It happens once or twice a decade - this year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. Many churches in Gwinnett will hold their Sunday services as usual or offer a modified Sunday schedule. But some larger churches are opting to celebrate the Holy Day on Saturday, giving pastors, staff and volunteers a day at home with their families on Christmas.
Crossroads Community Church in Lawrenceville is one of the churches that won't hold services this Sunday. Instead, the church will hold four Christmas Eve services.
"We usually hold three services every Sunday, and we're holding four on Christmas Eve," said Dave Ronne, pastor of worship and creative arts at Crossroads. "We have so many volunteers that work to bring these services together, and we decided to add that extra service Saturday and give the volunteers some much-needed family time on Sunday."
Crossroads is one of Gwinnett's so-called "mega-churches," with more than 3,500 people attending one of the three regularly scheduled Sunday services each week. Hundreds of volunteers work behind the scenes each week to keep services running smoothly.
"The volunteers were part of what factored into this decision, but the reality of the culture that we're in is that many people who don't regularly go to church are more likely to come to a Christmas Eve service rather than a Christmas Day service," said Norwood Davis, director of extension ministries for Crossroads. "That's who we are and how we lean."
Cross Pointe Church in Duluth plans to hold two Christmas Eve services Saturday and none on Sunday. With a membership of about 1,500, the church's leadership feels that Sunday should be a day spent in worship at home with family, a Cross Pointe spokesperson said.
Just a couple of miles from Crossroads church in Lawrenceville is North Metro Baptist church, which has between 2,500 and 3,000 people who attend each Sunday. North Metro will hold two Christmas Eve services and one service on Christmas Day.
Frank Cox of North Metro said it never occurred to him to cancel church worship on Christmas Day.
"For 25 years, we've always held Christmas Eve services, no matter what day of the week it fell on," Cox said. "When it comes to whether to hold services on Christmas Day, that was never an issue. Sunday is the Lord's day, and this Sunday has an added dimension. We celebrate the birth of our savior."
All churches can make their own decisions when it comes to holding a Christmas service on Sunday, Cox said.
"Every church does what is best for its situation," he said. "I fully expect our service on Sunday to be full."
In fact, when Cox announced two weeks ago to his congregants that North Metro would hold Christmas Day services on Sunday, he got two standing ovations.
"The whole world is watching Christians, and this is a great opportunity for us to witness," Cox said.
Hebron Baptist church in Dacula plans to hold a single Sunday service as opposed to the four that are usually held on Sundays. A 4 p.m. Christmas Eve service is also scheduled.
"There was never a question as to whether we'd hold services on Sunday," said Billy Britt of Hebron. "We did an informal poll of our people to try to get an idea of how many we'd have on Sunday so we'd know how many services we'd need. We're planning to have about a third of what we normally have on Sundays." Typically, Hebron has about 4,500 people in worship services each Sunday.
Weekend Worship Times
•Crossroads Community Church
Ga. Highway 20 and Calvin Davis Circle in Lawrenceville
Christmas Eve services at 3, 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m.
•North Metro First Baptist Church
1026 Old Peachtree Road in Lawrenceville
Christmas Eve services at 5 and 6:30 p.m.
Christmas Day service at 10 a.m.
•Cross Pointe Church
1800 Satellite Blvd. in Duluth
Christmas Eve services at 4 and 6 p.m.
•Hebron Baptist Church
202 Hebron Church Road in Dacula
Christmas Eve service at 4 p.m.
Christmas Day service at 10 a.m.