10 Mega-Tips for Ministries of Any Size

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What could your church learn from churches with million-dollar budgets, hundreds of staff, and thousands of excited volunteers?

“What could my church possibly learn from these behemoths with million-dollar budgets, hundreds of staff, and thousands of excited volunteers?” 

In my travels, I repeatedly hear pastors ask this question. I understand why. But my last 20-plus years of research on megachurches throughout the world suggests that churches of all sizes have much to learn from this phenomenon. However, I don’t believe the primary lessons come from their specific ministry efforts. Instead, the most important things we can learn are the strategies behind all their ministry efforts.

I’ve found that one of the biggest keys to most megachurches’ success is their ability to minister in and adapt to an ever-changing contemporary world. A vital church reaches out to both its members and non-Christians in relevant ways, and megachurches seem to do this both accidentally and intentionally.

Here are 10 basic principles gleaned from megachurches that I believe churches of all sizes can apply:

1) Don’t strive for size; strive to serve God.

The vast majority of megachurches came about because their pastors had a passion and a vision for reaching the unchurched. They were able to communicate this vision to a group of people who embraced it and joined the pastor in a commitment to share the Gospel with their friends and neighbors.

2) Know your strengths and put them to work.

Come to an awareness of exactly what God is calling your church to be and do in your context. This requires spiritual seeking through prayer on the part of the pastor and church leaders. It also involves knowing the needs and cultural characteristics of the persons you are called to reach. You must speak the Gospel in their language. This may mean embracing the use of electric guitars, drums, and keyboards, or it could mean hiring a pastor of another race or starting another service on Sunday evening for young adults.

3) Evangelize in every possible way.

The entire congregation, every person—not just the leadership—is commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations. It is clear from our research that megachurches operate more evangelistic programs than smaller churches do. Even more important, their membership is involved in evangelism to a greater extent. It is also true that the fastest-growing megachurches have the largest percentages of their members engaged in outreach activities.

4) Make it appealing, then make it challenging.

Most visitors want to slip in anonymously and experience worship in a user-friendly manner. But don’t leave newcomers at the “spectator stage.” Christianity is about maturing in the faith. The goal of pastors and teachers is to help the body of Christ “become mature.” Many megachurches provide intentional paths for new persons to move into deeper levels of the faith.

5) Worship is not just a “Sunday thing.”

Megachurch leaders place high priority on worship as central to the life of the church. Their worship services are overwhelmingly described as joyful, inspirational, thought provoking, exciting, informal, reverent, and constantly evolving. But if church is only Sunday morning entertainment, it isn’t any better than a Friday evening movie. Preach and demonstrate a faith that is practiced daily in everyday ways.

6) Create participants—not members.

Active participation matters. If your members don’t attend and aren’t active in the life of the church, sooner or later, they’ll fall away. Megachurches create intentional ways to integrate new persons into the active life of the church. This means more than just new members’ classes. Show them how committed Christians serve God and the church and encourage them to do likewise. The sooner new people become involved in ministry, the more likely they are to stay and participate.

7) Connect the congregation.

It is well known that megachurches intentionally use small fellowship groups to create intimacy and connections. No church, however, should take the creation of interpersonal relationships for granted. It will not happen naturally. Think about turning all your groups into cell groups. Any grouping of volunteers, hobbyists, or committee members can be a small group and strengthen both members’ spiritual lives and enhance the social fabric of the congregation. Regardless of their primary intent, these regular gatherings should model a fellowship group and incorporate prayer, Scripture study, and support of personal concerns. Think of this as strengthening the spiritual fabric that holds the church together.

8) Whatever you do, do it with excellence.

Very few churches will be able to orchestrate worship or put on pageants comparable to the megachurches. However, every size church can start on time, have greeters and ushers who undertake their duties professionally, make sure their bathrooms are clean, and ensure the landscaping is well groomed. Appearance and attitudes matter to someone attending for the first time. View your church as you would your home when you prepare to entertain guests. After all, God asks for our best and so do those you want to reach out to—whatever “best” means for your church.

9) Empower people to identify and live out their calling.

No megachurch pastor ever created a megachurch alone. God was the primary active partner, but it also required the commitment and spiritual labor of the entire congregation. All Christians are called to serve God through their own unique talents and gifts. Megachurches encourage their members to recognize what God is calling each of them to do, and then empower them to use these gifts and offer them space in which to do it. These churches have a great capacity for sharing the load of a mega-ministry among hundreds, even thousands, of volunteers. By providing a place for individuals to express their calling to serve God, the megachurch helps to mature the faith of their people while expanding the scope of the church’s ministry to the world.

10) Sanctification isn’t just for newcomers.

It’s for the saints, too. Strive to deepen the spirituality of your entire congregation. If you are intentionally taking new Christians around the “bases,” make sure the longtime Christians continue to run the bases, too. Many megachurches offer weekly discipleship and evangelism classes, as well as men’s and women’s Bible studies, and they encourage both young and mature Christians to participate. Christians who are growing in their faith journey create growing churches.   

Scott Thumma is a sociologist of religion and researcher for Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary. His books include Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches, co-written by Dave Travis, and The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants, co-written by Warren Bird.

This article appeared in the 2006 Outreach 100 special issue of Outreach magazine.

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  • rdimpact

    Thanks.  Good clear and concise………and helpful.

  • Jon Llera

    Good stuff. However, having been a pastor in a small, struggling church, and in a large, thriving mega-church, this could be very daunting for the small church. 7 of the 10 tips involved more programs or more work. It feels like a piling on of more programs and more “to-dos” will get you there (which is definitely not the answer). Often, for the small church pastor, simplifying the calendar and playing to his strengths is a better path to growth.

    • Be42long

      Did you read the article?  Your point is almost verbatim of point #2.  Maybe you do need to simplify.  I don’t see how this has to be done thru additional programs.  Just be intentional with what you are doing.

      • WhiteyDon’tPlay

        Um, maybe you’re reading a different point #2 because I don’t see the correlation.  The point is talking about leveraging your strengths and Brother Jon is referring to being stretched thin as is for small churches with limited membership and limited resources.  I think it’s a fair point.  Still, all in all, a very good article.  

  • Arleneperdomo

    Awesome!! Its just what I needed as a pastor launching a new work in Orlando, Florida..Thanks!!

    • Guest

      Try holding services on the Sabbath day as per the fourth Commandment, if you want God’s blessings and having a successful ministry.   That is the day God brought in and blessed on the seventh day of Creation week..and embedded in the Ten Commandments.  No other day has ever been commanded or blessed by God…the first day of the week is a creation of Rome, way back 1900 years ago and is not Biblical.   And I am not SDA, but a Biblical Christian who tries to follow the Ten Commandments, as per Jesus’ instructions  in John 14  “if you love me keep my Commandments” and in Matthew “to enter into life keep the Commandments”…and there are ten of them in effect, and always will be..remember to worship the Son of God, not the sun god!

    • Babu

      ok done

  • Pastorfernan_mendoza

    amen and prise the Lord

  • PJ

    I think this list of 10 basic principles gleaned from megachurches that churches of all sizes can apply was good. However. I would also like to see  a list 10 basic principles gleaned from smaller churches who are reaching out to both its members and non-Christians in relevant ways, yet remain relatively small in size..Is “small” a bad thing?

    • albert

      In biblical times the church grew. You can see in jesus minestering 5000. In the book of acts you can see that people where constantly being added to them. Its not bad to have a small church. But it should grow at the measure of our maturity and revaluation in God. It will grow on the maturity of the leadership. It will grow to the stature of the vision of the leadership. Because we live a kingdom. Kingdoms expand Because we preach Gods kingdom through Jesus and the power of the holy spirit revield according to His word.