Aspects of church services that provide the most meaning

Prayer, sermon and Communion provide the most meaning to churchgoers

Despite some denominational differences, most churchgoers indicate that prayer, the sermon or homily, as well as Holy Communion or Eucharist are the aspects of church services most likely to make worship meaningful.

These three top rated aspects, that made worship service 'very much' meaningful, were selected by around 7 in ten attenders, in the 2016 NCLS. 

A sample of churchgoers selected randomly from across all faith traditions in the 2016 NCLS were asked ‘To what extent does each of the following make a church service meaningful for you?’. Their responses could include ‘very much’, ‘somewhat’, ‘a little’ and ‘not at all’. The results confirm that a range of aspects help to make services meaningful for the majority of attenders (from 60% to 72%).

Prayer (72%), Sermon or homily (70%) and Communion or Eucharist (69%) were closely followed by Reading of the Scriptures (66%) and Congregational singing (60%) as the aspects that make a worship service ‘very much’ meaningful for the attenders sampled.

A closer inspection of the results reveals different patterns across faith traditions. While there was no statistically significant difference between denominational groups on the importance of prayer, Catholic attenders were significantly more likely to find Eucharist (or the Holy Communion/Lords Supper) very meaningful, whereas Protestant attenders were more likely to name the sermon (or homily), the reading of Scriptures and congregational singing as important aspects for meaningful worship.

Our research reports that while there are a variety of aspects of church services that provide meaning for attenders, prayer, the sermon or homily, and Communion/ Eucharist are the aspects most commonly selected.

Ruth Powell
Data Sources:

Data source: Powell, R. Sterland, S. Pepper, M. and Hancock, N. (2016). 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.

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