What you need to know about the largest megachurches in Houston, Texas

Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church speaks.  Lakewood is the largest megachurch in the Houston area.

Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church speaks. Lakewood is the largest megachurch in the Houston area.

Raquel Natalicchio/Staff Photographer

You know what they say: everything is bigger in Texas. And that includes the more than 200 megachurches in the Lone Star State. Here’s what you need to know about them:

What is a megachurch?

First of all, let’s make our terms clear. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research defines a “megachurch” as a Christian congregation with an average weekly attendance of 2,000 or more. They share some characteristics that create a distinct worship style and feel. Because we will be using the Hartford Institute’s data and rankings, we will stick with their definition – which includes both Protestant and non-denominational churches. In terms of theology, 65% of megachurches surveyed were evangelical.

However, there are many very large Catholic congregations. The Hartford Institute did not include them in their study because, according to their research, large Catholic churches do not function in the same way as Protestant megachurches. The Hartford Institute also struggled to get weekly attendance from the many dioceses they approached.

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Where are the most megachurches located?

According to the Hartford Institute, more than 70% of megachurches in the United States are located in the Southern Sun Belt. California, Texas, Florida and Georgia had the highest concentrations.

How many megachurches are there in Texas?

According to the 2020 Hartford Survey – the most recent – ​​there are 210 megachurches in Texas.

What are the largest megachurches in the Houston area?

The five largest megachurches in the Houston area (according to the Hartford survey) are:

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1. Lakewood Church (average attendance: 45,000)
2. Woodlands Church (average attendance: 18,385)
3. Second Baptist Church (average attendance: 15,970)
4. New Light Christian Center Church (average attendance: 13,500)
5. The Fountain of Praise (average visitors: 9,000)

What denomination are megachurches?

Forty percent of megachurches surveyed by the Hartford Institute were nondenominational; 16% Southern Baptist, 7% unspecified Baptist, 6% Assemblies of God, 5% Christian, 4% Calvary Chapel and 2% United Methodist.

Are the megachurches connected?

Apart from the churches that are linked by a formal denomination (i.e. the Southern Baptist churches, although the Southern Baptist churches say they operate largely independently of each other and do not rely on an authority figure as Catholic churches do on the Pope ), megachurches are not related.

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They share a number of characteristics, including attendance, having a charismatic senior pastor, having an active congregation, offering small group systems and outreach ministries, and using contemporary worship formats.

Are megachurches political?

Megachurches like Second Baptist Church in Houston have made headlines as pastors venture into politics. (Recently, Second Baptist Pastor Ed Young called immigrants “trash” in a Sunday sermon). But according to the 2020 Hartford study, most megachurches largely avoid politics. Only 7% of churches report that the congregation has formed groups or organized events to talk about politics; 63% responded that the municipality avoids discussing political issues.

Want to know more?

Check out the Hartford Institute’s 2020 Megachurch Report for more insights and browse their megachurch database.

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