On church calendars, mother and father and grandparents circle this December occasion with crimson ink.
The issue for clergy is straightforward: When do they schedule that particular Christmas service, or that live performance stuffed with Christmas classics?
“Evangelicals, and particularly Baptists, are typically reasonably pragmatic about these selections. We would like probably the most bang for our bucks and we wish as many individuals as attainable” within the pews, mentioned Joshua Waggener, professor of church music and worship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Price, Texas.
One factor is definite: “It’s important to have these little youngsters up there singing ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ It is pragmatic. For most individuals, I do not suppose theology has something to do with” the timing.
This actuality impacts when church buildings schedule particular occasions, particularly in December — when their members wrestle with college calendars, journey, workplace events, household traditions and, sure, worship providers. In the meantime, civic teams, procuring malls and mass media provide “The Holidays,” a cultural tsunami that begins weeks earlier than Thanksgiving.
In church buildings with centuries of liturgical traditions, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ is Dec. 25, following the quiet season of Creation (Latin for “towards the approaching”). This yr, Christmas falls on Sunday and, for Catholics, Anglicans and others, the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is likely one of the yr’s hottest rites. This opens a festive season that continues via Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Many Jap Orthodox Christians observe the traditional Julian calendar and rejoice Christmas on Jan. 7, after Nativity Lent.
In the USA, some form of Christmas Eve service stays the large draw, in keeping with nearly half (48%) of Protestant pastors contacted in a new study by Lifeway Research. The frequency of high-attendance church occasions builds till Christmas Eve, then declines sharply.
On this survey, mainline Protestant clergy (60%) have been extra possible than evangelicals (44%) to say Christmas Eve rites drew the most individuals, with Lutherans (84%) being the most probably to worship on Christmas Eve. Basically, evangelical pastors (30%) mentioned their high-attendance occasions got here in the course of the third week of December (30%).
Some church buildings fared higher than others with occasions earlier in December. Lifeway discovered that Pentecostals (18%) and Baptists (15%) have been extra possible than Methodist (3%), Restorationist (Church of Christ) Motion (2%) and Lutheran (1%) leaders to say their highest attendance marks have been within the second week. Pentecostals (45%) and Restorationist (37%) pastors have been, together with Baptists and different evangelicals, most probably to see massive crowds within the third week.
In the meantime, clergy within the South (39%) have been least more likely to pinpoint Christmas Eve as their important service. Church buildings with fewer than 50 attending (19%) have been the least more likely to stress mid-December occasions.