David Schoen, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship
The most recent Faith Communities Today report is FACTs on Worship:2010, looking at the trends across all the denominations and congregations involved. It was written by our own FACT Research Consultant, Dr. Marjorie Royle. Thank you, Marge!
Here are some highlights from what Marge reports. “All in all, a quality worship experience is important for congregations that want to grow. Particularly in Oldline and Conservative Protestant families, congregations that provide a solid worship experience, including worship that is joyful, inspiring, and full of a sense of God’s presence, are more likely to be spiritually vital and growing in numbers.”
• Congregations with innovative and contemporary worship styles are significantly more likely to have grown in the last five years.
• Contemporary worship seems particularly important in attracting young adults. Congregations that included these elements in worship had a significantly higher percentage of young adults
ages 18 to 35 in them than those that did not.
• Congregations whose worship was described as innovative were far more likely than others to be rated as spiritually vital and alive.
• In most faith groups, innovation in worship is more typical of the West and South than it is of the Northeast.
• Oldline Protestants are more likely to use visual projection equipment than they are to use drums or electric guitars, their use at least sometimes at 44% still trails behind Holiness, Non-denominational and Conservative Protestants, in which over half their churches always use them.
• Newer congregations, particularly those founded since 2000 are much more likely to have contemporary worship. The newest congregations among Oldline Protestants were much more likely to use drums and guitars, with those founded since 1976 next most likely.
• Younger clergy also are more likely to incorporate contemporary music, projection equipment, and other innovations in worship. However, the youngest leaders are more likely to use projection, but those between 36 and 45 are most likely to use contemporary music.
• The majority of congregations are not using the opportunity of multiple services to tailor worship to different groups,
• Worship in congregations with older members was more likely to be described as reverent, and less likely to be described as joyful. The relationship was reversed for those with higher percentages of younger members.
Worship Change and Conflict
• Nearly half of all congregations said they had not changed at all in worship. Most who had changed (40% of all congregations) reported changing only a little or somewhat, while 6% changed a lot and 7% added a new service. In UCC 19% Changed style somewhat, 5% Changed style a lot, 9% Added a new service with a different style of worship
• 42% of congregations reported conflict over how worship is conducted. Conflict was higher among congregations that had made more changes with 60% of those changing their worship style a lot reporting conflict and 48% of those making small changes also reporting some conflict.
• Even adding a new and different service was related to conflict, with 60% of those congregations reporting at least some conflict.
• 29% of the leaders who reported that they had made no changes in worship in the past five years also reported conflict over how worship is conducted.
• 29% of congregations do offer somewhat (17%) or very (12%) different services. Of these, 14% include languages other than English, others involved differences in style, others, perhaps a third of them, offered an evening service as well as the morning one.
• About 10% of congregations use a language other than English at least occasionally in their worship. About half of these are liturgical languages, including Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, and Persian. Half are languages used to reach out to new immigrants. Spanish is the most common second language with 5% of congregations saying that they use it in worship. In addition, congregations reported using Korean and 22 other south and east Asian languages, 8 languages from the Pacific Islands, 15 European, 13 African, 5 Native American, 2 Caribbean, and American Sign Language for a total of 66 different languages.
• Congregations in 2000 reported using only 28 other languages, as compared to 66 languages in 2010,
• Nearly 10% of Conservatives, 6% of Nondenominational Protestants and 5% of Oldline Protestants reporting use of another language. UCC was 5%
• About half of all congregations report having fewer than 100 attendees in worship on any given weekend. 70 median average attendance in UCC.
• At the other extreme, 10% report having more than 500 in worship, many with multiple services.
• Decreasing average attendance is the biggest difference in worship since 2000, and the one that drives many others. This decrease in attendance was widespread. The median size of the congregation decreased in every Christian denominational group over the period, although it increased for Muslims.
• The decreases among Oldline Protestants occurred largely among congregations in the mid-range of size. This is important because these congregations are most likely to begin or to stop holding a second service, a significant opportunity for change and innovation. In 2000, 59% of Oldline congregations reported having only one service; by 2010 the percentage had increased to 63%.
Worship Space and Facility
• With a median average attendance of 105 and a median seating capacity of 225, most congregations have seats enough for all. Too much space is a much greater problem than not enough, with 26% saying they have more than they need and another 15% saying they have much more.
• A third of all congregations need more parking. Fifteen percent of congregations say they have much less parking than they need, and another 19% have less than they need
UCC Compared with other Tradition see Appendix
• UCC was in the bottom third of median average attendance (70)
• UCC was in the bottom third of congregations with innovative and contemporary worship (8%)
• UCC was in the bottom third of congregations with high spiritual vitality (17%)
Blessings in your worship this Easter Season,