Mega-Churches Keep Growing In U.S.
Nearly 60 million people worship at a Protestant church each weekend in the U.S. — according to a new survey from Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research — and more than 10 percent of them attend a congregation of 2,000 or more. While the mega-church is not a recent development in American culture, its vitality and robustness has surprised many.
The survey — titled “A New Decade of Mega-churches” — found that mega-churches averaged eight percent growth each year during the last half decade. In 2005, the average attendance at mega-churches was slightly more than 2,600; today that number is nearly 3,600.
In addition, mega-churches tend to be “wired,” meaning they use social media to distribute their messages and communicate with their audiences. Eighty-eight percent responded that their church leadership or pastor uses Facebook or other social media, while more than half blog and three-fourths utilize podcasts.
While more mega-churches currently describe themselves as nondenominational (54 percent) than in previous years, more than 70 percent “described the theological outlook of the membership as evangelical.” The descriptor “Pentecostal” was a distant second at eight percent, and “Seeker” followed at five percent.
Some have argued that once the Baby Boomer generation becomes older, the mega-church phenomena would decline, arguing that it was this generation who created the mega-church model. However, findings from “A New Decade of Mega-churches” dispute some of these claims.
Seventy percent of those who attend mega-churches are under the age of 50, with those 65 and older accounting for just 11 percent.
Mega-churches also have a closer representation of women to men than the larger church, with the ratio being 55 percent women to 45 percent men.
Finally, while attendance at mega-churches has become more diverse ethnically, more than 80 percent of attendees are white. The study’s authors said, “Mega-churches are underrepresented among other racial groups compared to national race distributions, but this does seem to be changing gradually.”