Which of the following does your church use at least once a month in one or more of your worship services (today vs. five years ago)...

Study shows significant increase in contemporary

and diverse worship styles in Protestant churches

(Original release date:  March 4, 2004)  Study results from Grey Matter Research released in the March/April edition of Facts & Trends magazine show a significant increase in contemporary worship styles in Protestant churches over the last five years.  Churches trending toward more contemporary worship styles outpaced those moving to more traditional styles by an 11-to-1 margin. 

 

Ministers were asked whether the overall style of worship in their church had changed in the last five years.  Fifteen percent said their worship has become much more contemporary, and another 36% said it had become a little more contemporary.  Forty-four percent noted no significant change, while 5% said their worship has become more traditional in the last five years.

 

Larger churches and those led by younger ministers were the ones most likely to see a significant shift toward more contemporary styles.  Twenty-seven percent of churches with 200 or more in the congregation had become much more contemporary, compared to 14% among mid-size churches, and 9% among churches with fewer than 100 people in the congregation.  Similarly, pastors who were under age 60 were almost twice as likely to have led their church toward much more contemporary worship as were older ministers (9% to 16%).

 

In addition, Pentecostal churches were more than twice as likely as non-Pentecostal churches to report a significant shift toward contemporary worship styles (31% to 12%).

 

The study also explored specific worship elements or styles churches use today, compared to what was used five years ago.

The greatest increase was in the use of electronic media.  Five years ago, only 5% of all Protestant churches used PowerPoint or similar computer graphics presentations at least once a month.  Today, projected computer graphics are used in 36% of all churches.  Very similar figures appeared for showing video clips during the worship services, such as clips of movies, music videos, or popular speakers.  Five years ago, just 4% of all churches used video clips during worship services; today, that is up to 29%.

 

Three other elements increased by more than 50% over the last five years.  In 1999, 38% of all churches used praise and worship choruses during worship, while today that figure stands at 74%.  The use of Christian rock, pop, or country music has risen from 9% five years ago to 25% today, and the use of drama skits or sketches has gone from 23% to 42%.

 

Still, the most popular elements of worship continue to be the best-known and most traditional.  At least three out of every four churches currently pass an offering plate, bag, or basket in the worship service (95%), celebrate communion (89%), sing traditional hymns (88%), use a printed bulletin or order of service (85%), and use hymnals (78%) at least once a month in worship.  Use of some of these elements has actually increased in the last five years; in 1999, for instance, just 68% of churches used a printed bulletin or order of service.

 

Less common, but still in use in at least half of all Protestant churches, were praise and worship choruses (74%), altar calls (67%), children’s worship or a children’s sermon (65%), a choir (62%), congregational or responsive readings (52%), and worship services offered on Sunday evenings (51%).

 

Under half of all churches currently use drama (42%), identify visitors by asking them to stand, raise their hands, etc. (38%), use PowerPoint or similar graphics (36%), use video clips (29%), or play Christian rock, pop, or country music (25%).  And while church music has become much more contemporary and diversified in the last half-decade, still just 7% of all churches use any secular music during worship (similar to 4% five years ago).

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, said the study found considerably more diversity in worship today than was present just five years ago.  “Of the seventeen worship elements we explored in this study, the average church today uses 9.8 of them once a month or more,” Sellers noted.  “Five years ago, the average church used 7.3 of them.  Even traditional elements such as hymns, altar calls, and communion celebrations have become more common as churches diversify what they offer to worshipers.”

 

Sellers also pointed out that the greatest growth had come in worship elements that still were used by fewer than half of all churches.  “Drama, video clips, computer graphics, and pop music were among the fast-growing elements, with still a lot of room for growth,” he said.

 

Although much has changed in worship just in the last five years, one thing that has not changed is the length of the sermon.  The average pastor preaches for nearly 31 minutes today – about the same as five years ago.  Pastors in the study preached for anywhere from eight minutes each week to almost two hours.  Pentecostals tended to have the longest sermons, averaging just under 40 minutes.  Of the major denominational groups, Lutherans (20 minutes) and Methodists (just under 22 minutes) had the shortest sermons, on average.

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 659 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.7 percentage points at the 95% confidence level with a 50% response distribution.

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

The first time I sang in the church choir,

two hundred people changed their religion.

Fred Allen, Comedian

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Current worship situation, by denominational group...

Worship Element

Today

Five Years Ago

Passing an offering plate/bag/basket/etc.

95%

80%

Celebration of communion

89

72

Traditional hymns

88

76

Printed bulletin or order of service

85

68

Hymnals

78

73

Praise & worship choruses

74

38

An altar call

67

52

Children's sermon or children's worship service

65

47

A choir

62

55

Congregational or responsive readings

52

44

Worship service on Sunday evenings

51

44

Drama skits or sketches

42

23

Identifying visitors (stand, raise their hands, etc.)

38

34

PowerPoint or similar computer graphics

36

5

Video clips shown in the service

29

4

Christian rock, pop, or country music

25

9

Secular music

7

4

 

Worship Situation

Southern

Baptist

Other

Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All

Others

Over the past 5 years, your church's worship has become:

 

 

 

 

 

 

    much more contemporary

18%

3%

14%

15%

31%

15%

    a little more contemporary

44

37

52

46

20

34

    not changed significantly

36

47

33

34

47

49

    a little more traditional

2

10

1

4

2

1

    much more traditional

1

3

--

2

--

1

Worship elements currently used at least once a month:

 

 

 

 

 

 

    passing an offering plate/bag/basket/etc.

97

96

94

99

94

94

    celebration of communion

75

90

92

99

92

88

    traditional hymns

96

97

97

97

70

85

    printed bulletin or order of service

93

83

99

92

59

88

    hymnals

83

88

97

92

53

72

    praise & worship choruses

89

60

88

59

93

68

    an altar call

97

86

68

5

92

47

    children's sermon or children's worship service

67

53

84

84

64

61

    a choir

76

68

87

91

44

48

    congregational or responsive readings

40

39

80

88

34

53

    worship service on Sunday evenings

82

68

29

11

68

40

    drama skits or sketches

47

35

46

50

46

42

    identifying visitors (stand, raise their hands, etc.)

40

48

38

6

56

30

    PowerPoint or similar computer graphics

44

32

29

25

43

37

    video clips shown in the service

41

24

26

17

39

28

    Christian rock, pop, or country music

30

16

35

22

33

22

    secular music

3

2

14

11

6

8

Average sermon length (minutes):

32

35

22

20

40

29

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