Independence Day to be theme of majority of Protestant sermons near July 4 holiday

Posted July 4

A majority of American pastors favor infusing church services with patriotic messages and themes when they unfold near, on or around the July 4 holiday.

With Independence Day just around the corner, LifeWay Research asked American pastors how their churches change worship services in honor of the occasion, with a majority of Protestant leaders pointing to changes in the music and content.

Overall, the majority of pastors surveyed — 61 percent — said that they felt it is important to integrate "patriotic elements to celebrate America" into these services, with 37 percent, in contrast, saying that doing so isn't important.

The survey of 1,000 pastors found that the most likely change involved adding special music that honors America, with 66 percent of pastors saying that this is something that their church does surrounding the July 4 holiday.

In addition to music, 62 percent of pastors said that their church recognizes both living veterans and family members of those who are currently serving in the military. Meanwhile, 53 percent of pastors said that they recognize families who have lost a loved one in service to the country.

While more in-depth details weren’t noted in the poll, 34 percent of pastors said that they “include other special ceremonies to honor America,” with 14 percent saying that they “make other changes to the service.”

LifeWay Research executive director Scott McConnell said in a press release announcing the results that the majority of churches integrate July 4 themes.

"Our nation’s birthday weekend celebration impacts almost 9 in 10 church services," McConnell said. "As people remember veterans, service members and patriotism, it is natural for churches to seek to apply theology to these cultural activities."

But while tweaks to accommodate America’s Independence Day are certainly common, some churches don’t make any notable changes to services that unfold near, on or around the holiday, with 12 percent of pastors saying that the church experience during this time is “no different than other weeks.”

Considering the importance of American holidays, pastors and churches routinely integrate associated themes into their sermons and services. The fit is naturally more obvious for Christmas, Easter and other religious holidays, though some holidays like Halloween are a bit more complicated.

In a separate poll conducted in 2015, LifeWay research found that about one-third of Americans actually avoid Halloween completely, or seek to downplay the holiday's pagan elements.

This, too, carries over to the church experience, with faith leaders sometimes encouraging parishioners not to take part, or offering alternative harvest-themed events for families to partake in.

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