Would Most American Churchgoers Skip Service to Watch Favorite NFL Team?

football survey

In the midst of the NFL playoffs, some churchgoers might find themselves in a quandary over whether to skip a worship service or watch their favorite football team still in the hunt, but a recently released survey shows that most churchgoers would rather attend worship service.

In a recent LifeWay Research study of a random sample of 2,000 Americans, with the survey conducted only on those who are Christians and attend religious service, more than 8 in 10 (83 percent) of the faithful disagree with the statement: "I would skip a weekly worship service in order to watch my favorite football team."

The survey of 994 churchgoers also showed that nearly 7 in 10 (68 percent) strongly disagree. Only about 1 in 7 churchgoers (15 percent) say they'd skip church in order to watch their favorite football team.

"Most churchgoers put divine revelation ahead of division rivalries," says Scott McConnell, vice-president of LifeWay Research.

However, local teams doing well and the playoffs do play a factor on church attendance and the "acceptance factor" of missing worship service.

When asked for a comment on the survey results by The Christian Post, former NFL player Derwin L. Gray, who is the founding and lead Pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina, said that although it's "not OK" to miss church service, skipping a worship service for your team that's "doing well as in going to the playoffs or in the playoffs" happens.

"At our church, when Panthers have a home game our attendance drops 10-12 percent," said Gray, but adds, "What I'm saying is participating and worshiping Jesus in a Sunday service is more important than going to a game."

The LifeWay's Facts & Trends article on this survey notes that two years ago, Daniel Espy, pastor of The Bridge Church in Snohomish, Washington, hosted a special 8 a.m. service "in order to accommodate Seahawks fans, whose team had experienced a revival after years of struggling."

"The early service started as a joke on the church's Facebook page," Smietana wrote. "Espy joked that all churches in Seattle should hold early services, so fans could worship and then watch a playoff game. The idea took off and eventually landed the church on the front page of the local newspaper."

The Bridge currently has two services, "making it easier for church members to worship before games." However, Espy says attendance goes down when the Seahawks have an early game.
"Attendance can swing about 30 to 40 percent, depending on kickoff," Espy told LifeWay.

LifeWay Research found football fans in the West (22 percent) are more willing to skip church than those in South (13 percent) or Northeast (13 percent.)

About 1 in 4 church-going men (22 percent) say they'd skip church to watch football. That drops to 1 in 10 for women churchgoers. Catholic football fans (20 percent) are more willing to skip church than evangelicals (12 percent).

The phone survey of 2,000 Americans was conducted Sept. 19 to Oct. 5, 2014. The calling list utilized Random Digit Dialing. Sixty percent of completes were among landlines and 40 percent among cell phones. Maximum quotas and slight weights were used for gender, region, age, ethnicity, and education to more accurately reflect the population. Responders were screened to only include those whose religious preference is Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Non-denominational Christian who attend a religious service on religious holidays or more often. The completed sample is 994 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.5 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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