Most churches have Sunday night activities on Super Bowl Sunday

Most churches have Sunday night activities on Super Bowl Sunday

For churches that have Sunday night activities, most pastors say it’s still “game on” despite the upcoming Super Bowl LI.

According to a new LifeWay Research study, 68 percent of Protestant pastors say their church typically has some activity on Sunday night. And among those pastors, almost 6 in 10 (59 percent) say they will continue as normal on the night of the Super Bowl.

“It is easy to think everyone is watching the game,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “but even during the Super Bowl, millions of Americans are doing other things that are important to them. For many that includes attending church.”

Almost one quarter of pastors (24 percent) say they change things to include watching the game. Another 12 percent adjust their Sunday night plans in other ways.

Only 5 percent of churches that normally have activities on Sunday evenings plan to cancel those entirely.

According to CBS, which broadcasted the 2016 Super Bowl, 167 million viewers watched all or part of the game. This made the game the most watched TV broadcasts in history, drawing in 52 percent of the U.S. population to at least part of the game.

Having more than half of the country watch the Super Bowl creates an issue for churches that usually have activities during that time.

Changing practices

“While Christians believe the truth does not change, we recognize practices often do,” McConnell said. “Churches face a difficult task of navigating between wanting to remain countercultural and still reaching the culture. In this study we find churches coming to different conclusions for their congregation and local context.”

Pastors of churches with less than 100 in attendance are likely to continue as normal on Super Bowl Sunday night. Almost 7 in 10 (68 percent) said their church’s activities would go on as usual. Churches with 100 or more were much more split, with slightly more than half (52 percent) continuing as normal.

Pastors in the Northeast (53 percent) and Midwest (51 percent) are less likely to continue normal Sunday night services than those in the South (65 percent). Those in the Northeast (18 percent) are also twice as likely to say they plan to adjust Sunday night activities in other ways than pastors in the South (9 percent).

There also is an age gap. Pastors 65 and older are the most likely to say they are continuing with normal Sunday night activities (75 percent) and the least likely to say they plan to make adjustments to include watching the game (11 percent).

Evident age gap

Meanwhile pastors 18 to 44 are more likely to cancel Sunday night activities (8 percent) compared to those 65 and older (2 percent).

“The church is one of the few places in our country where people in a community still gather together each week, but the Super Bowl has become an event that also brings groups together,” McConnell said.

“Churches are faced with a choice: Do we want to compete with the game, incorporate it somehow, or ignore it? There’s no consensus answer among Protestant pastors.” (LifeWay)