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General InterestRapid Growth

Youngest Megachurch Pastor? 20 to Watch

By October 9, 2017 No Comments


Who are the youngest leaders of large-attendance churches across North America?

One fascinating discovery from Leadership Network’s extensive research database is that they’re from all over! The map above depicts churches served by this continent’s 20 youngest large-church pastors, taken from in the table below. They cover 18 states and 1 province, affirming that gone is the day when the Bible Belt was overwhelmingly dominant. Gone also is the limitation to cities like New York, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Akron or Chicago where North America’s earliest megachurches emerged — see this blog for more megachurch history.

According to our research database, the average lead pastor is age 55 across the several thousand churches with weekly worship attendances (not membership) of 1,000 or more adults and children. However that average almost obscures the amazingly wide range from oldest to youngest.

Among megachurches — by common definition, a megachurch draws 2,000 or more weekly attenders — the “most senior” department includes Charles Stanley who came to Atlanta’s First Baptist Church in 1971. Born in 1932, he’s in his 80s. Chuck Swindoll was born in 1934, Ed Young Sr in 1936, and John MacArthur in 1939. (All these dates have been published in newspapers and other media, so I’m not letting out any secrets!)

Meet the Up and Comers

What about the youngest large-church leaders? They start at age 30. Below are two tables with Leadership Network research on today’s youngest pastors — first those in the 1,000-1,999 attendance range, and then those in the 2,000-and-up range, again taken from published reports, and most confirmed by me interviewing or emailing them.


Honorable mention goes to Pastor Tara Beth Leach at First Church of the Nazarene, who would be #12-youngest by birth order in the 1,000-1,999 list if I had continued it to that point. She would also be the first-named female solo senior pastor on that list. She was born in 1982.

Naming the youngest female megachurch senior or lead pastor is a bit harder to do: Willow Creek’s Heather Larson, born 1975, is one of two people (the other one male) named in 2017 as the lead pastor there. All other women who are the sole senior/lead pastor of a megachurch are older than Larson, but several women who are co-pastor with their husbands are younger.

O Canada! Many large and fast-growing churches are developing in Canada. Our 1,000-1,999 table below features one Canadian to watch. And had our 2,000-and-higher table continued just a bit longer, it would have mentioned another Canadian: Mark Clark, Village Church, Surrey, BC. For our research on large Canadian churches see leadnet.org/Canada.

NOTE at very bottom that Leadership Network loves younger leaders, and offers lots of opportunities for you to hang out with each other!

PLEASE alert me to corrections or additions, writing to DrBirdAssistant@gmail.com

For more blogs in this  “megachurch” series, see also “World’s First Megachurch?”,  “Megachurch Languages?”“Biggest Megachurch Sanctuaries?” , “Megachurch Books?” and “How Many Megachurches?”. For global megachurches, see leadnet.org/world. 

RESEARCH NOTE: This blog was last updated October 2017.

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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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