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Most US Evangelical Churches Plan to Offer Several Christmas Events

By Marissa Sullivan
lakepointe church christmas candlelight service
On December 24, 2022, congregants participate in a candlelight service at Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Tex. (Photo: Facebook)

Churches are offering Christmas events and activities beyond weekly worship services this Christmas season, which will make many churchgoers happy.

On average, pastors are planning four events or activities to help their churches celebrate Christmas this year, according to a Lifeway Research study. A Christmas Eve service tops the list, with 4 in 5 pastors (81%) planning to offer such a service this year in addition to weekly worship services. Most churches are also planning to offer a Christmas service project (66%) and a Christmas event or party for children or youth (65%).

Half of pastors plan to have a Christmas children’s musical or drama (49%). Around 2 in 5 plan on having a Christmas Day service (41%), Christmas concert (39%) or Christmas musical or drama (38%). Another 1 in 10 say they are planning to offer a live nativity (10%) or planning something else (10%). Few say they do not plan to have any additional events beyond weekly worship services (2%) or aren’t sure (1%).

“In recent years many churches have trimmed the number of programs they have during the week. But Christmas celebrations still fill the calendar for the typical church,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Most churches plan Christmas events for all ages and create experiences that go beyond worship services.”

Churchgoers say they enjoy going to an average of four church-led Christmas events from a list of potential events. Most say they greatly enjoy listening to a choir singing Christmas songs or a concert (60%), listening to congregational singing of Christmas songs (59%), participating in singing Christmas songs (57%), seeing children singing or in a drama for Christmas (57%) or participating in a Christmas service project (52%).

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christmas services

Two in 5 churchgoers say they greatly enjoy seeing a live nativity (40%) and participating in Christmas parties among members (38%). Another 35% say they enjoy lighting Advent candles, while 3% don’t greatly enjoy any of these things, and 1% aren’t sure.

“Some churchgoers may attend a church that doesn’t offer Christmas events they have enjoyed a lot in the past,” McConnell said. “So, they may participate in activities at neighboring churches as they celebrate Christmas.”

christmas services

Which churches are planning what?

Pastors of the smallest churches, those with fewer than 50 in attendance, are least likely to say they are offering a Christmas concert (27%), a musical or drama (28%), a children’s musical or drama (31%), a Christmas event or party for youth or children (46%) or a Christmas service project (56%).

Additionally, pastors of the oldest churches, those started prior to 1900, are more likely than the newest churches, those started between 2000 and 2023, to have a Christmas concert (42% v. 29%). Pastors at churches started before 1900 (74%) and between 1900 and 1949 (68%) are more likely than those at the newest churches (53%) to offer a Christmas service project. Pastors of the oldest churches are also the most likely to plan a Christmas Eve service (89%).

However, the oldest pastors, those 65 and older, are the least likely to say their church is planning a Christmas event or party for children or youth (55%) or a Christmas Eve service (74%).

“The smallest churches are much less likely to offer Christmas activities that require a lot of people to produce because they just don’t have those people,” McConnell said. “But small churches are just as likely as larger ones to offer a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service.”

Denominationally, Methodist pastors are the most likely to say they are planning a Christmas concert (53%). Lutheran pastors are the most likely to say they will offer a children’s musical or drama (70%) and a Christmas Day service (71%). Restorationist movement churches are the least likely to offer a Christmas Eve service (52%).

While Hispanic pastors are among the most likely to say their church will offer a live nativity (21%), African American pastors are the least likely to say they will be having a Christmas Eve service (46%). And mainline pastors are more likely than evangelical pastors to say they are having a Christmas Day service (48% v. 41%).

Churchgoer enjoyment

Females are more likely than male churchgoers to say they enjoy singing Christmas songs (61% v. 52%), listening to a choir singing Christmas songs or a concert (64% v. 55%), seeing children singing or in a drama for Christmas (62% v. 51%), lighting Advent candles (37% v. 31%), participating in a Christmas service project (59% v. 43%) and seeing a live nativity (46% v. 32%).

Churchgoers aged 50-64 (62%) and 65 and older (66%) are more likely than those 18-34 (45%) and 35-49 (43%) to say they greatly enjoy singing Christmas songs. Similarly, the oldest churchgoers are the most likely and the youngest churchgoers are the least likely to say they enjoy listening to congregational Christmas singing (71% and 38%). Churchgoers aged 50-64 (63%) and 65 and older (67%) are more likely than those 18-34 (50%) and 35-49 (50%) to say they greatly enjoy listening to a choir or concert. And churchgoers aged 50-64 (63%) and 65 and older (61%) are more likely than those 18-34 (50%) and 35-49 (47%) to say they greatly enjoy seeing children singing or in a drama for Christmas. However, the youngest adult churchgoers, those 18-34, are more likely than the oldest, those 65 and older, to enjoy participating in Christmas parties among members (45% v. 33%).

“Much like some radio stations, many churches spend several weeks each year singing Christmas songs. But the enjoyment of these songs in churches is not uniform, with far fewer young adults enjoying this custom,” McConnell said.

hymn joy church sing worship
(Photo: David Beale / Unsplash)

Churchgoers who attend worship services at least four times a month are more likely than those who attend one to three times a month to say they greatly enjoy singing Christmas songs (62% v. 50%) and listening to congregational singing of Christmas songs (63% v. 54%).

Additionally, churchgoers with evangelical beliefs are more likely than those without to enjoy singing Christmas songs (62% v. 51%), listening to congregational singing (65% v. 53%), seeing children sing or perform a Christmas drama (63% v. 51%), participating in service projects (56% v. 47%) and seeing a live nativity (44% v. 35%).

Meanwhile, those in the largest churches, 250-499 (59%) and 500 or more (59%) are more likely than those in the smallest churches, fewer than 50 (46%) and 50-99 (48%), to say they greatly enjoy participating in Christmas service projects. Similarly, those attending churches with worship attendance of 250-499 (49%) are more likely than those with fewer than 50 (38%), 50-99 (37%) or 100-249 (39%) to say they enjoy live nativities.

Marissa Postell Sullivan is the managing editor for Lifeway Research.

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5 Responses

  1. Is anyone interested in what Eastern Orthodox and other non-Protestants are doing for the Nativity of our Lord?

    What are Protestant churches doing for Epiphany (the Baptism of Christ) on January 6 and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on February 2?

  2. It would be helphful to know what projects churches are doing at Christmas. Our church does the Samaritains Purse’s Christmas Child, two banquets with gifts for challenged children and their families, and other class projects.

    1. I stopped doing Operation Christmas Child over 7 years ago when Franklin Graham jumped the shark for all his adulation and genuflection of Putin and Trump.

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