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3 Reasons Big Churches Keep Getting Bigger

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Recently Leadership Network published an article in which they shared the following research about megachurches (a Protestant congregation with 2,000 or more weekly attendees – both adults and children):

  • In 1970 there were less than 25 megachurches in all of North America
  • In 1983 there were less than 100 megachurches in the United States
  • Today there are more than 1,650 megachurches in North America (roughly 1,625 in the United States and 25 in Canada)

All of that means this past weekend of those who went to a Protestant Church in North America, 1 out of 10 went to a megachurch. The megachurch phenomenon of recent history doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact it seems to be growing, even outside of North America big churches are getting bigger. But why?

1. Directional Leadership

There is a shift in thinking that is happening. No longer are pastors simply seen as someone who cares for the flock through providing counseling, marrying, burying, and preaching nice messages that educate people. Rather, more than any time in the history of the church, pastors are beginning to view themselves as directional leaders tasked to move the people of God (the church) from where they are, to where they need to be. Large churches have a tendency to be Staff-led as opposed to Committee-led. They also view leadership as a spiritual gift and build a culture to develop and nurture that gift in others.

2. Organizational Alignment

The larger the church, generally speaking the more focused it is. They know what they do well and what they don’t do well and they play to their strengths. They’ve actually clarified their purpose and as a result they’ve been able to simplify their processes and organize their staffing, budgeting, calendaring, ministries, discipleship strategies, and behaviors around that purpose.

3. Outsider Focused

Large churches fundamentally believe they exist to reach people outside of the faith. They don’t believe the church is for Christians, but the church is Christians and they exist for people who are not here yet. As a result everything they do from style in the worship services and other ministry environments to language that is chosen, guest services and way finding is done with the outsider in mind. They consistently make choices based on who they are going to reach, not who they are going to keep.

What are some other reasons you think large churches keep getting larger? And what keeps small churches small? I’d love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment!


Posted in Leadership

7 Responses to “3 Reasons Big Churches Keep Getting Bigger”

  1. Tony Ziolko November 5, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    I also think that until the small church is able to “let go” of the idea that the lead pastor IS the church, they will never grow exponentially. Smaller congregations generally believe that the lead pastor or even Associate pastor (there is usually only one or two of these)is supposed to call everyone after one of their relatives die, or visit everyone in the hospital, or be available to counsel everyone, or marry everyone or think they can just pop in his office and “chat.” Smaller congregations have a hard time accepting delegation. “He is our pastor, he should be contacting us, not a volunteer.” Smaller churches leadership needs to let go of the fear that people are going to be mad if they change the culture. Otherwise they’ll never grow and well, eventually burn out.

  2. Amy November 12, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I do think Megachurches have a purpose. However, smaller churches also have a purpose. The growth of the megachurch shouldn’t nullify the purpose of a smaller church. I, for one, have tried to fit in in a mega church and I can’t. I’m a member of a small inner-city Episcopal church that does multiple AIDS outreach programs and seeks ways within the community to reach people in the name of Jesus. I got weary of the mega-church I attended because they are completely focused and live by small group attendance and constant fundraising. THis is why they are growing. I don’t really want to sit down with 10 strangers and bleed my soul to them. I actually do think the pastor of a church should know what’s going on with the members. I don’t really want to be led the small group leader… Since you asked… I think they keep getting larger for the same reason Walmarts keep opening, and chains like Chile’s and Applebee’s are always crowded on the weekends. People know what they’re getting and they like the security of a crowd and parents like the security of the large and entertaining children’s ministries. I felt like I got lost in the mega church I attended, and ultimately, when we left, and we were going to a smaller church my 5-year-old daughter asked… Why kind of playground with the new church have? What kind of big doll houses will the new church have? This was my own fault. I don’t think my daughter should be asking how will this church serve me… But how can I serve someone else? That’s the message of Christ. It’s not the message of our culture…. Not everyone fits in at a mega-church. That doesn’t make them deficient. If all we have are mega-churches, there will be a significant number of people who will be unchurched and will never go. Me, for one.

  3. DAVID RAY GUTIERREZ November 14, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    Just a quick thought. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes big churches get bigger because there are some people that want to go to a church where they are not recognized or identified. They just want to remain invisible. I say this because small congregations have yet to realize that when people visit their church they don’t want to be singled out as the “new people.” Or when they visit the church they are greeted quickly and forgotten quickly. Sometimes these visitors begin to second guess their interest in that particular church. Also, people are struggling with life issues and they feel self-conscious and being in a small church makes the feel exposed. Large churches offer a safe haven for onlookers or people searching for answers. Most of the mega churches we visited have a large number of people that do not even know the regular members much less who is and who isn’t a visitor. So mega churches tend to draw people who are just wanting to be anonymous.

  4. Joyto Vázquez January 31, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    I think a better question would be: why if all these mega churches keep growing, we live in a society that every day is farther away from the truth of the gospel and therefore from God? I don’t criticize anyone’s church, however, if the size of a church becomes a measure for “success”, then I think we are talking about an organization and not of the body and bride of Christ. Excuse my English. I am a Christian in Puerto Rico.

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