By Aaron Earls
Most churches appear to have settled on their preferred worship style, according to the American Congregations 2015 study, as the growth of contemporary music in worship has “largely plateaued” and churches’ willingness to change worship has declined over the last five years.
Statistics from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research’s study reveal a “slowdown in [churches] opting for a different kind of worship experience.”
In 2010, 68 percent of churches reported making no change or minor changes to their worship service style. Five years later, that “jumped to 78 percent.” In the same time period, the percentage of churches adding a new service with a different style “dropped by almost half to just over 4 percent,” according to the report.
These three points demonstrate the static nature of worship in American churches.
1. Most see their church worship as similar to five years ago. When asked to describe their services as joyful, reverent, or thought provoking, there were only slight variations in the last five years.
Those describing their worship as very joyful grew less than 1 percent, while those calling their worship reverent decreased by slightly more than 2 percent. The percentage saying it was thought provoking remained the same.
2. Contemporary worship has plateaued. To avoid a vague definition of contemporary worship, researchers began asking churches if they used electric guitars. After a relatively large jump in usage toward the beginning of the century, growth has stalled.
Churches using electric guitars climbed almost 10 percent from 2000 to 2005, but since then growth has been under 2 percent in the last 10 years.
3. Fewer churches describe their worship as innovative. Churches where worship is described as “quite or very innovative” declined from 38 percent to 32 percent.
While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report. Churches with very innovative worship are 11 percent more likely to grow and 26 percent more likely to have high vitality than those with low innovation.
While worship style may have settled in most congregations, another area of change may be just beginning. The use of technology in worship services has accelerated in recent years.
In 2005, 38 percent of churches often or always included visual projection equipment in their worship services. Ten years later, a majority of churches (53 percent) use the technology.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.