Different Music in Newer Presbyterian Churches?

Presbyterians like many kinds of worship music, but traditional hymns sit at the top of their charts. The strength of that preference is somewhat different for worshipers in the typical PC(USA) congregation compared to worshipers in newer churches (those founded since 1990).

First choice: Traditional hymns. As the chart below illustrates, three out of four Presbyterians say they prefer traditional hymns. However, worshipers in new Presbyterian churches have slightly less enthusiasm for traditional hymns in worship. Still two out of three of these worshipers agree—they prefer traditional hymns.

Second choice: Praise music. What other types of music do worshipers say they personally prefer? Praise music comes in second as the music of choice. Almost four out of ten worshipers in new PC(USA) churches (37%) pick praise music or choruses as a clear preference in worship services. For the typical Presbyterian worshiper, praise music is a slightly less popular choice—only 28% responded with that preference.

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Traditional or contemporary style of worship? Differences in worship style preferences show up again when we asked about the aspects of their congregation that they most value. Worshipers in new churches were more likely to say they value a contemporary style of worship or music (17% vs. 12% for Presbyterian worshipers in other congregations). In reverse fashion, worshipers in typical Presbyterian churches gave a stronger preference for a traditional style of worship or music (45% vs. 38% for worshipers in new PC(USA) churches).[i]

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Why start new Presbyterian churches? An earlier post revealed that worshipers in new PC(USA) congregations as a group are more diverse in their racial-ethnic and birthplace backgrounds. The findings here show that new churches also more often attract worshipers who prefer greater diversity in worship style and music than worshipers in the typical Presbyterian congregation.

[i] Worshipers were given a list of 14 dimensions of congregational life and asked to select the three that they most value. Thus, the chart figures will not add up to 100%. Only the percentage of worshipers selecting either traditional or contemporary styles of worship are compared.