Study Finds Congregational Growth, Vitality Are Tied to Contemporary Worship

April 05, 2012

According to a new independent report on changing worship practices in the United States, congregations that have adopted innovative worship and contemporary worship styles are significantly more likely to have grown in the last five years and to have attracted young adults.

These are among the findings in a new Faith Communities Today 2010 report titled "FACTs on Worship." This latest analysis is meant to help congregations understand how worship practices can affect their vitality and inspire their members.
The author is Marjorie H. Royle, former Director of Research for the United Church of Christ. She is secretary of the Religious Research Association and has written extensively about worship, congregational vitality, and clergy leadership.
"All in all, quality worship experience is important for congregations that want to grow," Royle wrote. "Because our culture is changing, congregations may need to change and innovate in their worship to create such an experience."
Among the findings:
  • Non-denominational congregations and those from historically Black denominations have led the way in introducing contemporary worship styles and instruments and other innovations.
  • Sunday morning remains the most common time for worship, but congregations are adding evening services.
  • Change continues to occur slowly. When asked how much they had changed in the last five years, nearly half of all congregations said they had not changed at all.
  • In most faith groups, innovation in worship is more typical of the West and South.
  • Decreasing average attendance at worship is the biggest difference since 2000. The median size of the congregation decreased in every Christian denomination group.
  • Congregations with contemporary worship elements are more likely than others to be rated as vital.
  • Several characteristics of worship were positively related to growth in attendance between 2005 and 2010 – multiple worship services; worship described as joyful, innovative and inspirational; and the use of drums, electric guitars, and projection equipment.
The report is one in a series produced by The Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), based on a 2010 survey that analyzed responses from 11,077 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from surveys taken in 2000, 2005, and 2008 and is the latest in CCSP's series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations. Overall, the Faith Communities Today survey series includes responses from more than 28,000 congregations.
Read a summary at
Click here to read the full report.