Monday, June 22, 2009

Who goes to megachurches?

A new study examines Megachurchgoers; that is, those who attend congregations of 2,000 or more people:

Compared to attendees of a typical Protestant church, people who attend megachurches are more likely to be young, single, more educated and wealthier, a new survey reveals.

The majority of megachurch attendees (62 percent) are under the age of 45 whereas less than half (35 percent) of those in a typical congregation fall in the 18-44 age group, according to a megachurch report by Scott Thumma of Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Warren Bird of Leadership Network.

The report – “Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America’s Megachurches” – is based on data from a national survey that drew 24,900 responses from 12 carefully selected megachurches across the country. It is claimed to be the largest national representative study of megachurch attendees conducted by any researchers to date.

With more than 5 million people worshipping at megachurches – Protestant churches of 2,000 or more weekly attendees – in a typical week, Thumma and Bird sought to provide a look at who these worshippers are, why they come and why some stay. . . .

They found that in addition to drawing more young adults, megachurches tend to bring in more single, unmarried people than a typical church. Nearly a third of megachurch attendees are single compared to just 10 percent of a typical congregation. The vast majority (80 percent) of those in a typical congregation are married or widowed.

Megachurches also tend to draw in a lot more new people compared to the typical church. Over two-thirds (68 percent) of megachurch attendees have been there five years or less while only 40 percent of those in churches of all sizes joined the church recently. Almost half (45 percent) of attendees of a typical church have been there for more than 10 years.

Although megachurches have nearly twice as many new attendees, most of the new people are already Christians and came from another church. Seventy-seven percent said they have been long-time committed Christ followers for seven or more years and only 2 percent said they are not a follower. Also, 18 percent had not attended church for a while before coming to the megachurch and just 6 percent said they never went to church previously. . . .

Additionally, megachurch attendees are less committed financially than those in a typical church with 32 percent saying they contribute nothing or give just a small amount when they can. While a third of both groups give a tithe (10 percent of income) or more, the megachurch giving figures are overall significantly below those for churches of all sizes.

Although their contributions are small, their level of giving has actually increased since attending the megachurch. Forty percent said they were giving more at the megachurch than at their previous church.

Other findings show that almost half (45 percent) of megachurch participants said they never volunteered and only 60 percent participate in small groups.

So, do any of you go to megachurches? Does this data hold true? I don’t understand how there can be significant pastoral care in churches of this size. If you are one in 2,000, how can you and your pastor even know each other? What can you conclude from this data?


Larryk12309 said...

My Mega Church grew so fast we had to open a branch church several miles to the north. That's when we became one of over 800 fellowships in America
that are one church many locations.

To be really honest I think our member to attendee ratio might even be lower than the number you quoted. But as long as people are hearing sound bible preaching and as long as they have many chances to get more involved and
go deeper it's all good, AMEN?

After all Jesus had many following Him but only a 120 made it all the way to the upper room.

As far as pastorial care goes everyone is encouraged to join one of the many small groups in the area as well as all the chances there to help out and serve the church community. This way there's more chances that someone will be looking out for you.

I suggest checking out a few mega church websites to see all they have to offer.

You'll find we're more balanced than you think.

Robert Tewart said...

Thanks for your comments Larry. I also attended a megachurch from 1996 to 2005. They also now have a "south campus" about 12 miles from the old one. If you were to look at their doctrinal and missional statements, you would be impressed at their position. It would only be after you attended or became better aquainted with the "real world" there, that you would find pastors reading the likes of Rob Bell, John Eldrige,Tony Jones et al.

Web sites are not necesarilly a measure of where churches really stand...Just go look at Rob Bell's at Mars Hill.

All that being said, I do not think all megachurches are bad by any means. There are many example of solid big churches like Johnny Hunt's Woodstock and John MacArthur's Grace community.

I kind of look at it like the Camel passing through the eye of a needle compared to a rich man going to heaven.