What do you think about when you hear the words “mega-church?”
Do you think of a monolithic empire operating a multi-million dollar corporation behind the guise of God’s Holy message?
Or do you think of a community of thousands of faithful people coming together to build a powerful engine of good?
Although some mega-churches — or McChurches — have come under fire for their blatant avarice in documentaries like “Black Church, Inc.: Prophets for Profit,” public perception of large churches has warmed in recent years, as outlined in Phil Cooke’s 2016 Outreach Magazine article, “5 Things Megachurches Get Right.”
“Size doesn’t make for bad experiences—people do,” Cooke says in that article. “And I have yet to find a church without people. Fallen humanity is no respecter of church size.”
Still, the larger a church becomes, the more spectacular its implosion can be if the mission is diluted by financial aspirations.
In his 2015 article, 7 Things I Learned While Working at a Megachurch, Jamie Blaine recalls the highs and lows of working in a megachurch.
“South Point had a plethora of outreach ministries, multiple youth programs, a wellness center, coffee bar, and thrift store. The parking lots were secure. Volunteers would deliver you from your car to the church door in a golf cart.”
Everything was swell at Blaine’s mega-church—until the church couldn’t weather a leadership change—and suddenly, it wasn’t.
“Attendance plunged and ministries crumpled. Staff members quit … The balance shifted. The CEOs took over. At some level, we were all left wondering: What happened here?”
But Blaine’s story doesn’t have to be the norm.
The term “mega-church” may always evoke images of excess and bloat. But there are ways to emulate the best features of mega-churches, even without the multi-million dollar budget and all the complications that come with it.
Keep reading to learn how.
1. Reach the masses with live streaming
Arguably the biggest strength of a mega-church is its ability to communicate with a large audience.
With a proper live streaming setup, even a small church can expand its audience tenfold via the internet.
Check out our beginner’s guide to church live streaming for a primer.
But live streaming isn’t the only way that mega-churches connect with thousands upon thousands of people.
Church podcasts have also become an increasingly popular method of communication for churches and their members.
Several church management software solutions come packaged with podcasting aids, like Easy Church Tools, which includes a Connect Podcast tool with website embedded Sermon Player and iTunes integration starting at $15 per month after a 30-day free trial.
2. Put on a spectacular show with affordable video
A 2015 survey by Scott Thumma and Warren Bird of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that virtually all mega-churches use some type of video projection during weekend worship services, and most feature performances by contemporary rock bands.
Luckily for small churches, these features are not prohibitively difficult to replicate on a modest budget.
A lively band made up of musicians already in the church community can make worship seem more like an uplifting rock concert and less like a dry recital.
And as detailed in Kendall Conner’s 8 Essentials For Every Church Production Team, the most important elements of a successful church production don’t come from things like high-end monitors and sound boards, but from things like preparation and human connection.
You don’t even have a camera or microphone yet? No problem.
Pro Church Tools has instructions on assembling a high quality church video camera setup for only $139.
3. Have a professional web presence
The first impression many young people have of a new church is the front page of its website. So if your church’s landing page still has a hit counter, dancing baby gifs, and awkward stock photography, you might be losing a potential member before they even show up in person.
Fortunately, putting together a modern, sleek front page doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.
Using WordPress, anyone with a little HTML experience and design flair can create a modern looking landing page in a weekend. Because it’s open source, the costs associated with creating a website through WordPress can be as little as $2.95 per month for hosting.
For about $10 more per month, even beginners can build a professional looking page using Squarespace. With hundreds of elegant templates included, Squarespace solves most of the guess work for novices.
If you’re still not sure which category you fall in, our WordPress vs. Squarespace comparison can help you pick the best option for your church.
Also check out some great church website templates at Pro Church Tools.
Once your stylish, mega-church-level website is up and running, you’ll need to keep it fresh with plenty of new content.
If you’re using a ChMS package, you may already have a content management system built in. For instance, church systems like Rock RMS, an open source church management solution, has a CMS like WordPress included in the tool.
4. Offer a mobile app
In 2010, Apple trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that.”
They weren’t blowing smoke.
If there are apps for drinking a virtual beer and determining how the weather will affect your hairdo, why can’t your church have an app?
A 2016 AT&T survey found that 25% of regular churchgoers use their smartphone to “connect with faith or inspiration during worship services.”
Creating a customized app for your church might be easier than you think.
SmartChurch offers a completely free app builder with branding personalized for your church. Premium features, like push notifications and mobile giving, start at less than $10 per month.
However, if the idea of creating an app for your church is still intimidating, that’s OK. Pro Church Tools makes a compelling argument that church apps are unnecessary for the vast majority of churches (even mega-churches).
5. Embrace social media
Social media is a great equalizer.
The key to looking like a mega-church on social media is what you do after setting up an account and uploading a profile picture.
What it really comes down to is consistency (post regularly), imagery (include visuals whenever possible), and human connection (have conversations!).
Mega impact without the mega baggage
By identifying the biggest strengths of mega-churches and incorporating them into your tightknit church community, you can enjoy new levels of engagement without having to build a new coffee shop or enlist volunteers to shuttle parishioners on golf carts.
Have you tried any of these mega-church strategies? Let us know how it went in the comments!