A majority of churches across the country say they'll still be holding services on Super Bowl Sunday.
According to a new study from LifeWay Research, 68 percent of Protestant pastors say their church typically has some activity on Sunday night. However, about 59 percent say they'll continue as normal on the night of the Super Bowl.
"It is easy to think everyone is watching the game," said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, "but even during the Super Bowl, millions of Americans are doing other things that are important to them. For many, that includes attending church."
However, a majority of churches recognize the opportunity the Super Bowl presents as a community outreach tool.
CBN News spoke with several churches that plan to host Super Bowl parties for their congregations and members of their community--providing food and of course the big game--but opting to share a message during halftime instead of watching the show.
Breakaway Outreach, a non-profit organization, provides videos for churches to show during the half-time show. All proceeds go back into the community to serve at-risk youth and underprivileged children.
Some of the ministry tools they offer include: Power To Win--an outreach video that features testimonies from current NFL players, Perseverance in Pain: NFL coach Tony Dungy talks about losing his son and how hardships in the NFL prepared him for life's struggles and Keep the Dream Alive: How former NFL player Abraham Wright discovered the importance of God's plans for his life rather than his own.
NFL player Benjamin Watson, tight end for the Baltimore Ravens, recently promoted another resource for churches, a video series called Football Sunday.
— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) January 16, 2017
Football Sunday is an in-church video presentation uniquely designed around the Super Bowl. Promoters say it can simply be treated as a guest speaker and added to your church service where the sermon would normally take place. Churches are encouraged to invite their community to come and get an inspiring inside look at faith in the NFL.
Churches have not always been allowed to host Super Bowl parties. The NFL used to have a policy which stated that organizations showing public viewings of its games on televisions larger than 55 inches were violating the league's copyright--sports bars were exempt but churches were targeted.
In 2008 the league dropped that policy after getting push back from lawmakers.
There are still certain boundaries that churches must stick to in order to avoid possible copyright infringement:
1. Churches must show the game live on equipment that they own.
2. Churches cannot charge admission, however donations to cut the cost of the event may be taken up.
3. Churches are advised to call the event a "big game" party rather than a "Super Bowl" party, as both the "NFL" and "Super Bowl" are trademarked and protected intellectual property.
According to LifeWay Research, many churches have found that holding a service that in some way incorporates the Super Bowl allows them to remain countercultural and still reach the culture.
"The church is one of the few places in our country where people in a community still gather together each week, but the Super Bowl has become an event that also brings groups together," said McConnell.
"Churches are faced with a choice: Do we want to compete with the game, incorporate it somehow, or ignore it? There's no consensus answer among Protestant pastors."