Should Churches Close On Sunday For Christmas?
USATODAY.COM - Because Christmas falls on Sunday this year, some churches are opting to close that day so that families can spend the morning together at home.
Among the nation's top 20 largest Protestant churches — as ranked by Outreach Magazine — three will be closed on Christmas, and 10 will be having only one service, The Tennessean reports.
LifeChurch.tv, an Oklahoma-based megachurch with 14 locations in five states, says it will be closed on Christmas, but it plans to hold Christmas Eve services.
In Atlanta, First Baptist Church will hold morning services on Christmas Eve but close on Sunday.
Life Research, based in Nashville, says its national survey of Protestant churches found that 91% would hold at least one service Christmas morning, while about 9% will not worship on Sunday at all. Some plan Christmas Eve services instead.
"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," says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "Also, just because an overwhelming majority of pastors think that way doesn't mean those in their congregations necessarily share their perspective."
The survey found that Protestant pastors in the South are the least likely (62%) to host a Christmas Eve service compared to other regions. Pastors identifying themselves as Mainline (87%) are more likely to have a service on Christmas Eve compared to those identifying themselves as Evangelical (70%), Life Research found.
The Houston Chronicle reports that many pastors in that Texas city are consolidating services or even canceling them for Sunday.
St. Martin's Episcopal Church, the largest Episcopal congregation in the country, anticipates just 500 to 600 people at its one service Sunday but expects 6,000 at its five Christmas Eve services.
In Colorado, The Longmont Times Call reports that Vinelife Church is offering families devotion packets to have a "church experience" in their homes on Christmas, according to executive pastor Bob Young. Each packet includes a written message from the senior pastor, a CD of Christmas hymns and a suggestion for how to weave the spiritual side of Christmas throughout the day, Young tells the newspaper.
White Fields Community Church is holding a Christmas Eve service at 4 p.m., which senior pastor the Rev. Pete Nelson says appeals to the large number of young families with children in the 200-member congregation.
"We feel very comfortable with giving the mantle of discipleship and ministry to the parents of the family," Nelson says. "It's not about a service. It's about being a family that serves Christ."
In Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Rev. Brady Cooper of New Vision Baptist Church notes that it takes 150 volunteers to staff a single service at the megachurch, so he is opting to run five services on Christman Eve instead, The Tennessean reports.
"Asking them to be there all day Christmas Eve and most of the day on Christmas is hard," Cooper says. "Our staff is very thankful to have the chance to be home with their family."
The LifePoint church, one of three "campuses" in the country, including Smyrna, Tenn., will also be closed on Sunday.
In Nashville, however, Mt. Zion Baptist Church isn't planning any Christmas Eve services but will go all out instead on Christmas Day. "We are having a birthday party for Jesus," says Bishop Joseph Walker III, pastor of Mt. Zion, who hopes the services will take the focus off commercialism on that day.
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