The innovation in worship continues. In 2000, about 29 percent of congregations were regularly using electric guitars and/or drums. By 2010 this had grown to 43 percent. At the current rate of change, by some time in 2015 the majority of religious congregations in America will be using contemporary music in worship. This trend is driven, in part, by the link with spiritual vitality that comes with innovation and a contemporary style. Just 17 percent of the congregations who say they are neither innovative nor contemporary report high spiritual vitality, while nearly half (48 percent) of those who say they are both innovative and contemporary report high spiritual vitality.
The growing edge of American religion is among ethnic minorities. Less than a quarter of congregations with a White majority report growth over the last five years, while 38 percent of African American congregations and 48 percent of other ethnic congregations report growth. The number of congregations where half or more of the members are from ethnic minorities has increased from 23 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2010.
American congregations are aging. Three in five Oldline Protestant churches report that only ten percent or less of their members are young adults. Evangelical churches attract more young adults, but more than one in four have only ten percent or less. Congregations where the majority are from ethnic minorities are most likely to attract and retain young adults.
There is an overall decline in the numbers of faithful in the pews. Median weekly attendance in American congregations was 130 in 2000 and had dropped to 108 by 2010. Despite the attention given to megachurches, one in four congregations has fewer than 50 in worship on a typical weekend. One way that congregations are countering this trend is to increase their investment in outreach and community service activities. The least shrinkage is found in those congregations with three or more such ministries.
More disconcerting is the erosion in spiritual vitality. In 2005 about 43 percent of congregations reported high spiritual vitality and give years later this had dropped to 28 percent. This is paralleled by a decline in financial health in congregations, as previously reported in the Holy Toll report.
Other topics included in this report include the rapid adoption of electronic technologies by religious congregations, the general growth in the number of internal and community programs conducted by congregations, and continued high levels of conflict in congregations. The Faith Communities Today (FACT) series of studies includes all major faiths and denominations in America and is implemented by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership. Links to data from many of the individual denominations are available at the Web site. FACT is the largest ongoing study of local congregations in America.
A copy of theĀ report entitled A Decade of ChangeĀ is available for download at the FACT website.