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3 Reasons Big Churches Keep Getting Bigger

Recently, Leadership Network published an article in which they shared the following research about megachurches (a Protestant congregation with 2,000 or more weekly attendees—both adults and children):

  • In 1970, there were less than 25 megachurches in all of North America.
  • In 1983, there were less than 100 megachurches in the United States.
  • Today, there are more than 1,650 megachurches in North America (roughly 1,625 in the United States and 25 in Canada).

All of that means this past weekend, of those who went to a Protestant church in North America, one out of 10 went to a megachurch. The megachurch phenomenon of recent history doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

In fact, it seems to be growing; even outside of North America, big churches are getting bigger. But why?

1. Directional leadership.

There is a shift in thinking that is happening. No longer are pastors simply seen as someone who cares for the flock through providing counseling, marrying, burying and preaching nice messages that educate people.

Rather, more than any time in the history of the church, pastors are beginning to view themselves as directional leaders tasked to move the people of God (the church) from where they are, to where they need to be.

Large churches have a tendency to be staff-led as opposed to committee-led. They also view leadership as a spiritual gift, and build a culture to develop and nurture that gift in others.

2. Organizational alignment.

The larger the church, generally speaking, the more focused it is. They know what they do well and what they don’t do well, and they play to their strengths.

They’ve actually clarified their purpose, and as a result, they’ve been able to simplify their processes and organize their staffing, budgeting, calendaring, ministries, discipleship strategies and behaviors around that purpose.

3. Outsider focused.

Large churches fundamentally believe they exist to reach people outside of the faith. They don’t believe the church is for Christians, but the church is Christians and they exist for people who are not here yet.

As a result, everything they do, from style in the worship services and other ministry environments to language that is chosen, guest services and way finding is done with the outsider in mind. They consistently make choices based on who they are going to reach, not who they are going to keep.

What are some other reasons you think large churches keep getting larger? And what keeps small churches small?

I’d love to hear your thoughts … leave a comment!  

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paulalexander@churchleaders.com'
Paul Alexander, a ministry consultant at the Unstuck Group and has more than 20 years of experience serving in the local church. He has served on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nation’s leading mega-churches. Currently, Paul is serving as the Executive Pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multi-site church located in the Phoenix area.