The number of very large churches continues to increase, as our graphic dramatically illustrates. And within that group, the biggest churches continue to get bigger. In the past I've written about everything from sanctuary sizes (very few new ones over 5,000) to the first megachurch (start with Pentecost when "about 3,000" were converted, per Acts 2:41) to global megachurches (Korea and Nigeria are currently leading).
But what about the people who attend really big churches? Fellow researcher Scott Thumma and I surveyed some 25,000 of them, with some fascinating discoveries:
- Nearly two-thirds of attendees have been at these churches five years or less.
- Many attendees come from other churches, but nearly a quarter haven't been in any church for a long time before coming to a megachurch.
- New people almost always come to the megachurch because family, friends or co-workers invited them.
- Fifty-five percent of megachurch attendees volunteer at the church in some way (a higher percentage than in smaller churches).
- What first attracted attendees were the worship style, the senior pastor and the church's reputation, in that order.
- These same factors also influenced long-term attendance, as did the music/arts, social and community outreach and adult-oriented programs.
- Attendees report a considerable increase in their involvement in church, in their spiritual growth and in their needs being met.
- Attendees can craft unique, customized spiritual experiences through the multitude of ministry choices and diverse avenues for involvement that megachurches offer.
- In many ways, large churches today are making good progress in reaching people and moving them from spectators to active participants to growing disciples of Jesus Christ.
For more interesting facts about people who attend megachurches, download the free report "Not Who You Think They Are: The Real Story of People Who Attend America's Megachurches."
Warren Bird, Ph.D., research director at Leadership Network, with background as a pastor and seminary professor, is author or co-author of 26 books for ministry leaders including Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work with Jim Tomberlin. Follow him on Twitter at @warrenbird.
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