Changing Worship Styles & Growing Congregations
The number of congregations among all faiths who report "a great deal" of change in worship style over the past five years rose from one in eleven in 2005 to one in eight in 2008. In other words there were a third more congregations who had made significant changes in their worship. This indicates an ongoing pattern of change that is building steam in many sectors of American religion.
Contemporary worship style is strongly associated with growing congregations. The FACT research published in American Congregations 2008 shows that congregations that stay with traditional worship forms are less likely to see increases in worship attendance, while those with a contemporary style of worship are more likely to grow. "The affinity between contemporary worship and growth is clear," writes David Roozen, author of the report.
A sense of God's presence is also more likely to be strong in congregations that have a contemporary worship style. Among congregations that report a lower sense of God's presence, 44 percent have a contemporary worship style while among those that indicate a stronger sense of God's presence 64 percent have a contemporary worship style. (See page 7.)
The surge in contemporary worship has been underway across the nation for at least two decades. "The rate of change appears to have peaked within Evangelical Protestantism, but continues to accelerate within Oldline Protestantism." It has had a generally positive influence on American religion. "Especially congregations that changed to contemporary worship in the past five years show elevated levels of spiritual vitality and of growth in worship attendance."
Worship style is also the cause of conflict in congregations. Only money and leadership are more likely to be the cause of fights in congregations. It is also true that instead of a narrow focus on one issue, conflict in congregations is usually tangled in a number of different issues. A fight about worship style can be the visible piece of a more profound set of disagreements.