NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Attending church on Easter Sunday is not a cut-and-dry decision for everyone - even for self-identified Christians. While similar numbers of Americans plan on attending (41 percent) as are not planning to attend (39 percent) an Easter worship service, 20 percent say they are undecided.
This large group without Easter worship plans was identified by Lifeway Research in a survey conducted just two weeks before Easter. Thirty-nine percent of those who rarely attend religious services and 19 percent of those who only attend on religious holidays haven't decided if they will attend an Easter service.
"Christians who automatically attend church on Easter should be mindful of their many friends, neighbors and family members who haven't ruled out the idea of attending," said Scott McConnell, director of Lifeway Research. "It may be that a personal invitation is what would make a difference to them."
Eighteen percent who attend only on religious holidays do not plan to attend on Easter, as do 92 percent who never go to church. About half (48 percent) of Americans who say they rarely attend church do not plan on attending at Easter.
Just over half of self-identified Christians say they will attend Easter services. Protestants (58) percent) and Catholics (57 percent) are most likely to say they plan on attending Easter services, followed by 45 percent of nondenominational Christians.
"Easter and Christmas are the most revered worship observances of the Christian faith," McConnell said. "The crux of the gospel is not just that Jesus came to earth in human form which we celebrate at Christmas, but that He lived a sinless life and was crucified in the place of mankind. God's acceptance of this payment for sin is seen in Him raising Jesus from the dead. This is what makes Easter so significant. Yet, surprisingly, many who call themselves Christian have no intentions of going to Easter services."
In a previous Lifeway Research survey about church attendance, 32 percent of Protestant pastors said Easter typically has the highest attendance for worship services with 93 percent saying it is in their top three in terms of attendance.
According to the survey about Easter church attendance, Americans in the Northeast (33 percent) are less likely to attend than those in the South (44 percent) or Midwest (46 percent). Those in the Northeast (45 percent) are more likely not to attend than those in the Midwest (35 percent).
The Lifeway Research survey shows Americans age 55-64 are the least likely to attend Easter services (29 percent), but those 65 and older (50 percent) are more likely to attend than those in the youngest demographic: 18-29 (41 percent).
"Easter is the greatest celebration of the Christian faith," said McConnell. "The extra excitement and higher attendance intrigues many who do not attend regularly. As one in five Americans keeps their options open, Christians have no reason to be shy about asking friends to join them for an Easter service."