Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Style Matters: Worship Preferences of University Students Regarding the use of Music and Technology

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Catherine Cassara-Jemai (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Peter Vanderhart (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Stephen Croucher (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lara Martin Lengel (Committee Member)


As a response to increasingly low rates of participation among university aged students, Christian churches across the country are spending increasing amounts of money on music and technology with the assumption that such expenditures will attract that target demographic. Across denominational affiliations, it is a commonly held belief that such practices must be in place in order to attract and retain this demographic, but this belief has no empirical support. Therefore, this research project investigated the worship preferences of professing Christian students at Bluffton University paying particular attention to the utilization of music and technology. Those who have studied related issues have done so with clearly non-academic objectives, most with pre-existing religious affiliations and/or ties to funding from Christian-based organizations.

The participants of this study were traditional-aged undergraduate students who were enrolled full-time at Bluffton University during spring semester, 2009. Bluffton University is affiliated with the Mennonite Church, USA, but represents many Christian denominations with the top three being: Evangelical, Catholic, and Mennonite. This research incorporated survey questionnaires based on the uses and gratifications perspective.

The intent of the instrument was to measure three areas, as each relates to university student preferences toward the use of music and technology in Christian worship: relationship between technology use and current preferences; relationship between past worship experiences and current preferences; and, relationship between the on-campus religious activities of students and their current preferences. An instrument was developed based on the population being studied. The total sample was 123 participants, from ages 18-22, with a mean age of 20.00 (SD = 1.21). Of the participants, 43 were male (35.00%) and 80 were female (65.00%).

This study produced two key findings directly related to the research questions. First, students more involved with on-campus religious activities have stronger preferences toward the use of technology and contemporary music in worship. Second, students who report a higher level of technology use in their daily lives have stronger preferences toward the utilization of technology in their worship services. Additional findings centered on differences between male and female students.