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Fewer pastors to honor America in July Fourth weekend services

Survey sees slight drop from 2016

Fewer pastors say they will incorporate patriotic displays and messages into their Sunday services this Fourth of July weekend, but overall a slight majority still plan on honoring both God and America at church.

A Lifeway Research study found just over half (56%) of Protestant pastors support showing patriotism at church during Independence Day weekend. Of those, 27% strongly support such displays.

Roughly two in five pastors (42%) disagree, and a small fraction — 2% — say they aren’t sure.

That marks a slight decline from a similar study conducted by Lifeway Research in 2016, which found 61% of pastors supported using patriotic displays in their worship services.

The study, released June 28, surveyed 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors in September 2021. Each interview was completed by the senior or sole pastor or minister at a church, and responses were weighted by region and church size to more accurately reflect the population. 

Pastors with graduate degrees were less likely to use patriotic elements in their services compared with pastors who either had no degree (70%) or a bachelor’s degree (67%)

Denominational pastors, meanwhile, were also less likely (48%) to incorporate patriotism into their worship services compared with 64% of Evangelical pastors, according to the survey.

Among the denominations, Pentecostal (77%) and nondenominational (70%) churches were more likely to display some form of patriotism in their Sunday services, compared with Methodist (52%), Lutheran (48%), and Presbyterian/Reformed (44%).

But the younger pastors aged 18-44 were the most likely (65%) to avoid the use of patriotic additions to their worship services.

When it comes to how churches honor America, there is far greater diversity in pastors’ responses, with a majority (58%) taking the time to recognize all who served in the U.S. military or families who have lost a loved one in service (54%).

About 30% say they use other means to show their patriotism.

“While not a date on the Christian calendar, most Protestant churches adjust their worship services to acknowledge the birth of the United States each July,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “For most churches, it isn’t just tradition. The majority of pastors agree it’s important to incorporate it into the worship experience.”

In addition to the Fourth of July weekend, roughly 67% of all Protestant pastors in the U.S. support displaying the American flag in their churches year-round, while another 28% disagree.

Five percent of all pastors aren’t sure whether they support flying the American flag year-round.

Similar to the slight drop in pastors planning to incorporate patriotism into their church services, the overall number of pastors supporting year-round flag displays dropped about 7% from Lifeway’s 2016 study. 

“Some denominations offer specific guidance regarding displaying the American flag, but most congregations decide on their own whether it’s present,” McConnell said. “Because a national flag is a symbol, it often means many different things to different people. So discussions around the reason for its presence in many churches can be just as diverse.”

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