As you know, part of this blogging assignment is to follow and connect with other bloggers covering similar topics. I recently had a conversation with Nathan Bennett, a contributor for The Evangelical Outpost, and he asked me some very compelling questions, which I hope to address in the coming days.
Today’s topic: the mega-church versus the small-town congregation.
Here is Nathan’s question:
“Do you see social media as a thing to level the playing field between mega-churches and smaller congregations? Not every pastor is going to get a mega-congregation, but being searchable on the Internet can definitely put them on the map for people looking for something other than a mega-church.”
What is a mega-church, you ask?
According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, a mega-church refers to “any Protestant congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of 2,000 persons or more in its worship services.”
The Hartford Institute also reported that masjids (the Arabic word for a Muslim congregation) were the second fastest growing religious group (aside from mega-churches) in the United States between 1995 and 2000.
According to The Religious New Service in 2008, mosques began to use a similar model to the Protestant mega-church in suburban areas. These mosques wanted to be seen as progressive and began operating multiple sites “to serve a large and dispersed congregation.” Many built community gymnasiums, featured mixed-gendered prayer areas and even hosted interfaith services at churches and synagogues.
Americans are drawn to mega-churches for so many reasons.
While smaller congregations in American are losing attendance and even foreclosing, mega-churches still seem to be thriving. Churches that are more than just a building for worship draw in huge crowds. Along with its 4,000-seat sanctuary, the Mariners Church in Los Angeles also has an artificial lake, food court, coffee house and recreational center.
I think social media has definitely leveled the playing field for the small congregation. Social media is the best way for small congregations to compete with mega-churches. To compete with a church coffee house, small churches need to brand themselves with Facebook, Twitter and church blogs.
This is the perfect time to explore the ways small churches can truly benefit from social media. I think this deserves a post of its own.
Tune in tomorrow for Part II.