Are worship styles part of the church's decline?

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  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    I can't speak for other countries, but the proportion of those reporting lack of any religious belief is rising here. The census a couple of years ago shows that 30% said that they had none. This report gives the details.

    The numbers actually attending services are also declining rapidly. The last report I saw noted that just over 75% of marriages were conducted by civil celebrants. 50 years ago, civil ceremonies were few and far between and carried a distinct stigma. I don't know any comparably reliable data for funerals, but my own impression from the daily death notices (the funeral details are normally included, very, very few separate funeral notices) suggests that most services are held at crematoria with no indication that it will be a religious one. Most religious ones are Catholic.

    Even in our own families, we are the only ones to attend church virtually every week. Most our generation would go a couple of times a year, the younger ones even less. The reason? The olde ones can't really be bothered to take the time, but agnosticism and atheism are more widely spread the younger generation. Then there's all the adverse publicity about child sexual abuse by clergy and those in orders. Liturgy has next to nothing to do with it save by those repelled by the drums and bass guitars etc style common amongst Sydney Anglicans and many of the smaller denominations - not just the Hillsong groups.
  • Those churches would of course say that the modern music in their worship attracts those who are repelled by organs and surpliced choirs ... they would allege that the "plusses" outweigh the "minusses".

    I would concur, in the British context, with everything else you say - except that crematoria services are still often conducted by clergy.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Those churches would of course say that the modern music in their worship attracts those who are repelled by organs and surpliced choirs ... they would allege that the "plusses" outweigh the "minusses".

    I would concur, in the British context, with everything else you say - except that crematoria services are still often conducted by clergy.

    I don't have any hard data on it, but my impression is that attendance at the twanging guitar churches is generally lower than at those with more formal services - a couple of nearby Anglican churches offer both and even though the guitar service is at a more civilised hour it attracts fewer people. Surpliced choirs are a real rarity here outside the cities and larger centres, regardless of churchmanship.
  • Mmm, but I was thinking about the rise of New Churches as much as the guitarisation of existing ones.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Yeah, we keep on being told its the evangelicals with their guitars (yes I know but to a first approximation in the UK these days evangelical = charismatic = guitars and drums) are the ones with the thriving churches.

    I wish people would get their stories straight.
  • Everything I have read suggests that evangelicals with their rock band worship are indeed attracting new members, but are losing people out the back door just as fast.
  • Problem is that no-one has really reliable statistics, so much is anecdotal.
  • I could swear Barna had a study. I"ll see if I can find it.
  • That would be useful. I suspect that people do leave the New Churches for a number of reasons:
    - they mature in their faith and look for more nuanced answers to their needs;
    - they mature as people and seek a different form of worship;
    - they cannot maintain the level of "enthusiasm" over a prolonged period;
    - they are often from a younger generation which tends to be mobile anyway.

    What is certainly true though is that many traditional churches in the West are losing folk big-time and not replacing them.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    I couldn't find any study. But in my defense my google-fu skills suck and the Barna website is set up more like a blog than a professional research institution.
  • The problem with statistics ISTM is that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics! Or, to paraphrase Humpty Dumpty, 'I can make figures mean what I want them to mean'.
    Problem is that no-one has really reliable statistics, so much is anecdotal.

    I suspect that is so. But anecdotes can also show and tell of churches - of all shades of churchpersonship - which are growing. Perhaps not exponentially, or as many as one would like to see, but still showing that there's life in the old dog yet...

    IJ

  • The problem with distrusting statistics entirely is that then you are left with no data at all, and all you have is hearsay. The answer is not to dismiss all statistics but learn how to read statistical reports and spot phonies. But that's too haaaaaard.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    To reassure KarlLB, there are many ways in which my church puts on community related events which are geared towards the non-churchgoer as much as the churchgoer. Given the older demographic, most of these events - but not all - are held during the daytime. Guess who comes to those....

    If there are two churches in the town, and one comes to be seen as where the younger people go and the other where the older people go - that is a pity, but ultimately does it really matter? The clergy are able to concentrate their message and pastoral care accordingly and if, one day, the numbers were to decline at one of the churches and expand at the other, then they could always expand into services and events at the less well attended church. The whole point of team ministry is that it can be flexible according to need.
  • Problem is that no-one has really reliable statistics, so much is anecdotal.

    Actually there are statistics and they show that the places with growing congregations are the cathedrals; and although not all cathedrals have done much research into what is attracting people to their services, one of the top scorers is that people appreciate the excellence of the music and the well-preparedness of the liturgy.

    In other words, the lets just see where the spirit takes us and meanwhile lets put on a worship-song tape approach isn't cutting it for many.

    At parish level my own place bears that out - we have a congregation which is increasing, with the largest being for BCP Matins.
  • I agree that cathedrals - at least some of them - have growing congregations. That may well be because of their "professionalism". Or it may be for other reasons, such as the abilty to drop in and worship without any commitment to the congregation.

    But I'm not sure (as your post implies) that they are the only places which are seeing growth!
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    I think that was more true in the past than is possible now. Any Christian movement, revivalist or otherwise, is going to be tainted by the fuck-up we collectively have made of Christian witness, particularly in the last 50 years, but indeed going back the whole way.

    Agreed.

    I tried to write about older churches having better checks and balances, but came up against too much mess. I think they do as far as style goes. I’ve witnessed some truly cringeworthy ‘revivals’.

    Not so much morally ‘tho when you look at new abuses coming to light every month :(


  • The revolving door syndrome in relation to 'new churches' has been noted and debated since at least the mid-1990s, and maybe even earlier.

    I can't cite chapter and verse but from my own involvement and observations I agree with Mousethief and also with Baptist Trainfan's take on why this might be.

    The growth in cathedral attendance has been noticed since at least the early part of this century. I've even seen some claims that 9/11 had something to do with it ...

    Some cathedral congregations have grown by around 15%.

    I wouldn't trumpet about it too much, though, because by and large I suspect they are either refugees from drum 'n' bass in suburban churches or else fleeing from flower rotas, Sunday school involvement and having to keep their own parish churches afloat ...

    Over all, the trend in church attendance among indigenous white British people is down, down, down ...

    The restorationist 'new churches' of the 1970s and 1980s, the UK equivalent to the US 'non-denoms' peaked in the 1990s and these groups have plateaued ever since.

    There are subsequent developments and 'streams' but these seem fairly transitory to me for the most part.

    I don't have a great deal of contact with these groups any more but friends who are still involved seem to either mourn the passing of old glories or be hanging on in for grim death in the belief that revival may yet come ...






  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Are we tempted to see green shoots of growth where people are doing things we like, but the smouldering wick of candles going out, or worse, illusion where people are doing the things we don't like?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Perhaps so, but that does not explain the (very limited, I know) evidence of levels of attendance at the churches I referred to. It's also proper to note that the combined total at each of these services is probably 10% that which would have been normal 60 years ago. There has been a real loss of faith and also of faith in the churches themselves.
  • Excellent posts, both Gamaliel and Enoch. [Like]
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Sometimes the only way to keep going to church at all is to find one where you can bear to be (musically, liturgically and theologically). I suspect many more of us are hanging on by a thread than like to admit.
  • I've just done a bit of a review of local churches in the Ottawa area and I really don't think that worship styles are the factor. As one of my non-churchgoing friends said, it's not the style of service but many if not most really can't see why one would go to a service at all.

    The only seriously growing churches in the Ottawa area are east Asian Protestant congregations. Most of them tend to be independent or linked to the Baptist or Alliance churches, although the Koreans hew closely to their Presbyterian links (I am told that they are now the majority of Presbyterians in Toronto, but can't vouch for that). Having been to a few services, I can tell you that they are packed, services are very very long and you can expect a good 30-40 minute sermon (often in two languages), with about 6-8 hymns. They also run strong youth programmes and the idle on a weekday night can watch the (Chinese and Korean) Christian softball league and its 34 teams.

    Most Anglicans and Uniteds are descended from their Anglo-Celt ancestors, and congregations are fading slowly in strength, but I think that in this case it has to do with no real transmission of practice to the children and grand-children of those who became very active in the 1950s and 1960s rather than worship style-- perhaps 2 or 3 congregations in the city are an exception, and this partly from African immigration. The messy church phenomenon is so peripheral here that I think only 3 or 4 Anglican churches have worked with it (John Holding might know more than I).

    The Latins are fading as well, most dramatically among francophones-- when I was young, about 80%-90% of franco-ontarians heard mass at least once a month but now I think that it is under 10%-- but are doing well in the dozen-odd Asian and African immigrant congregations. Again, this has nothing to do with liturgical style although the single usus antiquior parish (out of 40 anglophone and 37 francophone churches) is said to be flourishing. And the Orthodox slowly disappear as their grandchildren grow up in the suburbs and mate with non-Orthodox, losing their Greek and their Arabic, although they hold to their home parishes for weddings and baptisms-- continued Arab and Balkan immigration keeps them going, but the few dozen converts barely sustain the two largely non-ethnic parishes in town.

    The Muslims are holding out, but this has to do with recent immigrant cohorts still hanging out together and families discouraging intermarriage-- there is a fair bit of action and fiery discussion relating to language of sermons and women's seating in mosques but few of non-Muslims know about it.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Chorister wrote: »
    Sometimes the only way to keep going to church at all is to find one where you can bear to be (musically, liturgically and theologically). I suspect many more of us are hanging on by a thread than like to admit.

    I’m hanging on with fur 🤣
  • And - wait for it! - a dog's collar.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    And - wait for it! - a dog's collar.

    😜 You got it! 😜

  • I've just done a bit of a review of local churches in the Ottawa area and I really don't think that worship styles are the factor. As one of my non-churchgoing friends said, it's not the style of service but many if not most really can't see why one would go to a service at all.

    The only seriously growing churches in the Ottawa area are east Asian Protestant congregations. Most of them tend to be independent or linked to the Baptist or Alliance churches, although the Koreans hew closely to their Presbyterian links (I am told that they are now the majority of Presbyterians in Toronto, but can't vouch for that). Having been to a few services, I can tell you that they are packed, services are very very long and you can expect a good 30-40 minute sermon (often in two languages), with about 6-8 hymns. They also run strong youth programmes and the idle on a weekday night can watch the (Chinese and Korean) Christian softball league and its 34 teams.

    Most Anglicans and Uniteds are descended from their Anglo-Celt ancestors, and congregations are fading slowly in strength, but I think that in this case it has to do with no real transmission of practice to the children and grand-children of those who became very active in the 1950s and 1960s rather than worship style-- perhaps 2 or 3 congregations in the city are an exception, and this partly from African immigration. The messy church phenomenon is so peripheral here that I think only 3 or 4 Anglican churches have worked with it (John Holding might know more than I).

    The Latins are fading as well, most dramatically among francophones-- when I was young, about 80%-90% of franco-ontarians heard mass at least once a month but now I think that it is under 10%-- but are doing well in the dozen-odd Asian and African immigrant congregations. Again, this has nothing to do with liturgical style although the single usus antiquior parish (out of 40 anglophone and 37 francophone churches) is said to be flourishing. And the Orthodox slowly disappear as their grandchildren grow up in the suburbs and mate with non-Orthodox, losing their Greek and their Arabic, although they hold to their home parishes for weddings and baptisms-- continued Arab and Balkan immigration keeps them going, but the few dozen converts barely sustain the two largely non-ethnic parishes in town.

    The Muslims are holding out, but this has to do with recent immigrant cohorts still hanging out together and families discouraging intermarriage-- there is a fair bit of action and fiery discussion relating to language of sermons and women's seating in mosques but few of non-Muslims know about it.

    A most interesting overview of one particular city/area - thanks, Augustine.

    I wonder how much of Augustine's findings are true of churches in the UK? Quite a few, I suspect, though it would probably come as a surprise to us here to learn that Muslims are 'holding out'!

    I know I made a rather disparaging remark about statistics upthread, inasmuch as statistics can be made to do whatever one wants them to do (up to a point), but 'snapshots' can be interesting, and revealing.

    IJ

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    And - wait for it! - a dog's collar.

    Be quiet, That Boy!

    BT, you will write one hundred lines as a penance:
    Thou shalt not disparage the attire of accredited clergypersons.

    To be handed in to Me before leaving school today.
    :wink:

    IJ

  • No. Shan't. And I'll wear my collar on Sunday as usual. So there!
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    More seriously, studies have been done on the factors which aid (or hinder) church growth. My understanding is that - contrary to popular belief - they are not primarily theological nor to do with worship style. See: https://tinyurl.com/ybnzct2k.
  • No. Shan't. And I'll wear my collar on Sunday as usual. So there!

    Along with your Geneva Gown, and Preaching Bands, I hope?
    :worried:

    Again, seriously, and in line with what you have just said, I suspect that a service/sermon conducted in such attire, even though it would today be considered rather old-fashioned, would still be effective and worthwhile if done confidently and competently, buzzwords though these may be.

    O, and along with a friendly welcome, and good coffee, of course!
    :wink:

    IJ
  • I shall wear just my shirt and collar (together with trousers etc. of course), with a jacket if it Turns Cooler.

    In my last church, more formal than this one, I wore a preaching gown and stole, but no tabs - at least during morning worship. If it was very hot, minister, organist and choir dispensed with robes.
  • Fair enough - horses for courses!

    I've suggested that, in the Heatwave, our usual visiting priest (of evo persuasion) might like to dispense with the chasuble, and just sport alb and stole.

    O my! You would have thought, from her reaction, that Madam Sacristan reckoned I was suggesting he sacrifice goats at the altar....

    IJ
  • That would of course have to be done according to approved Kosher (or at least Anglican) rubrics.

    It would cause a bit of a mess on the carpet (not to mention on the altar linen), but perhaps your floor is tiled.
  • That would of course have to be done according to approved Kosher (or at least Anglican) rubrics.

    It would cause a bit of a mess on the carpet (not to mention on the altar linen), but perhaps your floor is tiled.
    And a hose for rinsing down, and the drain in the floor goes into the sacrarium.
  • In one church I served, there was no drain in the baptistry (remember this is a large tank for full immersion). It had to be pumped out with an electric pump, through a hose going out of the back door into the church garden.

    But we digress ...
  • Indeed we do, but (just for the record) our chancel floor is of brick and stone...

    I will suggest that any goat (or other animal) sacrifices be performed with just such an electric pump in attendance.

    I dunno - maybe such an...er....drastic sort of ritual might actually increase our Sunday attendance?
    :flushed:

    I think I need to go and lie down again.

    IJ
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Everything I have read suggests that evangelicals with their rock band worship are indeed attracting new members, but are losing people out the back door just as fast.

    We should get better at helping people move on. 'This used to work for other of our people too, and when it no longer did, they tried ***, and some stuck it out. The priest there is a friend of mine. You might like to check it out'.

    For me, this would be a true ecumenism. Not expecting everyone to be able to worship the same way, not even expecting 'our' people to be able to worship 'our way', helping people to worship as best they can with who they can. Sod the roll and sod the state of the roof fund.
  • Well yes, but not everyone lives in whopping big cities like Manchester.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 2018
    Which poses a problem if you live in Little Slaplington (population 385) which has one church with a congregation of 6 (average age 79), and you are a young and trendy Christian who feels it's important to identify with the local worshipping community instead of driving 10 miles to the thriving New Church in the market town. In any case you haven't got a car, don't feel like cycling and there are no buses on Sundays.
  • Fair do's. I've been in the 'inner city' a long time, and I've never lived somewhere rural.
  • Nor have I, but I was trying to make the point that locally people may not always have a choice of places of worship.
  • You're a more thoughtful guy (?) than me, and more ready to see past the confines of your own experience!
  • In my last church, more formal than this one, I wore a preaching gown and stole, but no tabs - at least during morning worship. If it was very hot, minister, organist and choir dispensed with robes.

    Well as you know its been VERY hot the past few weeks, and yes the choir dispensed with robes, but guess what, the organist hasn't!

  • Nor have I, but I was trying to make the point that locally people may not always have a choice of places of worship.

    I have and do live in a very rural area, rural enough that no-one can run off to the big city on a Sunday. We have three congregations, none of which are even close to my tradition. You do your best, work with what you've got, and look for opportunities to use aspects of your own tradition to complement the work already being done. On balance I think the style of worship matters less than that it is done with a degree of thought and intention, and a modicum of skill.

  • Well as you know its been VERY hot the past few weeks, and yes the choir dispensed with robes, but guess what, the organist hasn't!

    My recollection is that the organist's bench tends to be the coldest place in most churches.
  • Those churches would of course say that the modern music in their worship attracts those who are repelled by organs and surpliced choirs ... they would allege that the "plusses" outweigh the "minusses".

    I would concur, in the British context, with everything else you say - except that crematoria services are still often conducted by clergy.

    In this neck of the woods its about 30% clergy, 70% other
  • Chorister wrote: »
    Sometimes the only way to keep going to church at all is to find one where you can bear to be (musically, liturgically and theologically). I suspect many more of us are hanging on by a thread than like to admit.

    I recently spent 11 years not so very far from creamtealand. Yes the churches do attract retirees and yes this can mask the need to reach out into the community across all groups.

    Team Ministry certainly helps as does the desire of people to worship locally.

    As mentioned above, the downside of attracting retirees is that they come from one particular class - wealthy retirees: few others can afford to buy a house in the area. Those who move in tend to have very fixed ways of "doing/being" church which isn't wrong per se but which, culturally, may be at odds with the local community's perception of what church is all about. You end up with little clubs and apart from Chorister's church (which is very large by CTL standards) they are very little indeed.

    Add to this the increasing trend in CTL for people to travel to church (we had many 10+ miles and some over 20) and you have a recipe for a changing church culture even amongst those who go o church.
  • Tangent: Can someone explain the meaning and significance of Cream Tea Land/Cream Tea-Land/creamtealand? Google is not helping me out here.

    Thanks.

  • Cornwall and/or Devon. Just don't ask whether the jam or cream goes on first.
  • I don't know whether Cream Tea Land is of Chorister's coinage. I've never heard Devon (which is more Cream Tea Land than Cornwall is, although they have Cream Teas there too, of course) referred to as that, but recognised it instantly when I saw Chorister use it aboard Ship.

    We've got to be careful. I've heard that the Lake District is marked 'Peter Rabbit Country' on some Japanese maps of the UK.
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