Most Church Switchers Choose Non-Traditional Worship

More than one in five adults who switch to a new church move away from traditional worship, a study revealed.

In a series of studies on adults who switch churches, LifeWay Research found "church switchers" often choose a new church that is different in several ways from their previous church. And most do not end up attending traditional services as they formerly did.

According to the study, 53 percent of church switchers attended traditional style worship. Of that, only 29 percent switched to churches that hold traditional services. The most popular worship styles among church switchers are blended worship (38 percent) and and attend a contemporary worship (33 percent).

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"Clearly, selecting a new church with a more contemporary worship style is a current trend," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, in the report. "These changes are intentional, as indicated by eighty percent finding worship style an important factor in selecting a new church."

Nearly half (46 percent) of those who switch churches move to a larger church, the study also found. Meanwhile, 29 percent switch to a smaller church and 25 percent choose a church the same size as their former church.

Among those who attended a church with 100 or less people, 79 percent switched to a larger church. Among people who attended a church with more than 500 in worship attendance, 57 percent moved to a smaller church.

"The trend clearly shows church switchers are moving to larger churches," McConnell noted in the report. "However, there is a smaller counter-trend among those who attended larger churches; some of them select smaller new churches."

Results from the study backed previous studies that revealed lack of loyalty to a denomination.

Fifty-four percent of church switchers change denominations when moving to a new church, the latest LifeWay study found. Forty-four percent of church switchers consider denomination as an important factor in selecting a church.

"This high rate of change in denomination is actually an indication of how few church switchers value denomination," McConnell noted. "Other factors drive the church selection decision, and most people give less consideration to denomination."

Among churchgoers who have disagreements with their previous church's teachings or positions on issues, 71 percent of them change denominations. Only 4 percent of church switchers say one of the reasons they left their previous church is they could no longer identify with that particular denomination, the study showed.

Preaching is a significant factor for most when selecting a new church. The study found that 87 percent base their selection on preaching and nine out of 10 church switchers have found preaching that meets their need for relevance, interest, and clarity.

"The importance of the pastor and preaching in a believer's spiritual journey cannot be overstated," McConnell noted. "From the church switchers' perspective, changing churches has enabled them to find better preaching that addresses two of the top reasons they left their previous church: lack of help to develop spiritually and the pastor was not a good preacher."

Most church switchers consider the preaching at their current church as relevant (91 percent) while only 44 percent said the preaching at their previous church is relevant; 91 percent say the preacher at their current church holds their attention and only 37 percent said the same about the preacher at their previous church; 86 percent say they are challenged by the preaching at their current church to live and think as Scripture teaches compared to only 39 percent who say they were challenged that way at their previous church.

Other findings showed that 97 percent attend worship at their current church; 84 percent contribute financially compared to 69 percent at their previous church; and 64 percent choose to volunteer compared to 51 percent previously. Also, 60 percent of church switchers attend a small group, Sunday school, or discipleship class at their current church. Moreover, 74 percent choose to become a member of their current church while 69 percent chose to join their previous church.

Results are based on 415 surveys conducted among church switchers whose latest church change was for reasons other than a residential move.

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