Research from Dallas-based Leadership Network shows that 83 percent of 1,600 megachurches – defined as those Protestant congregations reporting a sustained average worship attendance of 2,000 or more people on a weekly basis – met or exceeded their 2012 financial budgets.
The survey of more than 700 churches focused on staffing issues and giving patterns among other issues.
Lakewood Church in Houston, LifeChurch in Edmond, Okla., Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., are the top five megachurches in America based on average attendance. The Statistic Brain web site shows that all of them have an average attendance of more than 23,300.
A majority of the congregations included in the survey experienced increased offerings during worship services last year. Seventy percent of them reported increased giving from 2011 data, and nearly one in five showed an increase of 10 percent or more. Twenty-eight percent of those responding reported a giving increase of 6-10 percent compared to 2011 statistics.
Of those churches participating in the survey, nearly one-third indicated they were not affected by the economic recession that has plagued the country in recent years, and only 3 percent of those with attendance figures of 2,000 or more showed a negative impact by the economy.
The study revealed that 79 percent of large churches have grown in membership over the last three years. Among all Protestant churches in North America, the growth rate is only about 20 percent.
More than 80 percent of the churches surveyed indicated they intend to increase staff salaries as well, further extending the generous giving from their congregants that took place last year. The anticipated increases range from 1 to 6 percent, with the greatest percentage of increases expected to be 2 percent (18.5 percent) to 3 percent (34.8 percent) for staff members.
Not only do the churches anticipate salary increases, they also are showing a trend toward hiring additional personnel. Seventy-five percent of the responding churches plan to add staff during the coming year. More than half (55 percent) will hire between one and four new employees, while 13 percent plan to add 5-9 new staff members.
The report showed that 96 percent of church budgets came from individual contributions, though the giving per person decreased as churches showed an increase in attendance.
The increased giving by congregants of large churches also spilled over to their ability to reach beyond their own walls. The survey showed that 84 percent of the churches give 10 percent or more of their budget to ministries outside their own congregation. Most of that is spent on missions programs or supporting ministries such as local soup kitchens.
In the Lifeway Research Blog, Ed Stetzer notes that the number of megachurches is not declining and indicated the statistics from Leadership Network’s study show they appear to be financially healthier than smaller churches.