Explaining why he no longer went to Ruggeri’s, a St. Louis restaurant, baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” The same seems to be true of Easter church attendance: Nobody goes to church on Easter anymore. It’s too crowded.
A survey taken by LifeWay Research last year of Protestant pastors found that 32 percent of Protestant said Easter typically has the highest attendance for worship services, with 93 percent saying it is in their top three in terms of attendance. But a recent survey finds that 39 percent of are not planning to attend an Easter worship service while 20 percent say they are undecided. Only 41 percent of Americans say they plan to attend.
For self-identified Christians, the numbers are much higher. 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. While higher than the national average, for only 60 percent of believers to attend on one of our most important religious holidays seems peculiar. What could be the reason they’re staying away?
As a former Easter service skipper I believe it’s the same reason Yogi didn’t go to Rugerri’s: It’s just too crowded. The CEO Christians (Christmas and Easter Only) turn out in waves, filling up the pews and taking all the parking spaces. I’m glad they are there and wish they’d come more often. But the extra rush of people makes it tempting to want to avoid the hassle.
But as Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, points out, I may be missing an opportunity. “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.”
Fair enough. I’ll go to the Easter service and invite a curious non-believer to go with me. But only if they agree to drive. Navigating the church parking lot on a regular Sunday is stressful enough—and that’s when it’s filled with people who fear losing their sanctification.