Megachurches Are Hip, Young and Selfish

June 24, 2009 by

It’s not marketing news per se, but the Associated Press reported last week on a study looking at the differences in contemporary megachurches and their smaller Protestant counterparts (minichurches?). Anyone interested in churches and marketing will likely be eager to dive into the statistics behind the article. The overarching finding of the study is that megachurches tend to be composed of younger, single adults, while other churches tend to be home for older families.

Among the other interesting findings of the study are that only three in four described the megachurch they attend as their “home church.” This could be indicative of some level of Christian tourism, where people visit to see what a given church is like, or it could just be that people are shifting towards visiting more than one church regularly. Megachurches are also the place of worship for more well-educated and wealthy individuals.

The survey seems to present some overwhelming evidence in favor of megachurches, except for one key aspect:

Nearly 45 percent of megachurch attenders never volunteer at the church and 32 percent give little or no money to the congregation.

Speaking with a friend, he suggested this could be because there are higher numbers of first-time guests and non-Christians. The survey doesn’t seem to support this hypothesis, however: 98% of those surveyed–visitors included–describe themselves as “committed followers of Jesus Christ.”

The report speculates this could be due to divided loyalties among different churches or the assumption that megachurches are for spectating rather than participating.

Either way, it seems megachurches are finding a lot of successes in some areas and some startling challenges in others.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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15 Responses to “Megachurches Are Hip, Young and Selfish”

  • Travis
    June 24, 2009

    Another megachurch article. If you’re going to say the negative statistics from megachurches are volunteering and giving, at least provide a comparison with smaller churches.
    I come from a church of between 200-250 attendees, and 55% volunteerism would be great. And I’m not sure of the number but I’d say more than 30% of our congregation gives little or no money.

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  • John (Human3rror)
    June 24, 2009

    good point by travis… and your last line pretty much sums up everything, but you could take out the “mega” and it would apply generally as well.

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  • Paul Clifford
    June 25, 2009

    I remember growing up in a “regular” church where the 20% statistic was quoted. 20% of people do 80% of the work and giving in a church. This seems like that stat, but applied only to the “evil” megachurches. I could be wrong.

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  • Andy Wittwer
    June 25, 2009

    It’s worth noting that the comparisons are made to a study from 2001. I wonder what (if any) differences would come of a study today.
    As a side note – it’s good to see an article that’s not bashing mega-churches.

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  • Toni Wall
    June 27, 2009

    It seems to me that these mega-churches which are drawing large crowds of young people are “seeker” churches. These ministries have a heart for evangelism and are reaching out to the unchurched in their communities. Until the preached Word and the Holy Spirit can win the “seekers” to Christ it’s probably unrealistic to expect them to be tithers and servers as true disciples would be.

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  • Scott Troxell
    June 30, 2009

    Regarding the title “Committed follower of Jesus Christ”, what is really required honestly to be able to call yourself that? Personally, I think out of that 98%, the definition varies greatly, whereas the real definition according to scripture would be that you believe in who Jesus is…
    1) He’s God
    2) He became a man
    3) He is the Christ
    4) He died on the cross
    5) He physically rose from the dead.
    (aka the Gospel)

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  • Daniel
    June 30, 2009

    My experience with the mega-church is that they are are able to attract people of a wider range of background because they are less threatened by people who have an education or are wealthy. I have been part of Christian fellowship for 19 years that typically was opposed to mega-churches and consequently opposed to new ideas and a broader scope of who a Christian can be and still be saved. As a musician I have had opportunity to be part of several services in several denominations and the common thread among smaller churches is that they have a limited view that is often not biblical or not in biblical context, but biased to their long stemming culture or upbringing. These smaller churches tend to be controlling and opposed to education for fear of the influence of the world on their members or that success cause the believer to fall away from the Lord. In my opinion they have not done their due diligence to have an answer to the deeper questions that the educated or successful may ask before they would just commit their entire lives to Christ. Basically, I think some people attend larger churches because they don’t have to fit into the box of someone elses experience or perspective, but can grow into what God created them for and thereby the “personal relationship” with God that all churches talk about, but is not easily obtained in small churches. Besides, the church in the book of Acts was a mega-church, why not make that our biblical reference?

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  • Daniel
    June 30, 2009

    One more thing. Another observation of mine is that small churches tend to be elitist and negative toward other organizations that are large. i.e. “Megachurches Are Hip, Young and Selfish” and “Church Marketing Sucks” and “To frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate with uncompromising clarity the truth of Jesus Christ.”
    Selfish – That is going to win me over
    Marketing – Doing a professional job is just smart, not evil. It reflects that you want to do your best, because He is worthy of that. What ever you set your hand to do, do it with all “your” might. He did give us brains to use after all.
    Sucks – Who are you to judge? There are people in mega-churches who love God and are saved by His Blood and use the resources God gave them to promote the kingdom. Those are His kids you are referring to.
    Elite – When you think that others can do with out you.
    Frustrate, Educate and Motivate the church – Last time I checked it was His church and as the head of his church, I think He can take care of it. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Before you and I came along the church was there and it stands fast with or with out us. It is all about Him.

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  • Adam
    July 1, 2009

    I think megachurches can have a tendancy to become an empire that continually desires to grow and market themselves, without giving the adequate attention to ministering to the needs of the people. I like churches that work together to carry out the work of Christ, and meet the needs of hurting and lost people, without being focused on trying to steal the sheep from one another.

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  • Francois
    July 4, 2009

    Small churches, medium churches, mega churches…whatever it takes to reach people for Christ! Let’s just follow His will!

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  • Zach
    July 10, 2009

    Adam, you’re way off. Making a blanket statement like that is like me saying that all Baptist churches are horrible because one of them happens to be.
    The reason a church grows to the size of a megachurch is because they ARE ministering the Gospel to people, and it IS making an impact in a positive way. A church doesn’t grow if it’s teaching bad theology or if its focus is not on evangelism and discipleship. If the motives of the church pastor and leadership isn’t pure, do you really think God is going to bless that work?

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  • Sheila B
    July 12, 2009

    I don’t think that numbers (size) of churches is necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. Since we are all just collections of people, human and faulty, the real issue would seem to me to be discipleship. Many people have a “fire insurance” relationship with Christ – in my experience, they go to church mostly as consumers so they don’t volunteer, tithe etc. The 20/80 principle could be telling us that we are not doing a good job of helping Christ followers to mature. The growth of a church by numbers could simply be saying that what is offered is of interest to people (Christian or otherwise). It’s the “otherwise” we should be focusing on. Recycling christians or transfer growth vs. new growth is not often measured. And size growth can be overemphasized. We need to reach people AND disciple them.

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  • Church Growth
    January 17, 2010

    I think you also have to consider how the christian community grows itself. The younger like to gather in large crowds so naturally go to a larger church. Over time they become less involved and the numbers dwindle to the middle age church which seems to me as being a minimegachurch. You will find a good number here. But the older are those that hold on to the end and I hate to say it but when I get older I am going to want to skip the crowd.

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  • Mark Piening
    September 20, 2010

    I was looking for a story/blog/discussion on why being selfish sucks and how social media transparency is making being selfish harder (which of course is good). Instead I landed here, and what a blessing.

    I hope I can apply some of your comments toward our family’s definition and going forward decision of tithing for “the megachurch itself” and the community through service and gifts. God asks for both, but the church is changing with the Internet, online giving, and direct service and mission work. In many ways, the church is getting dis-intermediated the same way resellers have been displaced in high-technology sales channels. We need to rethink “giving”.

    Thanks for sharing…

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  • sz
    September 26, 2010

    Every good Shepherd knows his sheep individually and they are accountable to one another. It is impossible for a Pastor of a Mega church to know each member individually. So what exactly is the point?

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