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?
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?
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).
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.