The Characteristics of a Megachurch: What Small Churches Can Learn


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For many small to medium churches, the saying that “the struggle is real” is well understood. That’s why looking at the characteristics of a megachurch can be beneficial. It can help you gain some new insights to help you grow.

According to a Hartford Institute for Religion Research Report for 2020, the average attendance of most megachurches (based on pre-pandemic data) is no less than 2,000. Yet, most small churches struggle to get to 100.

It’s often puzzling for church leaders of smaller congregations to see how they can achieve a similar status. And the pandemic has presented new challenges that made a difficult task seem more insurmountable.

What Is a Megachurch?

The term “megachurch” was coined for any congregation with a massive membership, typically ranging from 2,000 to 15,000. However, the size of the congregation is just one aspect of defining the characteristics of a megachurch.

In fact, that is one area that differentiates a megachurch from a smaller church. The latter often fail to expand because they are too focused on the sole goal of growing their numbers. Megachurches tend to look past that. 

They understand that while growth in numbers is critical to the congregation’s success, impacting the community they serve takes priority. That’s how they gradually, and organically, see their numbers go up. 

Innovative and Thought-Provoking Worship

The type of worship service is also one of the most critical and defining characteristics of a megachurch. Members of megachurches often describe their worship service as innovative and thought-provoking. 

Gone are the days when churches were sermon-based alone. Nowadays, churches need to get their members more involved. For example, megachurches often use praise bands, where select congregants play musical instruments while the rest sing hymns of praise.

Many of these megachurches come from humble beginnings. Instead of just reading scriptures, community members share joyful and inspirational anecdotes and stories.

Diverse Congregations

Diversity is the name of the game when it comes to successfully growing a church, making it another top characteristic of a megachurch. 

A sense of inclusivity is vital to a successful church. Modern churches have a representation across all groups, ages, ethnicities, and racial backgrounds. Having this diverse representation within the church is also crucial to furthering the church’s mission on a global landscape and in the local community.

Use of Modern Technology

In this modern age, the use of technology is also a defining factor for a megachurch. Technological tools are part and parcel of their church operations. That includes large screens and projectors for worship services as well as video streaming and other internet tools.

What Are the Characteristics of a Megachurch?

A small group of three women in a devotional Bible study.

What differentiates a megachurch from other local and community churches? Let’s look at the characteristics of a megachurch that got them to where they are…

They Have a Strong Brand & Personality

Building a brand is not just for businesses. Churches need to establish their brand and personality, too. 

For example, Pastor Joel Osteen of the Lakewood Church in Texas is known for his upbeat worship style. 

Aside from identifying and building your church brand, it is also crucial to establish the church’s personality. Church leaders are the face of the church’s brand. They must set themselves to a high standard because they will represent the church to the public. 

They Break up into Smaller Groups

Contrary to popular belief, the success of a megachurch lies not as a whole unit but in the smaller groups that comprise it. 

One of the best characteristics of a megachurch is its ability to touch every single member of the congregation. They do that by establishing smaller groups to nurture individual interests. It might be small peer groups doing bible studies or intimate group meetings to discuss matters outside the church. 

They Have Mastered Communication with Their Congregation

The most successful churches know how, where, and when to communicate with the members of their congregation.

They use every avenue for communication so that the church’s vision stays alive for each and every member. This often includes social media, online forums, emails, and chats. 

Five Questions Smaller Churches Should Ask Themselves

In 2019, 4,500 churches closed their doors versus only 3,000 churches that opened. This issue has forced ministry leaders to confront one of the primary reasons churches close: the finances. 

Lack of donations on top of dwindling attendance from their congregations has forced many to shut down for good. It could easily outpace the number of growing churches. 

Understanding the characteristics of megachurches takes on a whole new meaning in this regard. That’s because it can be not just a matter of growth but also survival.

Let’s look at the top 5 things smaller churches should consider…

1) How Are Your Worship Services Perceived?

Without making a social and religious impact, you’ll struggle when it comes to growing your church donation base. The community’s perception of the value of your church’s worship services is extremely important. And it’s one of the ways you can demonstrate your impact on the community. 

Strive to keep your worship services relevant to the immediate community. When you make an impact, it will entice the community to participate and spread the word about what you’re doing. 

2) What Offerings Do You Have Available?

According to The State of the Church 2020 study, many Americans are tired of the usual church experience. This is the consensus among 15% of practicing Christians and 17% of the self-identified Christians surveyed.

To succeed, small churches should diversify their offerings to inspire joyful and motivated congregants. Don’t confine your church activity to bible studies and worship services. Get involved in community outreach and missionary activities too. 

And remember, you don’t need to confine church activity within the four corners of the church building.

3) How Do You Introduce Technology?

One characteristic of a megachurch that has allowed it to thrive is its adaptability. Since the circumstances of running a ministry changes continually, being able to adapt is crucial for survival.

The use of technology is one example of that. The recent coronavirus pandemic shows just how technology can help small churches sustain their activity and engage members.

Live streaming worship services and posting on social media are just some of the ways you can keep church members engaged. Even though they are only taking part virtually, it’s important to nurture that sense of community. 

4) What Outreach Do You Engage In?

Engaging in outreach activities is another strategy that small churches can take from megachurches. Visibility within the community is vital to facilitate growth and engage prospects along with existing members.

Here are a few outreach ideas you can try:

5) How Do You Care for Church Members?

In an effort to grow your church size, it is easy to neglect the existing church members. However, they are the key customer group for your church.

Strive to understand and meet the demands of existing church members – as long as it’s within the scope of the church’s capabilities and vision. By taking good care of current church members, you transform them into advocates for the ministry. 

Final Thoughts

By implementing some of these tips and characteristics of a megachurch, you can start to see the growth you desire. It also pays to have a good marketing strategy in place. Learn how taking advantage of our church marketing services can provide you with the strategy you need to take your church to the next level! 


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