Imagine a congregation where 10,000 people gather each week for worship, where church budgets are $15 million a year and where thousands of people volunteer for programs weekly. Welcome to the world of megachurches. The past thirty years have seen a proliferation of these massive congregations throughout the nation. There are more than 1,600 of these congregations in the U.S., and while less than half a percent of all congregations, they attract more attention than all other religious communities in the nation combined.
This course will look at the phenomenon through readings, guest lectures, brand new national research and visits to a dozen of them throughout Atlanta, GA to understand the common characteristics of megachurches, how they function, why they are so attractive and what kind of person goes to them. The class will interact with clergy and staff of these churches as we explore their programs, projects and approaches to ministry. Additionally, we will use visits to well-known Atlanta landmarks to uncover the social dynamics that both shape and drive the megachurch model. Most importantly, in doing this we will explore the general lessons and unique program ideas to be learned from megachurches, lessons that can be used effectively by churches of all sizes and denominational traditions.
The course will run from Sunday morning June 21 to Sunday afternoon June 28, 2015. Students should aim to arrive the afternoon or evening of Saturday June 20th and will need to check out by mid afternoon Sunday 28th.
The course will use a classroom on the ASC campus for lectures, videos and guest speakers but the majority of the course will happen during our visits to over a dozen of the largest and most innovative megachurches in the country. We will experience a variety of worship services during the day and evenings and aim for exposure to churches with a diversity of size, race, denomination, and style. Additionally, we will visit a number of Atlanta’s historic and tourist landmarks for fun and to discuss what these suggest about the cultural reality that megachurches are addressing.