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The big business of megachurches

October 28, 2014

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This data is based on an HIRR survey.

If you live in the South and West, you’ve undoubtedly seen megachurches. They’re the arena sized houses of worship that are growing at a rapid pace, pulling in parishioners in places like Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

More than 6 million people attend megachurches, defined as those able to hold 2,000 people or more. That represents 10 percent of all church goers in the United States, according to MSNBC.

American megachurches have nothing on those in Asia, where 250,000 people belong to a single church in Korea. In the U.S., the biggest parish has about 45,000 attendees, says the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

Megachurches, simply by nature of their size, are a big business. Some of their drawing power lies in their pastors, who often appear on local or syndicated television. There are also events, books, and plenty of merchandise tied in with each congregation. HIRR research finds megachurch goers identify strongly with their church.

The latest twist on megachurches is the franchise megachurch, or branches of a home church that are set up in nearby cities. This is causing problems for smaller churches, whose members are being absorbed in the same way a Walmart might steal customers from a downtown business district.

One of the most popular places for megachurches is Las Vegas. The International Church of Las Vegas, for instance, has 10,000 members, and its services often feature a rock band. ICLV has its own YouTube Channel, and dubs itself the iChurch. Here’s a video of one of its most recent services.

See a photo essay on megachurches here.


The Hartford Institute for Religion Research

A searchable database on U.S. megachurches

Research on the world’s largest churches


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