Ten steps to planting a megachurch
I have no plans to plant a megachurch. Imagine the administration hassles. But I am an armchair megachurch planter. And here are my ten steps based on my observations. I have studied (some might say rigorously) five different megachurches at various stages of the developmental process – form megachurch megastar Joel Osteen to the New Calvinism’s Mark Driscoll. Lest you be concerned, the essential steps to growing your megachurch (based on my observations and my list), don’t seem to require any mention of Jesus.
- Be improbably good looking and well presented. Lets face it. If you’re not good looking there’s no chance the TV stations are going to want to interview you about anything. If you’re not blessed with natural good looks you can always get surgery. Self improvement is the first step down the road to success. You need to be good looking so that you can plaster your face all over the covers of your books and your church website. It doesn’t matter what doctrinal bent you come from. As the pictures below demonstrate (yes, they are all pastors – can you name them?).
- Marry an improbably good looking woman so that you can talk about your “hot wife” – This is also important because all the single guys will listen to you wondering how you managed to, to quote an Australian beer ad, punch above your weight. Here are the wives of the improbably good looking guys above. This is also really important when it comes to preaching the annual series on sex that all Megachurches must have in order to stay edgy, relevant and controversial.
- Pick a suburb or sub culture – also known as an audience, target market or mission field. Contextualise like crazy. If your sub-culture is a group of inner-city gothic vegetarians then dress like they do – but eat meat to show that this is an issue of preference and conscience. To be a megachurch you either need to be in the subculture but not of the subculture, or you need to present that to which the subculture aspires to…
- Come up with a name for your church – Here you have three choices – you can choose an edgy buzzword, a relatively obscure Biblical reference, or a buzzword based on a relatively obscure Biblical reference. This choice should be made subject to the availability of the web domain. I would call mine “Buzzword Church”. Here are the names of our five case study churches.
- Mars Hill Church
- The Village Church
- Elevation Church
- Lakewood Church
- Come up with position titles – This one isn’t that hard. You’re either Pastor (your name) or some sort of edgy non-Biblical name that makes people feel comfortable. If you go down the pastor line you also need to distinguish yourself from your colleagues with a reference to your particular role.
- Pick some venues – Did someone say multisite? Your sites need to be far enough apart that there are clear suburban boundaries so that you can selectively allocate new families to the appropriate multisite location (or campus) just like the public schooling system – but close enough that there isn’t a change in demographic.
- Hire a marketing team – you’ll need a graphic designer (Image Pastor), a publicist (Media Pastor), a web developer (IT Pastor), a marketing manager (Evangelism Pastor) and a social media strategist (Community Pastor). Just to start with.
- Build a functional and edgy website – there are two design aesthetics you can choose from that cover every possible sub culture. Grungy or Minimalist with a feature image/sliding gallery (preferably featuring a picture of someone raising their hands). This choice is largely cosmetic – you can even combine them. What matters is your ability to “convert” in the web marketing sense – you need to turn casual visitors into podcast subscribers. Once you’ve built a substantial base of podcasters you can hit the lucrative conference circuit. There you get to hang out with a bunch of other improbably good looking “Lead Pastors” from your theological persuasion.
- Set up a publishing/recording company – You need to share your thoughts with the whole world. This sort of notoriety is good for your brand at home and abroad. A publishing arm will help get your initial tomes off the ground, and hopefully get money coming through the doors in the long term. If your writing is sensational enough it will generate a buzz. A recording arm will encourage talented musicians to join your church – having the added bonus of improving the quality of service. This will also help to justify your outlay on the best AV equipment available. God hates bad sound. And podcast video needs to be as clear as possible if your missional agenda is to gain traction in the global market place.
- Stir up controversy – Part of being a successful Megachurch planter is creating the buzz that comes with being a megachurch. To achieve this you need to pick some touchy issues to be passionately outspoken about. You can recant about these later (or become more passionate). The point is to get your name blogged about lots. The ridiculously good looking people above have the following impressive results when you google them
- “Mark Driscoll”: 313,000
- “Joel Osteen”: 722,000
- “Steven Furtick”: 45,300
- “Brian Houston”: 121,000
- “Matt Chandler”: 367,000
If you’re not a good looking guy with an equally (or slightly better looking) wife then you should resign yourself to just running an ordinary church. If you are good looking then here are the rest of the steps…
You can gain megachurch style points by having your own personal website too. You get extra points if your own website outranks your church website when searching for your name, but lose points if the .com version of your name belongs to someone else (I’m looking at you Mark Driscoll, and you Brian Houston).
If at first you don’t succeed – Pull up stumps, blame God (or the Devil), reassess your marketing strategy and go back to step 3. Unless you decide that you aren’t actually really, really, ridiculously good looking. But even then there’s hope. You just have to wait until you’re old and austere.