By Kent Fillinger
Somewhere in America, a worship gathering in one of the megachurches and emerging megachurches can currently be found on every day of the week except Thursday.
Worship services are no longer reserved for Sunday, although every church listed still offers at least one Sunday worship experience. In an attempt to see “the Lord add to their number daily those who are being saved,” the megachurches and emerging megachurches have explored offering services on alternative and multiple days of the week, and by using a variety of worship styles and venues to reach the lost in their communities.
HOW MANY SERVICES?
On a typical week more than 500 different worship experiences are offered in the 113 megachurches and emerging megachurches. The average emerging megachurch provides 3.75 services per week while the average megachurch has 5.4 services a week. Community Christian (Naperville, Illinois), a multisite church, offers 28 worship experiences in eight different locations each week. Every megachurch or emerging megachurch offers at least two services a week from which to choose.
More than half (54 percent) of the emerging megachurches offer worship services on Sunday only and these churches were the fastest-growing emerging megachurches last year with a 1.9 percent average growth rate. About one-fourth (27 percent) of the megachurches offer worship services on Sunday only, and these megachurches grew 5.1 percent.
The megachurches offering worship experiences two days a week were the most effective with an average growth rate of 5.3 percent. This number is buttressed by Real Life Ministries, which grew more than 33 percent last year; Real Life offers services on Sundays and Fridays. More than half (54 percent) of the megachurches offer weekend (not just Sunday) services; these megachurches grew an average of 4.6 percent last year.
Seven churches offer worship services three days a week while three additional churches provide worship on four different days of the week. These 10 churches combined grew an average of 3.4 percent last year.
HOW MANY STYLES?
It is interesting to note the diversity of worship styles offered in these 500-plus worship experiences. Rick Warren recently noted that Saddleback Church offers “about 22 different worship styles across its campus on Sunday but listens to the same sermon.”1 While none of the 113 churches listed comes close to 22 different worship styles, the diversity of styles offered, or lack thereof, impacts the overall growth of churches. Eastside Christian (Fullerton, California) offers the greatest diversity with six worship styles weekly; last year Eastside grew 20.6 percent.
The multiplicity of styles or venues is intended to help a church reach various segments of the population more effectively. Small and medium-size churches regularly debate whether to add a new style of service instead of changing a current style to reach a younger generation.
The research led me to conclude there is what I call “The Decorator’s Style Rule.” If you have ever received advice from an interior decorator or a landscape professional, he or she always recommends using an odd number, preferably groups of three, when decorating your house or landscaping your yard. The same rule holds true for churches and styles of worship.
The megachurches and emerging megachurches with either a single style of worship or three styles of worship experienced the best growth rates. Offering three styles of worship proved to be the most effective in terms of overall growth for both megachurches and emerging megachurches. Emerging megachurches providing three styles of worship grew an average of 4.4 percent last year while megachurches using three styles grew 8.9 percent.
A single style of worship was the second most effective for both megachurches and emerging megachurches. Two styles of worship was by far the least effective of any option. Emerging megachurches with two styles grew only 0.1 percent while megachurches with two styles experienced a meager 1.5 percent average growth rate.
Perhaps when a church moves from one style to two the perception is that the additional style is intended to pacify a particular group within the church. The move to three styles of worship communicates and clarifies that multiple, or alternative, styles of worship are an intentional aspect of a church’s overall growth strategy.
Since no church can effectively offer a “once-size-fits-all” model of ministry, and because Americans demand options, developing multiple worship experiences on at least two days of the week and providing either a single or triple dose of worship styles to choose from produces the best results.
1“Rick Warren: Mainline Church Problems Need Evangelical Solution,” www.christianpost.com/pages/print.htm?aid=30996, 28 January 2008.