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Megachurches Today 2005

Summary of the Collection Method

Overview of the Project

In the Megachurches Today Project from 1999-2000 a questionnaire was mailed to the 600 known megachurches at the time.  No follow up or second mailing was attempted.  The result was a response of 153 questionnaires or 25.5% response.  This effort was the first of its kind, and although it is uncertain how well this sample paralleled the total number of megachurches, the survey still offered an overview profile of US megachurches.  The summary report of that material can be found on this web site.

In early 2005, Scott Thumma, the primary investigator of the previous study joined with Warren Bird and Dave Travis of Leadership Network to redo the earlier study in a more comprehensive manner.  We were supported by outstanding team members including Stephanie Plagens, Peggy Faroe, Kim Iltis, Rick Long, Sheryl Wiggins and Samantha Gonzalez.  We combined our separate databases of known megachurches, and then augmented these with lists of possible churches over 2,000 in attendance from 7 additional sources.  The resulting list of potential candidates totaled 1,838.  A paper and online questionnaire was constructed that paralleled parts of the previous megachurch survey as well as matching a national survey entitled Faith Communities Today 2005.  The survey was mailed to 1,236 and emailed to 600 for whom we had accurate email addresses.  Several email reminders were later sent both to the 600 and approximately 900 of the other churches based on email addresses found on their web sites.  Additional efforts such as press releases in the Leadership Network newsletter and other Christian and secular publications, articles about the study and reminders to networks of megachurch pastors were used to spread the word about the study.  The result was a total of 667 full and partial responses or a 36% response rate.  The total number of fully completed surveys was 529 with 133 of these having attendance of less than 2,000.  Total number of confirmed, complete surveys of megachurch with attendance of 1,800 or more persons is 406, and 382 with attendance of 2,000 or more. The information in this report is based on the analysis of questionnaires from these 406 churches. 

Along with this survey effort, we attempted to contact and confirm several facts about all the other churches in the total list of 1,838 in order to determine, as accurately as possible, the entire population of megachurches in the country.  This effort entailed sending emails, checking web sites, communicating with many denominational research offices and calling well over 500 churches.  This procedure resulted in confirmation of 1,210 congregations who reported having average worship of 2,000 or more attenders.  If one adds those churches within 200 persons of the 2,000 mark, then the total rises to 1,319.  At present we still have 120 unconfirmed churches from the original list.

Because we undertook the considerable effort to confirm the total population of megachurches in the United States, we have been able to weight the survey respondent questionnaires to approximate the total US megachurch population.   We are certain that the findings generally represent the total group of megachurches in the U.S.       

The profile of the total population of megachurches in the United States can be found on this site.  A listing of all the megachurches in the country is also available.

The survey used for this study has many questions in common with the Faith Communities Today FACT2005 research, a larger national random survey of congregations.  The results of that survey will be released by Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research and the Cooperative Congregations Study Partnership in April 2006.  At that time additional analysis will be done to compare the megachurch findings with a sampling of smaller congregations.  

Because many of the survey questions replicate the 1999-2000 study of 153 megachurches, it is possible to investigate how megachurches have changed in the past 5 years.  Caution should be taken at drawing conclusions on this data since it is unknown exactly how representative the earlier study was and several questions were repeated with slightly different wording.  Nevertheless, putting these two surveys side-by-side is very interesting in their similarities and differences as well as the potential implications regarding the possible changing nature of the megachurch phenomenon.  

See the Comparison of the 2000 Study and 2005 Study for a few direct comparisons of the two studies.

To read more about the study, the authors of the research, or the sponsoring organizations go to our main Megachurch page or www.leadnet.org.   

If you have questions, please direct them to:

Scott Thumma
Hartford Institute for
Religion Research
Hartford Seminary
77 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Dave Travis and Warren Bird
Leadership Network
2501 Cedar Springs, Suite 200
Dallas, TX 75200



Hartford Seminary
77 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
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