Church Growth in the 2010s, Part 5: Worship

Observers of church growth may be familiar with the ongoing Hartford Institute study of congregations in America. For over 25 years, the Institute has tracked data related to the vitality of congregations. Their latest survey, covering the period from 2005-2010, offers several fascinating insights on the current state of church growth in America. If you lead a church in any capacity or work with those who do, these findings may be helpful. I highlight a variety of results in a series of six blog posts. The fifth covers worship.

Add a second or third worship service. 57% of congregations in America hold one service. Only 26% of these churches are growing. Of congregations that hold two services, 42% are growing. Three services: 47%. Four or more services: 48%. In other words, one of the strongest factors contributing to growth is having a second service, although adding a fourth or more service has little effect. The survey could not identify if the relationship was causal—if churches grew because they had more services, or added more services because they grew. But the correlation is strong.

Guys and Girls with Guitars. The more likely a congregation is to use a guitar in worship, the more likely they are to grow: 24% of congregations that never use guitars grow, but 49% of congregations that always use guitars grow. This contradicts anecdotes that there is a movement to recover more traditional worship environments. Rock on.

Screens, Drums and More. The survey went further to combine several attributes of newer / “contemporary” worship styles into a single “Innovative Worship” scale. Churches that scored lowest on innovation were least likely to grow, at 18%. Churches that scored highest were most likely to grow, at 56%. This is the second widest variance of any chart in the survey. In other words, innovation in worship matters – a lot. I wrote a theology of new worship a while back that offers the theological support to match this research.

Children in Worship. One surprising result was that congregations that included children were more likely to grow (45%), whereas churches that did not include children were less likely to grow (21%).

Part 1: Social and Ethnic Position

Part 2: Age

Part 3: Leadership

Part 4: Theology and Mission