"Megachurch" is often defined as starting at 2000.
But I've seen a couple conversations around the web about the idea. And I spent a big part of a couple days talking with a friend about the idea of starting one.
Today, an AP article cited in my local paper caught my eye. It's talking about Protestant megachurches, and how they're still growing. They've doubled in number in the last five years. Average attendance is up.
"The main thing we work really hard at is having a good program for every age group," .... "We want the affluent to feel welcome and the hardworking, labor person, living payday to payday, to feel as welcome as anyone else."
There's nothing in that which a UU congregation shouldn't want to achieve.
Well-stated goals for growth, including orientation classes for new members, and a slew of programming for many demographics were a pattern for megachurches in the study. They also commonly have contemporary worship services with electric guitars and drums and frequent use of overhead projectors during multiple services throughout the week.
Does your congregation have a well-stated goal for growth? Mine's worked at this... and I don't think I can say that it does. Oh, people are open, even enthusiastic, for growth. But the key point was a goal. I'll bet that if you asked our members privately, you'd hear that they envision anywhere from maybe... a membership of 200 to 550 in the next several years.
Programming? How's yours? Ours is a work in progress, with significant ideas... but it's damned thin on the ground right now. It's certainly not designed with a wide range of demographics in mind. I'm not even sure that it's designed with demographics in mind at all. It's still in the "If we offer this, will they come?" (I hold myself as accountable as anyone for that; it's a weakness).
Contemporary worship services? We're starting to break out on contemporary, I think. You? But throughout the week? Nah. Sunday morning. With a poorly advertised, weakly attended Vespers service one evening a month. Overhead projectors? Egad, no. It's pretty forward that we have a house band that is playing live rock. Guitar--not electric. Drums, check.
Their emphasis on evangelism, propelled mostly by word of mouth from enthused members, has been a constant, said researcher Dave Travis with Leadership Network.
Ouch. UU evangelism. Funny, the Universalists, in particular, had arich tradition there. We bobbled that somewhere....
About those megachurches;
... one-third reported they were founded 60 years ago or more. It also countered the notion that they are all independent congregations: 66 percent report belonging to a denomination — although most downplay this aspect in their church names and programming.
56 percent of megachurches said they have tried to be more multiethnic and 19 percent of their attendance is not from the majority race of the congregation.
I've yet to see a really good argument for why there can't be UU megachurches.
Some of our most noted clergy have, in the past, preached to what were very large congregations for the time. I think that there's still a message there today that could be preached to large (for today) congregations.
Update: On a closely related topic--reaching out to young adults--see this.