Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Megachurch Members Give Less

I see an article was making the rounds Sunday about megachurches and those who attend them. A survey found that megachurch participants are younger, they give less, and they volunteer less:
Conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary and Leadership Network, the survey of nearly 25,000 people who attend 12 U.S. megachurches was conducted from January through August 2008. It is billed as the largest representative national study of that religious demographic to date.

Each week, an estimated 5 million Americans attend about 1,300 U.S. megachurches, defined in the study as Protestant churches with attendance of 2,000 or more.

To compare the megachurch data to Protestant churches of all sizes, the study relied on the U.S. Congregational Life Study of 2001.

Among the survey's highlights was that many megachurchgoers don't exhibit the behavior the churches expect of members: Nearly 45 percent of megachurch congregants never volunteer at the church, and 32 percent give little or no money to the church.
Is any of this a surprise? Many people go to megachurches so they can be a fly on the wall. They can participate as a spectator. Unless they choose to get involved in some aspect of church life, like a small group or a children's program, they will unlikely step forward to volunteer. In addition they look at the campus, the multiple staff, the professional quality music, etc. and understandably assume that money isn't an issue for the church. Their money isn't really needed. And if they are younger and have children they might not have very much to give anyway of their money or their time.

I don't even think this is a problem limited to megachurches. I don't have the statistics in front of me but Catholics, who typically attend parishes larger than their Protestant neighbors, give less. Over the years I have heard many a priest or active Catholic parishioner bemoan the small percentage of active participants in their parish.

It is just much harder to be a fly on the wall in a small church. And the uninvolved tend not to sit in the pews on Sunday mornings for very long before they become inactive and mostly non-attending members. Those who stay are committed and give more of their time and money.

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