Churches Divided on Whether to Cancel Services Christmas Sunday

(Photo: Reuters/Darren Staples)Visitors look around the Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary's Parish Church in Melton Mowbray, Britain, December 5, 2016.

This year Christmas will fall on a Sunday. As a result, many churches in the United States are adjusting their usual schedule of worship and others are even opting to not hold services at all.

The debate is not a new one, back in 2005 Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, opted not to hold a service on Christmas Day and instead handed out a DVD for families to watch together at home. 

But this year, like 2011, will be different, says Willow Creek Community Church Executive Pastor Heather Larson.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Larson explained that this year not only will there be several Christmas Eve services but also one Christmas Day service.

"We have nine services leading up to Christmas, and will also hold a service on Christmas Day at 10 a.m. The last time that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday [in 2011], Senior Pastor Bill Hybels and his family led a wonderful service," explained Larson.

"This year, on Dec. 25, Teaching Pastor Steve Carter and I will be leading with our families. It will be a great Christmas service for all."

(Photo: Courtesy of Willow Creek Church)Volunteers at Willow Creek Community Church of South Barrington, Illinois, hold up care packages made for prisoners for Christmas, December 6, 2015.

Larson said each year "we evaluate the best service schedule to serve the people in our church and in our community."

"Our services, dates and times vary as the calendar varies. It's a true celebration of our Lord's birth and that is our focus every year," added Larson.

Other evangelical megachurches, however, will not have services on Christmas Sunday. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, led by Pastor Andy Stanley, will not hold any services on Christmas Day.

In the past, North Point Community Church has been known to also cancel Sunday services on years when Christmas fell on a Saturday.

"The Sunday between Christmas and New Year's just gives us a great opportunity to say thank you, prioritize your family, enjoy a week off," said Bill Willits, executive director of ministry environments at North Point Ministries in an interview with CP in 2010.

Expand | Collapse
(Photo: The Christian Post)Immanuel Bible Church of Springfield, Virginia.

Like Willow Creek, Immanuel Bible Church of Springfield, Virginia, will be holding only one worship service on Christmas Sunday.

Steve Holley, pastor of ministries for the Virginia megachurch, told CP that the Sunday service "will be the same music and message as the Christmas Eve music and message."

"We will not be having any children's Sunday school or adult Bible fellowships. We have found over the years that trying to cobble together children's ministry on Christmas Day is difficult in light of families traveling away for Christmas," said Holley.

"We have always held a service on Christmas Sundays unless we are completely snowed out. Many times we will cancel our first two Sunday morning services due to inclement weather and at least try having one service at 11."

When asked by CP about his opinion regarding churches that cancel their services for Christmas Sunday, Holley responded by saying they "are encouraged in Hebrews 10:24-25 not to forsake assembling together."

"I personally think that it is the church's responsibility to meet, to worship, and to encourage each other," said Holley.

"I also find it difficult to support any claim of inconvenience in worshiping on Christmas Day when there are Christians all over the world suffering persecution who would welcome both the comfort and freedom that churches like ours have in the U.S."

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook