According to the survey, most megachurches experience their biggest growth when their pastor has been in place for between five and 19 years. After 20 years, the growth drops off. The survey also found that after 15 years, a megachurch’s spiritual health begins to fail.
“The gist is that the period between 10 and 15 years of a pastor’s tenure produces the most spiritually vital congregational dynamic,” according to the report. “Prior to and after that point, it is a less robust picture, on average.”
Thumma said that after 10 or 15 years, megachurches need to reassess to see if the way they are operating still meets the needs of the community around them. After that much time, things have likely changed and the church may have fallen into a rut.
“You can’t live on your charisma and assume the church is just going to keep flourishing and flourishing,” he said.
Among other findings:
- Only two-thirds (68%) of megachurch attendees show up on any given Sunday, down from 82% in 2015 and 90% in 2000.
- Half (51%) cooperate with other churches on community service projects.
- One in 5 (21%) cooperate with people of other faith traditions on community service.
- One in 5 (19.1%) declined by at least 2% in the last five years.
- Sixteen percent merged with another church.
- Just over half (56%) had between 1,800 and 2,999 average attenders per week, while 5% had more than 10,000 attenders.
- The average megachurch offered about seven services a week.
- Twenty-eight percent have paid, professional security at services. Thirty-eight percent have volunteer security.
- Two-thirds (65%) of megachurches identify as evangelical.
- Twelve percent identify as Pentecostal or charismatic.
- Twelve percent identify as “missional.”
- Seven percent identify as liberal, moderate or progressive.
Thumma said that overall, megachurches seem to be growing less comfortable with the term “evangelical” and are more open than in the past to working with those they disagree with on theological or political matters.
“You can see them moving ever so slightly toward the middle,” he said.
The survey included 580 megachurches with an average weekly attendance of 1,800 adults and children or more, and was part of the larger Faith Communities Today study. The survey was conducted from January until May 2020. The study was conducted by the Hartford Institute along with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and Leadership Network.
The full survey can be found at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research website.
Ahead of the Trend is a collaborative effort between Religion News Service and the Association of Religion Data Archives made possible through the support of the John Templeton Foundation. See other Ahead of the Trend articles here.
This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.