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A Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations:
Building Spiritual Connections

Spiritual connections are made through worshipers' private devotional activities and their participation in congregational activities such as worship. How are Presbyterian congregations cultivating faith and responding to the spiritual needs of their worshipers?

  • Private Devotions

    About half of the people in PC(USA) congregations spend time every day in private devotional activities (such as prayer, meditation, or reading the Bible alone), and 21% do so a few times a week. PC(USA) worshipers are about as likely as other worshipers to spend time in these activities when compared to all worshipers across the country (the national average is 45% who spend time every day in private devotional activities).

  • Growing in Faith

    About half of the people in U.S. congregations (54%) and in PC(USA) congregations (50%) report they have experienced much growth in their faith over the last year -- growth that occurred through their congregations, other organizations, or their own activities. Another 43% report some spiritual growth in the previous year. One-third of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations say their spiritual growth comes from involvement in their own congregations. Few PC(USA) worshipers report growing in their faith through other groups (7%) or through their own private activities (11%). Among all worshipers, 7% have grown in their faith through other groups and 15% through private activities.

    Q: Over the last year, how much have you grown in your faith?


  • Worship Experiences

    How is worship experienced by the average person in the pew? Worshipers were asked how often they have eight experiences during worship in their congregation. In PC(USA) congregations, the largest number of worshipers regularly experience God's presence during worship. Many also experience inspiration and joy. Yet, spontaneity is a relatively uncommon experience in Presbyterian worship. "Decently and in order" seems to apply to our worship as well as our polity.

    Fortunately, only a small percentage of worshipers "usually" or "always" experience boredom. These results are close to the national averages.

    Q: How often do you experience the following during worship services at this congregation?


  • Help with Everyday Living

    To what extent do the worship services or activities in congregations help worshipers with everyday living? 43% of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations report that they are helped to a great extent by worship or congregational activities, and 46% are helped to some extent. This is comparable to the national average of 45% who report finding worship services or activities helpful to a great extent with everyday living, and 41% who say to some extent.

  • Meeting Spiritual Needs

    Does the typical congregation meet the spiritual needs of worshipers? Like the majority of worshipers in the U.S., 83% of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations feel that their congregation successfully meets their spiritual needs.

  • Making Music

    What types of music do worshipers prefer? Three-quarters of worshipers in PC(USA) congregations (77%) prefer traditional hymns during worship. From a list of 10 possibilities, no other musical style was chosen by more than half of those who sit in Presbyterian pews. Other preferences include praise music or choruses (34%) and contemporary hymns (22%). (Note that worshipers were asked to mark two preferences from the list.) These preferences are typical of worshipers across the country.

    All
    Worshipers
    PC(USA)
    Worshipers
    Traditional hymns 61% 77%
    Praise music or choruses 33% 34%
    Contemporary hymns 25% 22%
    Contemporary music other than hymns 13% 11%
    Sung responsorial psalms 10% 2%
    Classical music 9% 16%
    Music or songs from a variety of cultures 9% 8%
    African American gospel 5% 4%
    Contemplative chants 2% 1%
    Q: While you may value many different styles of music, which of the following do you prefer in congregational worship? (Mark up to two options.)


  • Coming to the Faith

    Most worshipers in Presbyterian pews have not experienced a particular moment of decisive faith commitment or conversion. Rather, they say they've always had faith (42%) or they came to faith through a gradual process (30%). One- quarter have experienced a specific moment of commitment. This is similar to the overall U.S. picture, where 47% have always had faith; 21% came to faith through a gradual process; and 28% had a conversion or commitment experience.




Go to: Field Guide to Presbyterian Congregations: Inside Connections

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Copyright 2002 Research Services. All rights reserved.

Last modified July 11, 2002 by U.S. Congregations Home Page Manager