Interesting, informative USA Today story on the multi-site church phenomenon. Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and Ed Stetzer are all quoted. Couple factoids:
Megachurches with two or more locations under the same leadership made up 37% of U.S. Protestant churches in 2008, up from 22% in 2000, according to a study by the Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn.
Of the USA’s 100 largest churches, 67% now have two or more sites and 60% of the 100 fastest-growing churches also have multiple sites, according to the annual listings of the USA’s largest churches in Outreach magazine’s October issue.
A parishioner at Reedeemer makes this astute comment, after noting that she misses seeing her pastor every week: “We’re just not looking for that kind of relationship with a pastor anymore. Today, it’s all about a personal relationship with God, not the culture of a church. And a megachurch or a multisite church can still offer this. If you are there to hear a message and it’s a powerful one, it shouldn’t matter how it’s delivered.”
I wish the article had examined if there is a growth in a sort-of “free rider” phenomenon at multi-site churches (i.e., a larger percentage of parishioners who don’t make relational connections, but merely attend a particular service, possibly only when the main preacher is physically present). From our Bethlehem days, I know many at multi-site churches are highly involved, but I think there is also a sizable chunk of folks who merely have a “God-and-me” experience week-to-week (mediated by the high-profile pastor). Multi-site churches may also be tougher on introverts.
Anyway, the USA Today piece is not all negative.
Update: In the comments, Ed Stetzer links to an interesting dissertation by Warren Bird on mega-churches. Bird argues that (if anything) there is less of a free-rider effect in mega-churches. In other words, as Stetzer notes, “people’s involvement is the same or better in larger churches than in smaller churches.” Check out the link.
HT: Denny Burk