church’s most-attended Christmas event, while just 17% of mainline pastors did the same. 

Similarly, 30% of pastors based in the South reported the highest attendance at an event in the third week of December, while pastors based in the Northeast (19%) and Midwest (12%) as well as those leading churches with less than 50 people (19%) were less likely to do so. With only 39% of pastors living in the South pointing to Christmas Eve services as their church’s most-attended Christmas-related event, pastors in this region were the least likely to have the highest level of attendance at such services.

Younger pastors were slightly more likely than their older peers to select Christmas Eve services as their church’s most-attended event. Fifty-three percent of pastors between the ages of 18 and 44 identified Christmas Eve as the most significant event at their church as opposed to 44% of pastors aged 55-64. Christmas Eve services were also identified as their church’s main Christmas event by majorities of white pastors (51%) as well as those with a master’s degree (58%). 

Additionally, Christmas Eve services were more frequently cited as the main Christmas event by female pastors (55%) than male pastors (46%). Fifty-three percent of pastors of churches with between zero and 49 members selected Christmas Eve services as the most popular event at their church, compared to 44% of pastors leading churches with between 100 and 249 attendees.

Twenty-one percent of pastors affiliated with the Church of Christ selected an event taking place in the first week in January as the most attended Christmas event at their church, making the denomination the most likely to select an event taking place after Christmas as the biggest gathering at their church. 

Although sizable shares of Pentecostal (18%) and Baptist pastors (15%) pointed to an event in the second week of December as their church’s biggest Christmastime attendance generator, larger proportions of pastors affiliated with the aforementioned denominations listed events taking place in the third week of December as the most attended Christmas-related gathering at their church. 

Scott McConnell, the executive director of Lifeway Research, addressed the results of the survey in a statement. “Christians have many different Christmas traditions and so do their churches,” he said. “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.”

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In Church & Ministries