Easter among highest attendance days for churches: survey

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Easter Sunday is one of the highest attended Sundays for the vast majority of churches in the United States, according to a newly released report.

The report, released Tuesday by Lifeway Research, found that 90% of surveyed Protestant pastors listed Easter as either the most attended Sunday, or the second or third most attended Sunday.

Broken down, 52% of pastors said that Easter was their highest attended Sunday worship, while 30% ranked it as the second most attended, and 8% ranked it as the third most.

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By comparison, 81% of pastors surveyed said Christmas was their highest, second highest, or third highest attended worship, and 51% identified Mother’s Day in the same manner.

The data for the report came from a phone survey of 1,004 Protestant pastors conducted Aug. 29 – Sept. 20, 2023, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

“While many churches consider high attendance as something from their pre-pandemic past, seasonal changes have resumed,” said Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell, as quoted in the report.

“Church attendance is predictable again with periods of consistency in the fall and early spring, as well as holiday crowds at Christmas and Easter.”

These percentages do represent a slight decline compared to 2011, when 93% said Easter was one of their highest attended worship days, 84% said Christmas, and 59% said Mother’s Day.

Sundays in which members who expressly asked to invite a friend to worship, by contrast, has been on the rise in ranking as one of the highest attended days, going from 14% in 2011 to 20% in 2023.

Additionally, 18% of pastors ranked Sundays in which a church celebrates a homecoming or an anniversary of its founding as being the most, second most, or third most attended worship day.

Lifeway Research’s report comes as many have noted a rise in the number of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated and do not attend worship services at all in a given year.

Earlier this month, Gallup reported that 30% of Americans said they attend religious services on a weekly basis or nearly every week, while 11% reported attending about once a month, 25% reported attending “seldom,” and 31% said they “never” go to services.

This marks a decline from the early 2010s, when Gallup found that 38% of Americans attended weekly or almost weekly, and from the early 2000s, when 42% of Americans attended weekly or almost weekly.

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