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Megachurches are growing, but in different ways


Megachurches – known for their big buildings, big schools, and big crowds – continue to grow, but a new study detects shifts expansion methods.

“The general growth pattern is that about 90 percent ... are growing, and many of them at very fast rates,” said Warren Bird, a researcher at the Leadership Network, a Dallas-based church think tank and co-author of the study released Sept. 12.

The average megachurch saw a growth of about 50 percent in attendance in the last five years; about 10 percent reported a decline or stagnation.

The churches, with worship attendance of 2,000 or more each weekend, are increasingly using satellite locations, with 37 percent using them in 2008, compared to 27 percent in 2005 and 22 percent in 2000. The researchers found that on average, megachurches surveyed this year had offered four services at each of two satellite locations each weekend.

Five percent of megachurches had six or more locations, where up to two dozen services occur each weekend.

Almost a third of the megachurches surveyed – 30 percent – said they had started using satellite campuses in the last five years.

Outreach magazine, a church leadership publication based in Vista, Calif., reports in its upcoming issue that for the first time, all 100 churches on its list of 100 largest churches in the U.S. are attended by more than 7,000 people. It notes that experts predict that half of all megachurches will have multiple locations by 2010.

Fewer megachurches are involved in TV and radio ministry; the percentage of megachurches with a radio ministry dropped from 44 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2008. Likewise, the percentage with television ministries dropped from 38 percent to 23 percent.

Fewer also are operating Christian schools. In 2000, 42 percent of megachurches said a Christian elementary or secondary school was part of their ministry. This year, that figured dropped to 25 percent.

At the same time, more churches are offering conferences for pastors or other ministry leaders, increasing from 47 percent in 2000 to 54 percent in 2008.