The Top Ten Lowest Attended Sundays in U. S. Churches

Most pastors, staff, and active church members have a good idea when attendance will drop on a given Sunday. Churches develop a discernible pattern that is repeated each year. 

We asked over 400 people, mostly church leaders, to identify their lowest attended Sundays on a recurring basis. Though our study was not scientific (comments and likes on two social media channels plus our Church Answers community,) the large number of responses developed into a clear pattern. 

To be clear, every church is different, and every community is different. Different contexts give different responses. For example: 

    • A congregation with a lower median age will likely have a lower Mother’s Day attendance than a church with older congregants. The younger church members travel to their mother’s home.
    • Hunting and fishing season can adversely affect church attendance. Deer season was mentioned most frequently.
    • Travel and Sunday sports can be a killer to church attendance. Sunday sports for kids and youth have become the newest god to worship.
    • Geographic location is important. For example, a church in a warm destination may have an influx of “snowbirds” in the winter, and then a decline when they leave.
    • The weather of the day is an important factor too. If it’s raining, attendance will be down. If it’s sunny and warm, attendance will be down. In the South, if a snow flurry is forecast for Sunday, the grocery stores are packed on Saturday, and the churches are nearly empty as the people contend with 1/16th inch of snow on the ground.

Still, most churches have a pattern of low attendance that is consistent. Here are the top ten responses we received, ranked by frequency of response. 

    1. Father’s Day.
    1. The Sunday after Thanksgiving day.
    1. Memorial Day weekend Sunday.
    1. Labor Day weekend Sunday.
    1. The Sundays before and after Christmas.
    1. The Sunday nearest the Fourth of July.
    1. The Sunday nearest to New Year’s Day.
    1. Time changes: spring forward.
    1. Spring and fall break Sundays.
    1. Summer Sundays, particularly in July.

Do these low attendance days align with your church’s low attendance days? What is the lowest-attended day in your church? Let me hear from you.

Posted on July 10, 2023


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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17 Comments

  • Jeffrey Lichlyter says on

    Thank you for your time. I was listening to Moody radio several months ago on WCRF/Cleveland. They noted that the #1 least attended holiday by men was Father’s Day, then they asked the listeners why? I was shocked to find out the reason was the same reason why I thought. While Mother’s Day is uplifting and encouraging, and recognizing all mothers, Father’s Day was often a butt-chewing service and while father’s were recognized, so were single mothers. Mother’s were greeted with flowers, and more often than not, fathers got nothing.
    Father’s stop coming on Father’s Day, and eventually all together because they feel the “church” stop caring enough about their day-to-day struggles. As a military chaplain, I had to learn that while Scripture is crucial, I needed to first listen, ask questions and then apply Biblical Truth with love and first applying it to my life. At the end of the day, if there is no compassion, no assurance that they have someone walking with them, the church will lose these fathers, and fatherless homes will skyrocket… The church is almost neck and neck with the national divorce rate… Too many leave and think they can have church at home, and that is dangerous.

  • Kim Bailey-Manzella says on

    On the Sunday after Easter, I was doing the announcements and assisting the guest ( of course!) minister. I walked up to the lectern and said ,”Welcome to Cannon Ball Sunday!” They all stopped and stared at me. “Oh you don’t know about Cannon Ball Sunday? It is the Sunday after any holiday. Legend has it, that you could launch a cannon ball into the congregation from the pulpit, and it will not hit anyone!” They roared! Just a touch of humor!!

  • Jim Goddard says on

    Another thing I learned from Rick Warren, was to plan large special Sundays on the Sundays before or after these natural low attendance Sundays. Hopefully this will give people the enthusiasm to return to church after vacation or tell everybody about church during vacation.

  • Jim Goddard says on

    Years ago when I was beginning ministry in the early 80s, I was frustrated with my congregation during the summer everybody’s leaving on vacation. I had an old retired Church of God pastor friend who told me, son, there’s two things you can do about people going on vacation during the summer, Worry about it or not worry about it. Neither one will affect the way that the church people take their summer vacations. There are just some things you cannot control and so is my opinion iit is. wise move to plan around the low attended Sundays.

  • Our Fathers Day has become a well attended weekend. We bring food in and involve as many guys as I can and it’s turned around in the last 10 years.

    We also took the three “Summer Holidays” (Memorial, The 4th and Labor Day) and made them community days, shortened services with food and family events following the service. Summer still slumps, but those three days are now higher attention than the rest of summer.

    The other days are similar in our experience.

  • Grant Thomas Bowles says on

    Before moving back to my hometown in Texas as pastor, I pastored in Western Washington. In Washington, our best attended days were Sundays on which it rained. When it was sunny our attendance was down significantly. When I returned to Texas I got excited the first Sunday on which it rained. I was expecting a higher attendance only to see our numbers down. Only then did I remember I was back in Texas where people don’t go out when it rains.
    From my observation the other days of low attendance are what we see.

  • This is very close to my context! Yesterday day was a July Sunday and it was pouring rain. Double whammy! Lol

    Here’s another one in my last church:

    Homecoming season! Ours was first of October and was highest attendance. (small town). Then next 3 we’re some of our lowest because they’d go the the other homecoming’s in the area and enjoy the meal.

    #1 for us now is Sunday after Christmas. Also called “youth pastors preaching day. “

  • Michael Shanks says on

    It is sad to see Father’s Day at the top. I guess I’m not surprised, but still sad.

  • Robin G Jordan says on

    Summer Sundays do not have to be low attendance Sundays. I learned decades ago low attendance during the summer was a result of a form a self-fulfilling prophesy. According to Science Direct, “Self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as interpersonal expectancy effect, refers to the phenomenon whereby a person’s or a group’s expectation for the behavior of another person or group serves actually to bring about the prophesied or expected behavior.” People do not attend church in the summer because they are not expected to attend church in the summer. From the platform we convey to the congregation the message that since it was summertime, they could take a break from church. We give people an excuse to miss church by publicly stating that a number of families would be out of town on vacation during the summer. At the same time we offer little or no summer programming.

    At a church that I helped to plant and pioneer back in the 1980s and 1990s, we took a different approach. While we made allowances for choir members going on vacation, we did not give the choir a summer break. We did move choir rehearsals from midweek to Sunday morning. We offered a full music program on Sunday mornings. This program featured a eclectic blend of what was then contemporary and traditional music and was intentionally designed to be child-friendly. As well as vacation Bible school, we and a children’s ministry program and a number of family-oriented activities. We conveyed from the platform the message that while summer is the time to take a vacation, it is not a time to take a vacation from church. We encouraged families that went on vacation to attend a church while on vacation and told them that we would be looking forward to seeing them again when they got back in town. We said nothing about seeing them again in the fall! We also stressed that God does not take vacations. God meets with his gathered people throughout the year, in the summer as well as the other seasons of the year; extends to them his grace; and receives their praise and thanksgiving. Sunday attendance not only held steady but picked up during the summer!

    The new church was located in a fast growing area of the state and new families moving to the area typically moved during the summer, taking advantage of the summer school break. Church going families would look for a new church home upon their arrival in the area. A number of churches they visited would be in the midst of the summer slump but it was not the case with our church.

    Our music program was one of our strengths as a church as was the warm, friendly atmosphere of the church. Our vacation Bible school was very popular in the community and with ew families. Our schedule of summer activities enabled newcomers to meet people and form friendships. We also made a point of involving newcomers in various ways in the life, ministry, and worship of the church–children as well as adults. We did not make them wait until the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

    In the deep South the heat and humidity of the summer may have at one time caused people to take a break from church. However, most church facilities are now air-conditioned. People do not have at excuse to miss church like they used to.

  • July is always rough on us. We have a lot of schoolteachers in our church. They have to start back early in August, and things are usually pretty busy in June, so July is the only month they can take their vacations.