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Hymns remain most popular as use of praise music grows

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Studies show that while praise and worship choruses are being used more often in America’s churches, traditional hymns are still the most frequently selected choice of church members.

The trend toward more praise and worship choruses was reported by Ellison Research for the March/April edition of Facts & Trends magazine, published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. A research team at the SBC’s North American Mission Board earlier reported that traditional hymns are holding their own among worshipers.

According to Ellison, five years ago, 38 percent of congregations surveyed indicated they used praise and worship choruses at least once a month. Now, 74 percent report their usage. At the same time, the use of traditional hymns has increased by 12 percent, from 76 to 88.

NAMB reported that when Southern Baptists were asked to mark up to two options regarding what they prefer in congregational worship, traditional hymns was the category selected most frequently, at 67 percent. Among worshipers of various denominations, 61 percent selected traditional hymns most frequently. Praise music or choruses was second, with 56 percent of Southern Baptists and 33 percent of all worshipers choosing that category.

Among other results from Ellison assessing trends in worship services:

— Today, 95 percent of churches surveyed pass an offering plate at least once a month, compared to 80 percent five years ago.

— An altar call is issued in 67 percent of churches, up from 57 percent five years earlier.

— Eighty-nine percent observe communion at least once a month compared to 72 percent five years ago.

— Hymnals are used in 78 percent of services, compared to 73 percent half a decade ago.

— Sunday evening worship services are held in 51 percent of churches, compared to 44 percent five years ago.

— PowerPoint or similar computer graphics are used in 36 percent of worship services at least once a month, compared to just 5 percent five years earlier.

Among Southern Baptists, the Ellison study showed 18 percent said their worship services have become much more contemporary in recent years, and 44 percent classified their services as “a little more contemporary.” Ninety-six percent said they use traditional hymns, and 89 percent use praise choruses at least once a month. Ninety-seven percent give an altar call, while 44 percent use PowerPoint or other computer graphics.

The typical sermon length in Southern Baptist churches falls along the average across denominations, Ellison found. Southern Baptists devote an average of 32 minutes to sermons, while among other Baptists the average is 35 minutes; among Methodists, 22; Lutherans, 20; Pentecostals, 40. Sermon lengths have essentially remained the same during the past five years.

The Ellison study was conducted among a representative sample of 659 senior pastors from all Protestant denominations in all 50 states. The NAMB research was part of a larger study called “Southern Baptist Congregations and Worshipers: Supplement to A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations,” which surveyed approximately 20,000 worshipers in 165 Southern Baptist churches.
For more information about the Ellison study, visit http://www.greymatterresearch.com/index_files/Worship_Styles.htm.

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