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Words from the Publisher

The 2014 List of America’s Largest Church Catches Many By Surprise! Path MEGAzine Discusses the Growing Trend of the Franchised Church

The 2014 List of America’s Largest Church Catches Many By Surprise! Path MEGAzine Discusses the Growing Trend of the Franchised ChurchWhen the 2014 list of the largest churches in America comes out you maybe surprised at who’s at #1.

Outreach Magazine’s popular list polls churches’ attendance yearly based on physical attendance on site of a churches campus. Multi-campus sites (or satellite churches) are considered in the churches weekly attendance.

Although Joel Osteen ministries may have the largest structural campus, it’s the franchised church of North Point Ministries led by Pastor Andy Stanley (pictured to left) who was crowned the 2014 largest church in America by Outreach Magazine.

The report lists a weekly attendance of 31,288, giving North Point the #1 spot on its annual ranking for the first time.

Last year Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church took the top spot, and this year he wasn’t even ranked according to sources who’ve viewed the list that comes out this month. Other surprises include T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in Dallas, TX (which also was not ranked), as well as Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL (which was ranked at #5), and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA (which was ranked at #6). Lakewood Church was ranked at #1 in 2013 and The Potter’s House was ranked at #20 in 2013. (View last year’s list here.)

The list brings up a clear and growing trend spreading throughout the U.S. That trend known as franchised churches, multi-campus sites, or satellite churches is booming like never before.

In some cases the attendance numbers of multi-campus sites are beating out churches who use stadiums to hold attendees. North Point for instance has five campuses throughout the Atlanta area compared to Osteen’s one campus in Houston.

The 2014 List of America’s Largest Church Catches Many By Surprise! Path MEGAzine Discusses the Growing Trend of the Franchised Church

[North Point Church – Atlanta, GA]

It’s become common now to see the same church site planted within 20 miles of another one. In an attempt to reach more people, churches add more campuses to lure commuters who may not be willing to drive to the ministries main campus. The idea is nothing new, but it has grown over the last decade. Multi-campus sites or what I like to call franchised-ministries (typically for business minded churches who lack anointing) are winning in the attendance race and recruiting Pastors to run their campuses and spread the churches brand. Pastors will often off-set the service times at these locations and commute using cars or helicopters to get to the next campus on time. The other campuses they’re not able to reach will either see a message via “satellite” with no one even speaking from the pulpit, or an assistant pastor.

Church-goers can expect this trend to grow as the new business-model for churches has every new start-up ministry dreaming of a second campus before they even max out the attendance at their first campus.

In my opinion it’s a trend that can disillusion church-goers who expect to see the same quality as the main campus receives in all areas of the ministry. There’s nothing wrong with growing your church once it’s reached it’s attendance capacity, and the surrounding community calls for more of a ministries message. But church-goers should not loose site of the smaller churches that can provide more of a 1-on-1 experience that Mega-Churches can only imitate.

For instance, Were you better going to school at a large university with 300 people in an auditorium style class room? Or did you prefer the smaller classes with 20 people in them? If the large classrooms never bothered you then chances are you’ll feel right at home at a thriving campus that holds 5,000+ seats. Or you might prefer an entry-level Mega-Church that just barely hits the 1,000 seat mark. To some thats still too big, and they’d rather worship with 100 faithful members at a retail center or school. The point is that America is drawn to size and numbers, but consider the size of an organization and how you learn best when choosing a church home. Your spiritual knowledge and strength of faith can be effected by simply being in the wrong spiritual environment.

In my next “words from the publisher” piece we’re going to dive deeper into the pros and cons of Mega-churches, and that of the smaller ministries. When you read my unique perspective based on my past experiences I think it will lead to a healthy dialog. Stay on the PATH!

-Kris Patrick (Publisher)

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Rachel O'Dell

I attend a North Point campus, and I’d like to address a couple of things.
1. Satellite campuses don’t necessarily receive a lower quality “worship experience” than the main campus if that church works to maintain the same excellence across all campuses. If they go to a smaller church, they’ll get lower quality anyway. The church-goer should be going to church to serve anyway. If unbelievers are coming in and hearing the gospel, the church is doing something right.
2. NPM maxes out it’s space in one location before opening more.
3. Multi-site allows big churches to achieve that smaller feel. However, in the case of NP, even the smaller campuses are huge. That’s why getting into a small group and serving in a ministry team are very important to connect you to the body of Christ, and give you a place with friends and a connection to the mission.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x