Sacrament and word

What churchgoers most value in their local church

Church worship services or masses are the foundation of local church life. There are two aspects of what happens during these gatherings – Holy Communion and preaching – that are especially valued by the people who attend.

In the 2016 National Church Life Survey, church attenders were asked to select up to three aspects of their local church that they most valued, from a list of 13 options.

The aspects most valued by the largest numbers of churchgoers, by a considerable margin, were sharing in Holy Communion/ the Eucharist/ Lord’s Supper (42% of attenders) and sermons, homilies or Bible teaching (37% of attenders).

These overall results mask strong differences between Catholics and Protestants. Celebrating the Eucharist/Holy Communion was most valued by 61% of Catholics, and only 25% of Protestants (36% of Mainstream Protestants, 14% of Pentecostals and 19% of other Protestants). The reverse was true for sermons/homilies/preaching, which was most valued by 28% of Catholics and 45% of Protestants, with little variation across the three Protestant groupings.

Traditional style of worship or music, praying for one another and homilies were the second strongest values among Catholics, with around three in 10 attenders selecting them. For Protestants as a whole, small groups, praying for one another, sharing in Holy Communion, contemporary worship and practical care for one another, were all most valued by around a quarter of attenders.

Miriam Pepper
Data Sources:

Powell, R., Pepper, M., Hancock, N. and Sterland, S. (2017) 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.

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