MEGACHURCHES & Report discovers they continue to grow as they emphasize small groups, embrace modern worship and diversify, but steer clear of politics.

by Bob Smietana, Relcion News Service.

A pre-pandemic, national survey of megachurches from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found the median megachurch draws about 4,100 attenders to its worship services, up from about 3,700 in 2015. 

The average megachurch budget is $5.3 million, up from $4.7 million in 2015. Seven out of 10 have more than one location. Six out of 10 (58%) say they have a multiracial congregation.  

Despite the decline among Christian groups overall, most megachurches seem to be doing well, said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary and director of Hartford Institute.

“They continue to do things that other congregations should be doing,” Thumma said.

Thumma said the use of contemporary worship — along with a focus on small groups and international diversity — has helped megachurches continue to grow. Megachurches, in general, he said, also tend to steer clear of controversy, staying away from culture wars or political battles…

Thumma said the growing diversity in megachurches reflects the changing demographics of the United States. Megachurches, he said, also attract younger worshippers than other kinds of churches.

“Megachurches are one of the few groups of churches that have a wide representation of people under 45,” he said. People in that age group, he said, tend to be more demographically diverse and more open to diversity. More than three-quarters of the churches (78%) in the survey said they were intentionally trying to become more diverse.

Still, Thumma pointed out, megachurch pastors themselves are not a diverse group. The average megachurch pastor is a 53-year-old white man who has been in place for 15 years. And many are in danger of losing effectiveness as leaders, he said.

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SMALL GROUPS & Why Do Small Groups Matter in Larger Churches? #WarrenBird #ScottThumma

By Warren Bird, 6/29/15.

Churches grow larger by getting smaller. That’s one of many findings in a survey of some 25,000 megachurch attenders that fellow researcher Scott Thumma and I conducted, writing Not Who You Think They Are (free download) to highlight our findings.

One of the key points: large churches are very intentional about helping people find their identity in some kind of group or team. Some 60% of attenders say they are involved in one or more groups (see graphic), a percentage that’s growing. In an earlier survey back in 2000, just half (50%) of the megachurches said small groups were central to their strategy for Christian nurture and spiritual formation. By 2008, that number had risen to a strong majority (84%) of megachurches affirming the centrality of a small group strategy.

What type of group draws the most participants? Religious education and spiritual growth groups attracted approximately a quarter of megachurch attenders, while service, recovery and fellowship type small groups accounted for no more than 10% to 20% of attenders.


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MEGACHURCH & Index of Leadership Network’s Facts & Findings

Index of Megachurch Research, Leadership Network, 11/8/14.

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Blogs with info:

– 9 Fascinating Facts about People Who Attend Megachurches

– Not A Boomer Phenomenon – Megachurches Draw Twice as Many Under 45

– Why Do Small Groups Matter in Large Churches?

– What Was The First Megachurch?

– How many megachurches are there in North America?

– Which North American megachurches have the largest sanctuaries?

– Who is the youngest North American megachurch pastor?

– Are all North American megachurches primarily English speaking?

– What are some good books about U.S. megachurches?

Selected Articles and Reports:

The Economic Outlook of Very Large Churches: Trends Driving the Budgets and Staffing Activities of North America’s Biggest Congregations

This report, published February, 2013, contains new research from our Fall 2012 Economic Outlook Survey, as well as previously unreleased information from our 2012 Salary Survey.

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Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America’s Megachurches

By Scott Thumma and Warren Bird

The National Survey of Megachurch Attenders drew 24,900 responses from 12 carefully selected megachurches across the U.S. Conducted January to August 2008, it is the largest national representative study of megachurch attendees conducted by any researchers to date. This report summarizes the initial learnings from the study.

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MEGACHURCH & 10 Mega-Church Tips for Ministries of Any Size #ScottThumma #GrowthByAccidentBook

By Scott Thumma, Hartford Seminary Institute on Church Research.

“What could my church possibly learn from these behemoths with million-dollar budgets, hundreds of staff, and thousands of excited volunteers?”

In my travels, I repeatedly hear pastors ask this question. I understand why. But my last 20-plus years of research on megachurches throughout the world suggests that churches of all sizes have much to learn from this phenomenon. However, I don’t believe the primary lessons come from their specific ministry efforts. Instead, the most important things we can learn are the strategies behind all their ministry efforts.

I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to most megachurches’ success is their ability to minister in and adapt to an ever-changing contemporary world. A vital church reaches out to both its members and non-Christians in relevant ways, and megachurches seem to do this both accidentally and intentionally.

Here are 10 basic principles gleaned from megachurches that I believe churches of all sizes can apply:

1) Don’t strive for size; strive to serve God…

2) Know your strengths and put them to work…

3) Evangelize in every possible way…

4) Make it appealing, then make it challenging..

5) Worship is not just a “Sunday thing”…

6) Create participants—not members…

7) Connect the congregation…

8) Whatever you do, do it with excellence…

9) Empower people to identify and live out their calling…

10) Sanctification isn’t just for newcomers…

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