The term megachurch is the name given to a cluster of very large, mostly Protestant congregations, that share several distinctive characteristics. A megachurch is a congregation which has two thousand or more worship attenders in a week. However, size alone is an insufficient characterization of this distinctive religious reality. These churches generally have similar identifiable pattern and share a common set of organizational and leadership dynamics including:
A conservative theological position
A charismatic, authoritative senior minister
A very active 7 day a week congregational community
A multitude of social and outreach ministries,
and a complex differentiated organizational structure
The megachurch is a new structural and spiritual organization unlike any other and therefore have been treated as a unified religion grouping in the Faith Communities Today study. Taken together the 1700+ Protestant megachurches in the United States have approximately nearly 8 million weekly attenders to their services. If one included very large congregations in the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious traditions, then there are nearly 5000 congregations in the United States that have over 2000 weekly attenders.
The 2000 study of megachurches for Faith Communities Today included a survey of 600 congregations known to exist in the United States. A total of 153 questionnaires were returned for a 25.5% response rate. View the version of the questionnaire used to survey the megachurches.
The 2005 study of megachurches for the FACT project included a survey of 1,236 churches. The result was a total of 667 full and partial responses or a 36% response rate. The total number of fully completed surveys was 529 with 133 of these having attendance of less than 2,000. Total number of confirmed, complete surveys of megachurch with attendance of 1,800 or more persons is 406, and 382 with attendance of 2,000 or more. The information in the 2005 report is based on the analysis of questionnaires from these 406 churches. View the version of the questionnaire used to survey the megachurches.
The 2008 study of megachurches included a survey of 1659 churches. The total number of confirmed, complete surveys of megachurch with attendance of 1,800 or more persons was 397 (1,800 and up) 372 (2,000 and up) usable questionnaires for a 31% response rate. The information in the 2008 report is based on the analysis of questionnaires from these 397 churches. View the version of the questionnaire used to survey the megachurches.
In 2010 Scott Thumma, at Hartford Institute, and Warren Bird, of Leadership Network, conducted another survey of megachurches in conjunction with the FACT 2010 project. This study reveals interesting dynamics related to growth, vitality and leadership. This fourth survey in a decade shows that megachurches remain one of the most robust religious organizational expressions within North America. This report describes the overall results of the 2015 study of 336 megachurches (out of 1,611 or a 21% response rate). View the version of the questionnaire used to survey the megachurches.
The 2015 study of megachurches was also conducted by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird and included 209 usable responses (a 13% rate) which was then weighted by region and size against the full census of megachurches in the US based on the comprehensive listing of Hartford Institute and Leadership Network. This report describes the overall results of the 2015 study of megachurches. View the version of the questionnaire used to survey the megachurches.
You can find further information about the megachurch Faith Communities Today findings at the web pages devoted to this project at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research web site.
If you are interested in obtaining specific information about the results of the survey of megachurches, please get in touch with the contact person for this on-going project Scott Thumma at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, The Leadership Network and its representative Warren Bird sponsored, supported and co-produced the research in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2015 and in the upcoming 2020 study.
If you would like to know more about megachurches, visit the informational pages at Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Hartford Seminary.