Not a Boomer Phenomenon – Megachurches Draw Twice as Many Under 45
by Warren Bird
“As the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) passes on, megachurches are also dying off.” I see statements like that often in the public media, but all the evidence says they’re just plain wrong, based on a major research project I did with Scott Thumma.
Instead, the larger the church the greater the percentage of young adults go there on average. We found and wrote in Not Who You Think They Are (free download) that the average age of megachurch respondents is 40 years old, similar to the U.S. Census average. Yet the average age of an attender in a typical “non-megachurch” congregation is nearly 53 years old. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of megachurch attenders are under 45 years old, while only a third are that young in other size churches (35%).
Likewise, many more single adults are part of megachurches. Nearly a third of megachurch attenders are single, unmarried people. In a typical church (all sizes) singles account for just 10% of the congregation. It is more likely in a typical congregation that the vast majority (80%) of attenders will be married or widowed. Yet in our megachurch attender sample these groups account for only 55% of the congregation. The vast majority of the megachurch singles fall into the 18-44 age range, a group that is essentially missing in many churches .
In addition, nearly half the singles in megachurches have been at the churches 2 years or less, but 20% of them have attended six years or more. Interestingly, these single attenders were twice as likely to be living with other singles when compared to churches of other sizes (16% vs. 8%) but equal in percentage for those living alone (16% vs. 15%). This suggests that perhaps a large percentage of the megachurch singles are students, a perception confirmed in our visits to the megachurches. The visitors and newer people at the megachurches were even more likely to be youthful and single than were those to the average church. Almost 60% of single, never-married megachurch attenders are visitors or have been at the church 2 years or less, whereas for all churches 40% of never married people are visitors or are recent church attenders.
Finally, megachurch pastors cover a wide range of ages. I wrote a blog about the youngest megachurch pastors, and the chart below illustrates the range of ages of megachurch pastors.