Categorizing the Churches in this Study

Every church within this study operates and worships differently. That being said, categorizing the patterns observed within these churches helps you further understand their purpose and methodology. However, since the concept of “worship style” is so subjective, the resulting categories are based off of observed worship patterns on both corporate and social levels. As a result, the worship styles of Naperville protestant churches can be split into two different categories: Outreaching Worship and Experiential Worship.

Outreaching Worship is worship that is meant to be experienced universally. Ideally, anyone can walk into these services and gain a similar type of experience. The goal for this type of worship service is to both teach and equip. A heavy emphasis is placed on the sermon, bible readings, and the big “takeaway” from the service. Oftentimes, the worship leaders hope to use the teachings to equip congregants with messages and skills that they can use in their daily lives to continue living for Jesus.

Outreaching Worship Churches come in many shapes and sizes. They do not favor a specific style of music or denominational affiliation. These churches are often (but not always) larger churches. This is most likely because the universal worship model works well for appealing to all types of people in those larger congregations.

Participating in Outreaching Worship is a personal experience. However, the experience is determined entirely on the individual worshiper. This participation is passive rather than active. It is more about receiving rather than initiating. The worship singing is often lead by a strong band or choir and the teaching does not require vocal participation. There may be liturgy and communion, but ultimately the message is meant to be absorbed mentally.

This type of worship makes up just over the majority of churches in this project, including: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Community Christian Church, Knox Presbyterian Church, Calvary Church, and Wheatland Salem. To learn more about these churches, click on the link below.




Experiential Worship is an experience that is determined by the people in the room. Oftentimes, the congregants play a larger role in leading the service, as well as facilitating the musical portion. Rather than striving to equip people with a big “take-away” each week, Experiential Worship places an emphasis on being in the worship space, seeing the worship service as an opportunity to come together as a congregation to experience God’s presence and learn more about his majesty. It is less about what happens during the week, and more about the gathering itself.

Like Outreaching Worship, Experiential Worship comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be observed in Traditional and Contemporary Churches alike, and is not limited to a single denomination. You are less likely to see this type of worship in larger churches simply because it is hard to allow the entire congregation to have an active part in the service if it is larger than 200 people. However, there are some exceptions, as you will see in this project.

Participation in this type of Worship Service can be characterized vocally, as congregants are often asked to voice prayer requests and announcements aloud. Members of the congregation are central in the worship service, as many actively take part in leading. This looks different in every church, but is always present in some shape or form.

This type of worship can be seen in four different churches in the project: Our Saviours Lutheran Church, First Congregational United Church of Christ, St John United Church of Christ, and Living Water Evangelical Church. To learn more about these churches, click on the link below.