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An Overview of America’s Megachurches Scott Thumma Hartford Institute For Religion Research Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT www.hartfordinstitute.org.

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Presentation on theme: "An Overview of America’s Megachurches Scott Thumma Hartford Institute For Religion Research Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT www.hartfordinstitute.org."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Overview of America’s Megachurches Scott Thumma Hartford Institute For Religion Research Hartford Seminary, Hartford CT

2 Basic Definition: A Megachurch is any Protestant Christian congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2000 persons or more in its worship services. The over 1200 Protestant megachurches in the United States share many other traits. Virtually all megachurches have a conservative Christian theology, a large number are nondenominational, most have an active small group ministry, and the majority have multiple services with a contemporary worship style.

3 Growth of Megachurches

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6 Where they are located Throughout the United States, but mostly in the southern states Around major cities In the suburbs - older and newer suburbs At the intersections of major highways Along major Interstate Highways In plain view – obvious, not hidden

7 National Location 63% are located in or around cities of 250,000 or more, 23% in cities between 50,000 and 250,000

8 Place in the Metro Area Type of Location in the city: Residential……………39% Mixed Residential and Commercial……55% Commercial…………... 5%

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11 There Are Many Myths About Megachurches MYTH: All megachurches are alike. FACT: They differ in growth rates, size and the things they emphasize.

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13 There Are Many Myths About Megachurches MYTH: Megachurches are just spectator worship and are not serious about Christianity. FACT: Our data shows that most megachurches demand a lot; they have high spiritual expectations and serious orthodox beliefs and preaching.

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15 Small Fellowship Groups 88% of megachurches invite new members to participate in small groups Ninety-six percent (96%) of congregations strongly encourage their new members to volunteer in church ministries. Over three quarters of churches (76%) require new members to take an informational class prior to or after joining.

16 50% of megachurches say that small group use is central to their strategy for Christian nurture and spiritual formation. Another 44% have such groups but say the small groups are not central to the church's program. According to members: 7% say they have no group involvement. 23% say they are not regularly involved in small groups. Seventy percent (70%) are involved in some form of small group.

17 There Are Many Myths About Megachurches MYTH: All megachurches are homogeneous congregations with little diversity. FACT: A large and growing number of megachurches are multi-ethnic. Many have considerable diversity of class, education levels, income, ages, backgrounds, occupations, and even theological and political styles.

18 Michael Emerson found in a major national study that multiracial churches, those having no more than 80 percent of any one racial group, represented 7 percent of American congregations. About 15 percent of Catholic churches and only roughly 5 percent of Protestant churches were multiracial. The 2005 megachurch research found 35 percent of megachurches claimed to have 20% or more minority presence in their congregations. 56 percent of megachurches stated that their congregations were making specific efforts to become intentionally multi-ethnic. These efforts included: diversifying the race of staff and clergy giving them more prominent roles in leadership creating services in other languages, developing outreach programs to meet the needs of other races, inviting those outside the majority racial group, reshaping worship services to appeal to variety of ethnic & cultural groups and, encouraging a attitude of racial acceptance in the congregation.

19 There Are Many Myths About Megachurches MYTH #10: Megachurches grow primarily because of great programming. FACT: Megachurches grow because excited attendees tell their friends. They may be encouraged and helped to do so by church leadership but it is not what megachurches “do” in terms of evangelistic programs, that makes them grow.

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22 Based on a survey of 6400 megachurch members Percent of members saying they always or usually experience these in Worship: Sense of God’s Presence 86% Inspiration85% Joy84% Frustration 3% Boredom 3%

23 There Are Many Myths About Megachurches MYTH: The megachurch phenomenon is over and on the decline because it was a Baby Boomer phenomenon. New generations aren’t interested in megachurches. FACT: The numbers of megachurches continues to grow. Many of the fastest growing, newest megachurches are full of people under 35 years old. Not all youth like megachurches, but then neither do all Baby Boomers.

24 47% of the megachurches had between 40 or 80 percent of adults under 35 Another 46% of the megachurches had 21-40% of adults under 35

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