Is this where Protestantism is headed in the United States?

A recently released LifeWay Research report indicates that 10% of Protestant pastors did not plan to hold services on Christmas Day.  Commenting upon this finding, the President of LifeWay Research, Ed Stetzer, said:

Having church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday seems as if it would be as much of a given as having Thanksgiving on a Thursday, but this has been an issue of discussion and contention in recent years.  Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn’t mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective.


The data are worth contemplating:

  • 6% of Protestant churches planned to have a Christmas Eve service, but no service on Christmas Day.  28% planned to have service on Christmas Day, but no service on Christmas Eve.  63% planned to hold services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Compared to other regions of the nation, Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62%) to hold Christmas Eve services.
  • Full-time (71%) and part-time (74%) pastors are more likely to be planning a Christmas Eve service than bivocational or volunteer (53%) pastors.  Pastors identifying themselves as “mainline” (87%) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as Evangelical (70%).
  • Nearly as many Protestant pastors plan to host services on New Year’s Day (88%) as Christmas Day (91%).  26% are planning for their church to hold services on New Year’s Eve.
  • 74% of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that “Christmas is primarily a day for religious celebration and observance.”  But, 67% agree that, “Many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.”


Is this snapshot in time an anomaly or does it portend what will become a trend?  What may be going on here?

The Motley Monk offers two interpretations:

  1. Secularism: “Christmas” has become “Giftmas.”  Electronic devices, snacks, and food provide the glue binding families together   Having everything we want, who needs the Incarnation?
  2. Me and My God – We’re fine with each other:  Like it or not, the liturgies planned for the “domestic church” are far more meaningful to many people today.  Celebrating the Christmas and Easter liturgies as well as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving Day liturgies at home builds up the domestic church.  And don’t forget the mega-liturgy of Super Bowl Sunday!  Requiring attendance at church on a family day is nothing but a man-made legalism, forcing people to focus upon an institution and contributing big collections than it is about authentic worship of God.


Where these two ideas hold sway, it makes sense that pastors would limit the number of worship services.  After all, many have families of their own!

But, as this idea takes root in a congregation, it is likely to become engrained as an attitude in young people.  In a generation or two, public worship on Christmas Day (and Easter Sunday) becomes an artifact of a quaint but bygone era.


Golfing is a form of worship as is community service


These results reveal nothing new to The Motley Monk.  It’s an attitude held by many of his European friends who identify themselves as Christian.  For them, celebrating Christmas and Easter are important family liturgies that do not require attending church services.  These friends assert that “spirituality” is a very important part of their lives but is entirely unrelated to belonging to or practicing any institutional form of religion.

The Motley Monk respectfully disagrees.  This attitude slowly erodes families and society of the important moral values that religion and religious practices inculcate.

How long will it before Festivus replaces Christmas so that no one will be offended?



Let the discussion begin…



To read the LifeWay article, click on the following link:

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The Motley Monk

The Motley Monk is Fr. Richard Jacobs, O.S.A., a Professor of Public Administration at Villanova University. His academic specialities include: organizational theory; leadership ethics; Catholic educational leadership; and, U.S. Catholic educational history. Check out Fr. Jacobs' daily blog at http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html.


  1. I have family members who attend one of the mega-Church rock-n-roll Bible schools here in the Detroit area, and they went to Christmas service on Thursday. I don’t believe their place of “me-ship” held Christmas day services.

    So much for “keeping holy the Lord’s Day”…

    Once, one of them told me that Christmas is “all about the family”. I beg to differ. To them, it seems Christmas has become “don’t inconvenience me and my family”.

  2. TV and internet buying and the contradictory Anonymous Social Circles of the social media are puching us more and more and more toward isolation. Public worship requires the sacrifice and discomfort of rubbing shoulders aand off-key singing – but also puts us in touch with the elderly, the young family, the single, the widowed and divorced, challenging our human isolation as well as the challenge of the Gospel, Paul’s letters and the homily. Droppping Sunday worship except for natural dsasters drives more into private non-liturgical rituals and to the prison of the addictive prison of the fake interaction with nameless atavars and “cuddlybear” and “Iamnotreal” and other lonely heart club subscribers!” When Protestantsim dropped weekly COMMUNION for 30 minute essays back there for too many congregations, why bother with church, we can read the Bible at home! was the next step.

  3. It’s interesting that yesterday may have been the Sunday with the lowest attendance at Protestant services and the highest at Catholic Mass.

    I didn’t even notice that my Protestant friends didn’t attend service on Christmas until you mentioned it. I think a major factor is that Protestant services aren’t interchangeable. A Catholic away from home, finds the nearest Catholic church. A Protestant away from home thinks, “I can’t go to church.” With so many Americans away for the holidays, there’s nobody to fill the pews. Then there’s the whole holy day of obligation aspect. Honestly, when I’m hungover or it’s cold and raining, not having to go to confession for skipping Mass does provide an extra push.

  4. A few factors to consider: Despite the growth of mega-churches, most Protestant churches are still small compared to Catholic parishes. They are unlikely to have both a Christmas eve and a Christmas day service. For Protestant churches with a liturgical tradition, people will be drawn to the symbolism of the event and thus are probably more likely to choose Christmas eve. Non-liturgical Protestant churches almost universally steer away from evening services. It was unheard of in the Baptist circles I grew up in.

    Also, for many Protestants, especially non-liturgical, church is no more than a place for fellowship and learning. Thus, it can be done on any day and if family events interfere with church, so be it. Not surprisingly, Christmas is going to be one of those busy times.

  5. This is all an attack on traditional values, in exchange for society’s promotion of political correctness. Yuk! This does the same or worse as when prayer was removed from the public schools. The secularists are trying to remove any mention of God and moral truths from the public sphere. These people who only believe in spirituality but not a formal religion do this so they can form their own version of religion in order to fill their selfish whims, wants, and perceived needs. Moral relativism run amok…

  6. I had read earlier that this would happen but I never thought it would happen here, in our beloved Kenya. But I was shocked, as I down Downtown to my Parish – The Holy Family Minor Basilica in the Centre of Nairobi City – the Seat of the Head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, His Eminence, John Cardinal Njue. We drive past the most popular and the main Pentecostal Church in this country. Usually, that area becomes a “drive very, very carefully zone” on Sundays. But on this Sunday – Christ’s Birthday Holy Day – there was no activity whatsoever in this Mega-Protestant Church. I was horrified. What kind of Christianity do these Pentecostal and Evangelical Denominations follow?

  7. This is a little tricky. I went to Mass on the vigil, and I would probably say yes to “many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.” Maybe “many” is too strong because a lot of Christmas folderol irritates me, and one could argue that there are no moments in the life of a Christian that have “nothing to do” with Jesus’s birth, but the survey statement strikes me as meaning “I like ham and trees”. Would I be interpreted as a secularist according to this analysis?

  8. Pinky: Our gift for this and all of life’s choives is discernment. Reality is that the CHURCH baptised the pagan Winter Solstice festivities. The world has replaced the JESUS event with the “tinselitis” . We can fuss-cuss that out as Puritanism did in the Colonies did and their descendants still do by condemning the commercialism. OR we can celebrate Advent with quiet waiting, “Mary-pondered in her heart” time and include the poor and lonely in our sharing and caring- and keep it up year-round. The world and its produce and gifts are GOOD since God made them. The discernment comes in deciding if we take time, energy and make some sacrifice to worship at home as individuals or families and on Sundays and holydays. Then the abundant food, gifts and celebrations will fall into place, in perspective because we have discerned wisely at this sacred season and throughout the liturgical year. Each month my bank account automaticallly gives charitable gifts to worthy causes and groups to reflect my Caholic Christian values before I pay for anything else. I must add that the malls ring out with sacred Christmas music in the midst of the craziness of sales and shoppers! Hope and pray this is helpful

  9. This is a very ill-informed post. Much of Protestantism had no tradition of either “Holy Days” nor “Vigil”. But Catholic influence has in recent decades lead them to the Christmas Eve service. It has become so popular in some Protestant churches that when Christmas falls on a Sunday, that is their Christmas Sunday service, just as many Catholics will attend Midnight Mass.

  10. I don’t understand the snark about the president going to church. Catholic hatred runs deep of this president. It was unnecessary for this topic.

  11. Heaps of techy presents underneath the Winter Giving Fir……still reflect the ultimate Gift, so they’ll never win this war. Wayyyy more “Merry Christmas” than “Happy Holidays” in the email inbox—from online stores, I mean—and “Seasons Greetings” seems to be a quaint relic, what happened there? “Holidays” being “Holydays,” I’d think the secularistas would seize on “Seasons.”
    One eco-type store’s “Winter Solstice Sale” gave me a good laugh, though.

  12. Snark?

    POTUS claims to be a Protestant. POTUS did not attend “services” on Christmas, but did liberate 4 sea turtles. He is the poster boy what those 10% of Protestant pastors are catering to rather than challenging greater worship of God. Perhaps this is all about “Selfmas.”

  13. POTUS did attend a marine or ? base for a service in Hawaii Chriistmas Day with his family. Saw a photo of them somewhere online, we are in Ireland now.

  14. I cannot vouch for your sources, HermitTalker, but the official White House POTUS’ daily schedule made no mention of the POTUS attending services anywhere:


    That’s the source I used.

    However, looking further into the matter after you posted, I found Politico wrote that POTUS and his wife had a meal with Marines in the base mess hall…the video of the child grabbing at POTUS’ teeth followed that meal. Another blog says that POTUS played golf on the base, skipping out on his family for the day.

    Reuters reports what you stated:

    President Barack Obama spent a low-key Christmas Day with his wife and daughters in Hawaii, going to church and thanking U.S. troops for their service before hosting friends for dinner at the first family’s rented beach house.
    The Obamas started opening gifts around 8 a.m. on Sunday and then ate breakfast and sang carols together before heading to the chapel at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii for a Christmas service, the White House said.

    The first two reports are interesting for what they don’t say and what the Reuters report does day. The Reuters report is interesting in that it doesn’t report the round of golf, portraying POTUS as “the great family man.”

    These are all distractions from the main point, however.

  15. Thanks for your reply. One hopes if he does go to church, he gets the message of what it is all about. At Christmas 44 said it was about caring for one another!!! I had a tough time in 2008 even my pastor in FL voted for him and gave money to the Party. His agenda for same-gender = marriage and extremism on abortion since he was a Senator in Illinois and the effort to undercut conscience as a right for institutions as well as individuals is scary. It might wake the sleeping giant as right now the Evangelicals are so narrow the centre needs to come to the fore. You need more laity to speak out and back the best GOP candidate. And keep the vociferous bishops muffled since they are interpreted as vote GOP while the full GOSPEL of LIFE is sidelined by the media, no blame, and too many only have the sexual agenda, important but not all of our Gospel concerns especially with jobs, medical care and who gets taxed and has to pay for bailouts.

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