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Carey Nieuwhof: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Copy a Megachurch

Here are five reasons I’ve both experienced personally and observed widely among other church leaders, and five ways to better adopt the church models you see and admire.

For context, I have adopted a TON of learning from megachurches and many sources over the years, both through transitioning a church (leading three tiny mainline churches into one, growing church that grew to 800) and through church planting (founding a church plant that now reaches 1,100 each weekend).

But here are the traps you’ll fall into if you blindly copy your favorite leader or organization:

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Copy a Megachurch (but Learn From Church Models )

1. You’ll mix up church models

Even back in the dial-up days, some of us used to watch other churches.

I cut my teeth in the late ’90s as a budding church leader watching Saddleback and Willow Creek.

Then I went to a conference in 1999 where I met James Emery White. He asked me about the changes I was making in our three little churches and I explained that we were taking best practices from Willow and Saddleback and a bunch of other churches and combining them.

I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “You don’t understand church models. Those are incompatible with each other. They aren’t the same thing. Carey, you need to become a student of models.”

Guess what? He was 100 percent right. So I became a student of church models.

While churches like North Point, LifeChurch, Elevation and NewSpring look the same on the outside, they approach ministry differently in many areas: groups, kids ministry, how they structure staff, how they reach out in the community and even the programs they offer. When you study church models, pay attention to the differences.

Otherwise you might be adopting what you think made them effective, but didn’t. You might end up implementing a fake version of whatever you thought was the original, like buying a Pollo shirt rather than a Polo shirt.

You can’t effectively adopt what you don’t understand.