Megachurches continue to attract big numbers, but, according to a new study, people aren’t attending as often; the churches are keeping baby boomers but losing Gen-Xers and Millennials; and they are emulating smaller congregations by having smaller sanctuaries with more services and having multiple sites.
From Cathy Lynn Grossman, The megachurch boom rolls on, but big concerns are rising too – Religion News Service:
Change is coming to American megachurches — those behemoths for believers that now dot the religious landscape.
There are more participants in megachurch worship than ever.
“Last weekend 1 in 10 adults and children who went to a Protestant church went to a megachurch — about 5 million people,” said Warren Bird, director of research for Leadership Network and co-author of a megachurch study released Wednesday (Dec. 2).
But individual attendance is down to once or twice a month — or less.
“They think ‘regular attendance’ is ‘I get there when I can,’” said the second co-author, sociologist Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. The study examines megachurches (2,000 people in weekend attendance is the basic qualifier) in comparison with other, smaller congregations.“We found many of these large, successful congregations still have many of the same challenges of smaller congregations. They are not immune to the cultural dynamics in society,” said Thumma.
“Everyone is trying to attract new people and hold on to them and make them disciples. But, today, people are seekers and shoppers looking for a temporary experience of worship, not a long-term commitment,” said Thumma.
Megachurches, many launched a quarter century ago by baby boomers, now see slippage in the younger generations. Participation by millennials, ages 18-34, has flattened out at about 19 percent since 2010. But Gen-X attendees, ages 35-49, are drifting out the door — down from 28 percent in in 2010 to 23 percent today. . . .
Congregations are “getting bigger by getting smaller,” said Bird. They’re building smaller main sanctuaries (median down from 1,500 seats to 1,200 seats) but holding more services on more campuses. . . .
Five years ago, 46 percent of megachurches had multiple locations. Now it’s 62 percent. And the number of their sites bumped up, too — from an average of 2.5 sites to 3.5.