Mega-churches and building community feeling


#1

Heard on Christian radio station about new Billy Graham crusade and phenomenal growth in certain Evangelical, Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. Some of these so-called mega-churches have memberships of over 20,000. My questions for anyone who belongs to such a congregation, or follows the preaching of a pastor of such a church:

first, how are membership numbers determined? Does it mean how many are baptized? How many respond to altar calls? All those who attend services regularly? One-time attendees? those who contribute financially to the upkeep and ministries of the Church?

Second, one reason (or excuse) I have heard many times from Catholics who left the church to join other protestant churches is that their new congregation is smaller, more friendly, more like a family, more welcoming. Fellowship is very important to them. In a mega-church with such a huge membership, what are the challenges and obstacles to building a community feeling, fellowship, welcoming atmosphere, feeling “at home” in such an environment?


#2

*Hello,

I don’t know the answer to your question, but I am a Catholic who left the Church about six years ago for a Non-Denominational Church. It wasn’t because I was mad at the Church, but because I was young and didn’t fully understand my Faith. The Non-Denominational Played Rock-n-Roll, Had Donuts durign the service, big screens, and a whole bunch of other worldly enticements. I met many wonderful, very friendly, but misguided people (as I was too at the time). When I would envite my friends to church I would find myself saying, “You should come. It’s not like normal churches. They play rock music, you can eat donuts… and so on…” Wow! I was missing the whole point. Jesus. By the grace of God, I finally realized that this is not what God intended. While attending the ND Church I could feel the Holy Spirit moving throught place (actually they had giant air ducts to circulate the air which give the illusioun of the Holy Spirit). Thes Churches totally base their faith on “feelings”. I feel welcomed… I feel the Holy Spirit… I feel the music. It just started to sound all too cecular! When I returned to the Catholic Church, I truly felt welcome… (by Christ) I truly felt the Presence of Jesus… I truly felt the community of not just my those sitting around me, but also by the “Communion of Saints”. These were not false “feelings” created by the thousands of dollars to by huge sound systems, projector screens, and donuts. But feelings of Love from our Heavenly Father.

When I saw Jesus on the Cross ( the ND Church didn’t even have a cross without Jesus ont it) I began to weep. I was reminded of Christ’s sacrafice. No greater Love is this. The Eucerist! Beats Donuts anyday. Praise be to God. I cried the entire Mass. Tears of Joy! Looking back I don’t know why ever left. Each and every day I grow in my Faith and love for all God’s children of all denominations and non-denominations. My feonce came into the Church this past Easter which was beutiful.

My mom however has left the Church and is now attending a Non-Denominational Church that had been started by the ND Church that I used to attend for the sake of her marriage. It sadens me to see all that she has given up. I pray for her every day. Her paster used to be Catholic and he has her wrapped around his finger. Please pray for her. Thank you all and God Bless.

Sorry to stray away from the original question.:frowning:

  • Joshua*

#3

first, let me begin by saying i am coming into the catholic church this september. that being said, i’ll try to answer some of your questions as i was a youth minister in one of these “mega-churches” for a while…

[quote=puzzleannie]…Some of these so-called mega-churches have memberships of over 20,000. My questions for anyone who belongs to such a congregation, or follows the preaching of a pastor of such a church:

first, how are membership numbers determined? Does it mean how many are baptized? How many respond to altar calls? All those who attend services regularly? One-time attendees? those who contribute financially to the upkeep and ministries of the Church?
[/quote]

well, each church is different in how they measure their “membership”. some actually do classes and have membership rosters to show how many have done what is necessary to be a member (this has nothing to do with giving money, but it is usually a class spanning a few weekends and a public agreement to the tenents of the church). some have folks who count the attendees each weekend (if you know how many seats are in the auditorium, they just count the empty ones in each service and that gives them a very good approximation of numbers). some use cards that people fill out (you always miss some folks with these but they take them into account). and some just guess (not a lot of integrity with those but they are few and far between). baptisms are usually not used to determine attendance but conversions. most financial contributions (at least in the church i was a part of) come in cash and so it is a poor way of tracking folks also.

[quote=puzzleannie]…Second, one reason (or excuse) I have heard many times from Catholics who left the church to join other protestant churches is that their new congregation is smaller, more friendly, more like a family, more welcoming. Fellowship is very important to them. In a mega-church with such a huge membership, what are the challenges and obstacles to building a community feeling, fellowship, welcoming atmosphere, feeling “at home” in such an environment?
[/quote]

one of the reasons they are “mega-churches” is because they have learned the power of small groups (something i believe the catholic church could learn from). even in a congregation of 25,000 (such as willow creek outside chicago) a “family atmosphere” exists because nearly 85% of attendees goes to a small group throughout the week and there are a number of people who attend their small groups who don’t even attend their church on the weekends. community is created in these small groups. you meet together, eat together, worship (in the protestant sense of singing and praying…no sacrifice of course except maybe a sincere attempt to offer themselves to God as a sacrifice in agreement with Romans 12:1) together and have fun together. if some one is in trouble or needs help, the first place they go is the small group. then the small group can bring the need (if necessary) to the attention of one of the pastors. these churches (most of them at least) have built special areas for fellowship…atriums, coffeeshops, etc. for people to hang out, meet and greet others in between and before and after services. again…something we as catholics (and future catholics) can learn from. too many folks who leave right after communion in my opinion.

[quote=Cade_One]…I met many wonderful, very friendly, but misguided people (as I was too at the time).
[/quote]

i have to disagree that they are “misguided”. yes, the atmosphere can and does and is meant to ellicit an emotional response, but we are supposed to have an emotional response, and to say that it’s because of the donuts or the big screen is a gross misstatement. maybe it was for you but you can’t say that for the others. donuts do not replace Jesus for most of these people. for most of them, they are experiencing Jesus for the first time and (hopefully) it is the first step to them experiencing Him more fully as they grow in their faith and hopefully become joined with His church. i do experience Him more now, in the catholic church, but i would never have gotten here if i wasn’t given a heart for experiencing Him through these ND churches.


#4

First Baptist, downtown, has 5,000+ members and operates in a similar fashion to the smaller Baptist church around the corner from me with which I am more familiar.

Education and small groups appears to be one of the keys. The smaller church, with about 200 active members (about 400 on the rolls), has infant and small child care during church service and Sunday school. The Sunday school classes are small, usually 10 to 20 people, and are very close-knit.

The other thing I noticed is that if you visit more than once, someone will see to it that you get in a class and will try to get you to volunteer as an usher, in child care, or some other job around the church.

In contrast, when I joined my current church, I had to seek out the various organization and “crash” their meetings to find out what was going on and pick the ones I wanted to join. No welcoming committee, no invitations to join anything, no nothing. Purely a do-it-yourself situation that will make a newcomer feel like he’s been ostracized even before he makes his second visit. I tried for three years to get some of that turned around but old Catholic attitudes die hard. Maybe some day…


#5

thanks for the replies, it sounds like many Catholic parishes could learn a lot. We used to have “small groups” when I was growing up. Church Circles for the ladies and Holy Name Society for the men were neighborhood groups that met regularly for prayer (the rosary or benediction), and were who you called for help if mom was hospitalized, dad lost his job, to serve a meal after a funeral etc. dont’ know what happened but I think it’s time to bring them back.


#6

[quote=puzzleannie]thanks for the replies, it sounds like many Catholic parishes could learn a lot. We used to have “small groups” when I was growing up. Church Circles for the ladies and Holy Name Society for the men were neighborhood groups that met regularly for prayer (the rosary or benediction), and were who you called for help if mom was hospitalized, dad lost his job, to serve a meal after a funeral etc. dont’ know what happened but I think it’s time to bring them back.
[/quote]

puzzleannie I will second the comments that these mega-churches succeed by building small groups. There is a huge Presbyterian church near our house and in fact our Parish sometimes rents a portion of its facility. They have about a zillion different groups operating and whenever we are there, we see a lot of other small groups meeting, singing, involved in sports, etc. The church also sends out solicitations in the neighborhood with people to call if you are interested in a specific group (young moms, retired, crafts, books, Bible study, etc). So while the services are large and very high techie with fabulous professional muscians, big screens and good accoustics, people can get involved in a smaller sub group.

Our parish tries to get new people involved but I have to say those who went through RCIA got more attention than people who might just be visiting and looking around. It might be a bit intimidating to just show up for mass and try to get to know people.
Lisa N


#7

[quote=puzzleannie]Heard on Christian radio station about new Billy Graham crusade and phenomenal growth in certain Evangelical, Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. Some of these so-called mega-churches have memberships of over 20,000. My questions for anyone who belongs to such a congregation, or follows the preaching of a pastor of such a church:

first, how are membership numbers determined? Does it mean how many are baptized? How many respond to altar calls? All those who attend services regularly? One-time attendees? those who contribute financially to the upkeep and ministries of the Church?

Second, one reason (or excuse) I have heard many times from Catholics who left the church to join other protestant churches is that their new congregation is smaller, more friendly, more like a family, more welcoming. Fellowship is very important to them. In a mega-church with such a huge membership, what are the challenges and obstacles to building a community feeling, fellowship, welcoming atmosphere, feeling “at home” in such an environment?
[/quote]

How does the Catholic Church determine a membership count?

My wife’s church in the Archdiocese of Boston has people who count heads on Saturday and Sunday Masses. They obviously also record all the sacraments performed. They recently used those numbers to determine which churches to close - I forget the final number, 60+ I believe.

Peace


#8

[quote=geezerbob]First Baptist, downtown, has 5,000+ members and operates in a similar fashion to the smaller Baptist church around the corner from me with which I am more familiar.

Education and small groups appears to be one of the keys. The smaller church, with about 200 active members (about 400 on the rolls), has infant and small child care during church service and Sunday school. The Sunday school classes are small, usually 10 to 20 people, and are very close-knit.

The other thing I noticed is that if you visit more than once, someone will see to it that you get in a class and will try to get you to volunteer as an usher, in child care, or some other job around the church.

In contrast, when I joined my current church, I had to seek out the various organization and “crash” their meetings to find out what was going on and pick the ones I wanted to join. No welcoming committee, no invitations to join anything, no nothing. Purely a do-it-yourself situation that will make a newcomer feel like he’s been ostracized even before he makes his second visit. I tried for three years to get some of that turned around but old Catholic attitudes die hard. Maybe some day…
[/quote]

My experience with Protestant churches has been very similar to this. At one Assemblies of God church I attended they started the service with an especially warm “Sign of Peace”. Many members would come up, introduce themselves to you, and offer a blessing. They very definitely took their time in the service, there was no “shifting in the seats” because the sermon had gone “too long” or the service wasn’t going to “finish on time”.

Almost all of the Catholic Churches that I have attended were very similar also to what you are describing. Several attempts at my wife’s church to start a regular Bible Study have gone nowhere. It seems to be very much a do-it-yourself proposition. Everyone I have met from my wife’s church - I met outside the church and then have recognized inside the church. Everyone is nice enough during the Sign of Peace, but you get the cold shoulder when you arrive and sit in “their pew”.

Glad to see that not everyone has had the same experience.

Peace


#9

My church has 1 billion+ earthly members…does that qualify it as a “mega-church?”


#10

[quote=Sanctus]My church has 1 billion+ earthly members…does that qualify it as a “mega-church?”
[/quote]

as some one coming into the church, i understand your statement, but i have to ask a question…how many of those “1 billion” actually attends mass weekly? how many adhere to all of the church’s teachings? how many truly understand the miracle that happened at calvary let alone the amazing miracle that happens at mass? i ask this because while, yes, there may be 1 billion people who call themselves catholic…how many actually are? even if the number is 500 million actually believe and adhere to the church, there are another 500 million out there grossly misrepresenting what the church teaches. we must find ways to get these folks either in or out. we must ellicit emotional responses from all catholics for emotional responses are not a bad thing. i think these “mega-churches” are on the right track in so many practical way (but off the track in many ways theologically) and we need to throw out the bad and adopt the good…not just throw it all out because it is “protestant”. (i am not saying you are doing this…i just went off your post into this tangent. :smiley: )


#11

[quote=bengal_fan]as some one coming into the church, i understand your statement, but i have to ask a question…how many of those “1 billion” actually attends mass weekly? how many adhere to all of the church’s teachings? how many truly understand the miracle that happened at calvary let alone the amazing miracle that happens at mass? i ask this because while, yes, there may be 1 billion people who call themselves catholic…how many actually are? even if the number is 500 million actually believe and adhere to the church, there are another 500 million out there grossly misrepresenting what the church teaches. we must find ways to get these folks either in or out. we must ellicit emotional responses from all catholics for emotional responses are not a bad thing. i think these “mega-churches” are on the right track in so many practical way (but off the track in many ways theologically) and we need to throw out the bad and adopt the good…not just throw it all out because it is “protestant”. (i am not saying you are doing this…i just went off your post into this tangent. :smiley: )
[/quote]

I compleatly understand what you mean…I just kinda get a chuckle that everytime people start talking about how big their church is I think it’s kinda funny because as we know we have our entire church militant, the church suffering, and the church triumphant…you count those other two and our numbers are staggering…that being said…as Pope John Paul II said, “The truth is not always the same as the majority decision.” so we must not confuse the fact that one denomination has numerical superiority over another does not necessarially indicate the truth of that denomination–Augustine.


#12

[quote=Sanctus]… we must not confuse the fact that one denomination has numerical superiority over another does not necessarially indicate the truth of that denomination–Augustine.
[/quote]

agreed! :thumbsup:


#13

But is still is cool that we are kinda the:

First United Apostolic Gospel Mega-Church


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