Vicars are being advised to move carol services marking the fourth Sunday in Advent to a new time to accommodate the World Cup Final.
It comes after guidance from the Church of England advised clergy to avoid Sunday 18th December and hold the services on Saturday 17th instead.
The advice, called 'Making the most of the World Cup Final' says holding a carol service on the Sunday 'could still be possible if you choose the time carefully, but what if there are penalties?'
Graham Nicholls who is Director of the evangelical network of churches, Affinity, told Premier Christian News: "I think it's very strange timing, because I would imagine most churches have already organised their carol services and already made these decisions. So I was a little bit surprised as to why they'd suddenly caught up with the fact that the World Cup was happening and that it might have an effect.
"So I was I was slightly bemused and it doesn't make sense at this point in the calendar.
"But it's pragmatic and I think if you're doing it on this quite rare occasion, where it all coincides around Christmas time, and you are just trying to be sensible, particularly about getting in touch with people who are completely outside the church, I think I think it does make sense."
The guidance says churches can use the World Cup as a 'missional tool' with ideas including screening the Final during the service or hosting a Christmas Sports Day instead of regular collective worship. It also suggests churches could host sports quizzes and carols at an alternative time to the Final.
Graham Nicholls says his church decided weeks ago to hold their carol service on a different evening: "I think most local churches will have made their own decisions and tried to sort of agonise over this, what's the right thing to do? What's the best thing to do?
"I think Christian leaders had to weigh up also the fact that there are quite a lot of people who don't like football. Because not everyone's going to want to watch football. So fellowship, Bible study, outreach, prayers, whatever, something could easily happen on that evening, particularly after the football is finished to mark the fact that there are people who won't have been obsessed about it all day.
"It might depend who's in the final but I know we did decide to put our Carol service our evening Carol service on a different evening. It's a decision we agonised over to be honest. It's a difficult decision to make and any church leader will have had to weigh that up carefully."
The guidance states that : 'Despite this clash of dates, football and faith don’t have to be at odds with one another, ‘whether you love it or not, there’s no escaping the fact that football and the Church have a conjoined heritage. Avid footy fans may well know that several Premier League football clubs of today started up as parish church football teams, set up for the health and wellbeing of those local communities. They were established to have a positive impact, especially in communities where poverty and deprivation hindered any kind of thriving.'
You can find out more about the guidance here : https://www.churchsupporthub.org/sport-and-wellbeing-landing/article/making-the-most-of-the-world-cup-final-18thdec-2022.php