The worship preference questionnaire – Spring 2021

Earlier this Spring, the Transition Team released a questionnaire asking about worship preferences for the people of Grace. The purpose of the questionnaire was to simply ask what we, as a congregation, prefer.  Within the ELCA there is a variety of accepted worship practices so this should be helpful for leadership, the new called Pastor, and for all of us to think, meditate, and pray for guidance. It should be thought of as a tool for us to better understand ourselves and discover differences within our congregation.

Now I freely admit that I have struggled with the correct wording for this talk.  It should be apparent to most members that Grace has, for a long time, had disagreements regarding worship…especially in music and style.  This survey was not designed to be a “vote” for one particular viewpoint, and it should not be used in that manner.  Also, it is a simple instrument, so it should not be read in a detailed form…just broad directions. Again, the goal is to make us, as members, aware of the different preferences so we can, as followers of Christ, look to find ways to worship as a group.

We had more than 20% of the congregation return the questionnaire, so results should be statistically significant.

For the multiple-choice questions:

Music during service…71% would like to hear a variety of new and traditional, 21% want ONLY traditional, 8% want praise type of music

To be clear the actual question was “your preferred music during service

with the choices being:

  1. A service with music and songs that come only from traditional Lutheran sources
  2. A praise/contemporary style
  3. Open to any variety and like a combination of varied styles

The number of Communion services per month…52% wish to have communion twice a month, 42% want it every service, 6% don’t care, and zero percent want it only during special church holidays, which I am told some Lutheran churches do.

Order of the service (indicates where certain items are placed within the service) 38% don’t care, 32% want to the same EVERY week, 29% want it to vary (1% left it blank which I assume is the same as no preference)
Pastoral location for the sermon…65% don’t care, 16% said it should be at the pulpit, and 19% from the front of the church steps… (there was one comment written next to the question that said “location doesn’t matter the message does”)
The teaching message (the homily) …and this treads into areas that a pastor may feel are a pastor’s choice since it asks what should be included in the homily…still we asked the question.  87% want the message from the current Bible reading as that relates to current events, 4% want it dealing only with current events, and 3% want the homily from the Bible only.

We also asked about choices for days and times of service.

Day of service (first choice) …Sunday 92%, no preference 8%

Second choice for Day of service …  Saturday 42%, Wednesday 26%, Sunday 9%, Thursday 3%, no preference 20%

The time of the service…the answers to this question varied greatly.  A majority listed 9am, 9:30am, or 10am as their first choice. For second choice Saturday late afternoon was most popular with Wednesday evening the next most listed, although a few members want a Thursday or Sunday afternoon service.

We had a write in section where people could write in their comments.  Most, almost three-fourths of respondents, didn’t fill anything in the space. But here are a few of the comments in no particular order:

“I’ve really enjoyed the services lately as they are about an hour”

“I prefer only the traditional Lutheran music”

“I like what we have now but I will keep attending if things change”

“I come to praise God and not look at the floor. I want to leave rejuvenated and ready to face this crazy world.  When you leave the first service, I feel like I’ve left a funeral”. (The writer of this comment did not sign their name and indicated that within Grace there is no confidentiality and lots of mistrust)

“The pastor should stand on the stairs and wake up those sleepers in the back”

“The only thing that our new Pastor will need is for someone to NOT tell him or her how to do the job or when.  The person will only need to remember the first two commandments of Love the lord and love thy neighbor as thy self.  In other words, come with vast tolerance for people’s foibles and a firm grasp on how to love them anyway.  A person who can build bridges would be great”

“As long as there is a spirit of reverence, worship, and joy, a mixture of styles of music would be great”

“I am comfortable with traditional Lutheran services but I really enjoy when we mix it up in music and style”

“Saturday later afternoon works for people who might work Sundays or enjoy an evening service”

“I believe keeping things as they were for the past 100 or so years will not attract new members or members with children. Trying a variety of service styles and worship music can bring in new faces”

“Need to have new hymns, new music and hymns to learn…a variety for lack of a better word. How about introducing new musical instruments”

“I like the second service but the time is very inconvenient for me”

“I would hope that moving forward we could reach a place of tolerance or understanding of different styles or approaches for worship.  That has previously proved to be a concern and an area of little tolerance for differences. I feel that the most important thing is to focus on time spent on God our provider and heavenly father.  The vehicle is not more important than the object of our focus”

“I like quicker services”

“Would be wonderful to be exposed to different culture through music, South American, European, African, Asian, etc. Most folks love music…to attract those different than most of the congregation, a variety of music and musical instruments into worship”

Keep in mind that these comments are from individual members of our congregation. We may agree, disagree, or not care about the expressed opinions. And, it is important to remember the purpose of the questionnaire was to discover our different preferences…to discover where we differ so we can talk as a community of God.     I would hope that we can use some of this information to think, act, and pray as congregation to move forward and be our best, and to be what God wants Grace to become.