By Kent E. Fillinger
Worship music is a key part of a church’s overall worship experience, and a church’s style of worship remains a key differentiator, even as the “worship wars” of the 1980s and 1990s have subsided.
Research shows that worship or music isn’t a priority for people in choosing to attend a church or in deciding whether to remain at a church (see my article “What Are Your Church’s Push and Pull Factors? Part 2” from March). Still, music remains one of the most talked about elements of a worship service.
I wanted to learn more about worship styles in our churches, so this year I added this question to our annual church survey:
Which of the following worship styles best reflects the type of worship venues your church offered in 2017? (Check all that apply.)
__ Traditional/Classic style
__ Blended style
__ Contemporary/Modern style.
There were seven possible answer combinations. I chose not to define or describe the worship styles, but left it to the discretion of the church staff member who completed the survey.
Megachurches and emerging megachurches were the most likely to use only one worship style, and it primarily was contemporary/modern (73 percent and 71 percent, respectively).
Eighteen percent of emerging megachurches and 11 percent of megachurches offered both contemporary/modern and traditional/classic worship styles. Another 11 percent of megachurches offered both blended and contemporary/modern styles.
Large and medium churches also preferred using only the contemporary/modern worship style—64 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
A blended style was the primary choice for small and very small churches—41 percent and 45 percent, respectively. And 28 percent of medium churches used only a blended style.
A contemporary/modern approach to worship was used by 32 percent of small churches and 22 percent of very small churches, while one-fourth of very small churches and 12 percent of small churches used only a traditional/classic worship style.
The charts below show the most prevalent worship styles and how they possibly affected the growth rates and baptism ratios (the number of baptisms per 100 people in average attendance) for each of the church-size categories. It should be noted, churches using only contemporary/modern worship had the highest baptism ratios for all six church-size categories. For half of the church-size categories, the fastest-growing churches offered both traditional/classic and contemporary/modern worship venues.
Very Small Churches
I also asked a second related worship question for the first time in the 2017 church survey:
During the past 2 to 3 years, has your church changed the format or style of one or more worship venues?
__ Yes, changed a lot
__ Yes, changed moderately
__ Yes, changed a little
__ No changes
Over the last two to three years, 71 percent of megachurches reported “no changes” to their worship style. More than half of emerging megachurches (58 percent) and large churches (55 percent) said they had not made any changes either. Not quite half of medium, small, and very small churches (48 percent) reported “no changes” to their worship styles.
One-fourth of emerging megachurches, medium, small, and very small churches said they had changed their worship styles “a little” in the last few years. Not quite one-fifth of large churches and small churches noted they had made “moderate” changes to their worship styles during this same period. Finally, medium churches and very small churches (12 percent each) were the most likely to report making “a lot” of worship changes.
No clear patterns or trends emerged when examining the potential impact of worship changes on church growth rates and baptism ratios, but here are some of my findings:
- Megachurches and emerging megachurches that made “no changes” had the fastest growth rates and the highest baptism ratios last year.
- Large churches that changed “moderately” had the best growth rates, and large churches that made “no changes” had the highest baptism ratios.
- Medium churches that changed worship styles “a lot” grew the fastest, and those that changed “a little” had the best baptism ratios.
- Small churches that changed “moderately” had the best growth rates and baptism ratios.
- Very small churches that changed worship styles “moderately” grew the fastest, and those that changed “a little” had the best baptism ratios.
Since this was the first year to explore these two worship-related questions, these stats provide a nice baseline snapshot that can be built on next year to learn more.
Kent E. Fillinger serves as president of 3:STRANDS Consulting and director of partnerships with CMF International, Indianapolis, Indiana.
METRICS EXTRA: Monthly Attendance . . . The New Norm?
By Kent E. Fillinger
“Is monthly attendance the new norm?” asked the headline of a recent article by Warren Bird, director of research at Leadership Network. The trend for several years is that regular churchgoers attend less frequently. Bird said his research shows the typical church reaches 1.8 times its average weekly attendance in a month. He said the average doesn’t change much regardless of the size of the church, age of the church, or age of the lead pastor.
Therefore, a typical church can determine how many different people attend each month by multiplying the average weekend worship attendance by 1.8. For example, if a church averages 150 people per week, that means 270 different people typically attend the church in a given month. Here’s the math: 150 x 1.8 = 270. This can vary somewhat from church to church, of course.
Based on my research of Restoration Movement churches, the same multiplier—1.8—is the typical attendance increase a church experiences on Easter weekend. If a church averages 500 weekly, on Easter its attendance will likely be 900. The math: 500 x 1.8 = 900.