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Megachurches Are Getting Smaller – Sort Of!

By January 18, 2016 No Comments

By Warren Bird


If you say the word megachurch, most people think of a gigantic sanctuary like the 16,000-seat former stadium of the Houston Rockets that hosts Lakewood Church led by Joel Osteen.

On the one hand, every year sees an increase in the number of large-attendance churches (see leadnet.org/world for FAQs on both US and global megachurches). And the average total worship attendance at all campuses is also on the increase in large churches.

However, at the same time, the clear trend in large North American churches is that they’re also getting smaller in two ways:

  •  The average (median) seating size for a megachurch’s largest sanctuary is now only 1,200 seats, down from 1,500 five years ago. Instead, churches are having more services and more locations  (62% of megachurches are multisite).
  • 79% of megachurches say that small groups are central to their strategy of Christian nurture and spiritual formation. So you might say churches grow bigger by getting smaller.


For this and other recent national research on very large churches, download the free report, Recent Shifts in America’s Largest Protestant Churches: Megachurches 2015 Report, authored by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, and sponsored by the Beck Group.

For other information on large church issues, see Leadership Network’s page on global megachurches and also on large church financial issues .



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Warren Bird

Author Warren Bird

Warren Bird, Ph.D. has been named a Leadership Network Senior Fellow in light of his exemplary service 2006-2018 as Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Development at Leadership Network. He serves as full-time VP of Research for ECFA.org (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). An ordained minister with background as both a pastor and seminary professor, Warren is an award-winning author or co-author of 31 books for ministry leaders including Hero Maker with Dave Ferguson, How to Break Church Growth Barriers with Carl George, and Next: Pastoral Succession that Works with William Vanderbloemen. Other recent titles are Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work with Jim Tomberlin, and Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller. Some of Warren’s recent online reports include "Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard," and "The Heartbeat of Rising Influence Churches." See also research reports at leadnet.org/megachurchleadnet.org/salary and leadnet.org/portable. He is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading researchers of megachurches, multisite churches, large church compensation and high-visibility pastoral succession. He also oversees the world's only active, sortable list of global megachurches. Follow him on Twitter @warrenbird.  Click here to subscribe to Leadership Network Advance to get updates from Leadership Network.

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