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.