Top 20 U.S. Megachurches

Note: This table doesn’t appear to allow for horizontal scrolling on some mobile devices and is best viewed on a tablet or desktop. Someday, maybe, I’ll fix it or design it. But by that point, it will be time for a new list…

Church Location Denomination Attend-ance Founded Sites Senior Pastor Age Something Interesting
1 Lakewood Church Houston TX non-denominational 43000 1959 1 Joel Osteen 51 Joel’s approximately 20 books have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. As of 2004, he stopped taking a salary from the church, but he’s made enough from books and other engagements to allow him to live in a $10 million mansion.
2 Northpoint Ministries Alpharetta GA non-denominational 31228 1995 6 Andy Stanley 56 Reminded me a bit of Crossroads- would read stuff like “creating churches that unchurched people loved to attend.”
3 NewSpring Church Anderson SC Southern Baptist Convention 30791 2000 11 Perry Noble 42 Pastor seems to be a “say anything” kind of guy and the church even paid for billboards leading people to the site parentsareclueless.com
4 Gateway Church Southlake TX non-denominational 25157 2000 5 Robert Morris ? They have a program for 7th-12th graders from single-parent homes
5 Church of the Highlands Birmingham AL non-denominational 24860 2001 10 Chris Hodges ? Like several other churches on this list, has its own training college called Highlands College
6 Willow Creek Community Church South Barrington IL non-denominational 24517 1975 7 Bill Hybels 63 Both the main website and pastor’s site felt very business-like as they strive to attract new members. Bill’s site sold books, dvds, and other materials
7 Saddleback Church Lake Forest CA Evangelical 23980 1980 9 Rick Warren 60 Rick was influenced to write a spiritual diet book after baptizing 800 people in one day and realizing how many people are obese. But his most popular book is The Purpose Driven Life and it’s the second most translated book in the world besides The Bible.
8 Southeast Christian Church Louisville KY Evangelical 22225 1962 4 Dave Stone 53 Campus has a workout facility, adult and youth sports programs, a bookstore (money they make helps fund radio airtime) and a full-service café.
9 Christ’s Church of the Valley Peoria AZ non-denominational 21381 1982 5 Don Wilson 65 Intro video was good, but ended with “I’d like to invite you to one of our services where we can help you win at life,” which sounded a little too much like a business, not a church.
10 Phoenix First Assembly of God Phoenix AZ Assemblies of God 21000 1924 1 Luke Barnett 45 Lead pastor is the son of the former pastor (who is still employed) and both of his siblings are also in leadership positions. Pastor’s wife, Angel, is the directory of women’s ministry. They have a big Christmas production that includes a real camel and elephant!
11 Christ Fellowship Church Palm Beach Gardens FL non-denominational 20260 1984 9 Todd Mullins ? Their Palm Beach building seems really cool (almost too cool?) with its cute city/town theme.
12 Second Baptist Church Houston TX Southern Baptist Convention 19552 1927 5 Dr. Ed Young 78 Church has a restaurant inside called Jane’s Grill as well as a fitness center and sports programs for adults and youth.
13 Woodlands Church Woodlands TX Southern Baptist Convention 19265 1993 3 Kerry Shook 52 They have “Woodlands Seminary”, a training program that cost $1000 a semester.
14 Eagle Brook Church Centerville MN Baptist 19029 1949 6 Bob Merritt ? Seeker-friendly church that is Baptist but open to people of all denominations. Mission trips include the country of Norway, a country not known for religious involvement.
15 Calvary Church of Ft. Lauderdale Ft. Lauderdale FL Calvary Chapel 18000 1985 10 Doug Sauder 45 They have 32 people labeled as pastors and not a single one is female. Their founding pastor recently stepped down in 2014 after “moral failure”, which was having affairs with more than one woman and committing sexual immorality through a porn addiction. He used to run a casino with exotic dancers in Vegas before committing his life to Christ. Also admitted to cocaine in the past.
16 Flatirons Community Church Lafeyette CO non-denominational 17187 1993 2 Jim Burgen ? From wikipedia: “[Burgen] attributes the church’s huge growth since being founded to its avoiding the “weirdness of religion” and instead providing a place to heal.” Bergen seems like he’s willing to tackle tough topics and say anything. Against “bad religion” and gave a sermon on how he’s tired of rules religions make, like no alcohol.
17 Crossroads Church Cincinnati OH non-denominational 17064 1995 5 Brian Tome 49 Humor can be found on site- in the FAQ you can find questions like “what happens with leftover money?” Answer: “There is currently a fund to bankroll the Sr. Pastor’s assistant’s private Caribbean island for her retirement.” Also: “Is this place a cult?”
18 The Potter’s House Dallas TX non-denominational *17000 1996 4 T.D. Jakes 57 The staff member’s email addresses are @tdjakes.org, which would be the pastor’s name. One of only two churches in this list that listed female pastors on the website.
19 Hopewell Missionary Baptist Norcross GA Baptist 16000 1981 1 William Sheals 67 Technically, it was founded around 1865 by freed slaves, but it began a rebirth in the 1980s thanks to Pastor Sheals. His second marriage to wife Patricia contained 106 bridesmaids and groomsmen (53 of each).
20 Elevation Church Matthews NC Southern Baptist Convention 15482 2006 12 Steven Furtick 34 Very fast growing church with over 25 “extension” locations. The website had me asking myself, “is this a church or a company?” Furtick is very perfect sounding and the site is very polished. Offers to give newcomers a “VIP Experience” if they sign up ahead of time. His personal website contains a menu item “Special Offer” where if you donate money of any size (but they def suggest $25 or more) you get a DVD. Furtick caught some flak for building a 1.7 million dollar home for his family of four that he called “a gift from God.”
Averages: 22630 35.7 years 5.8 54.5

“Is this the movie theaters?” “No, sir, it’s a church. A very large one.”

Since I happen to go to a megachurch (Crossroads Church in Cincinnati), I recently became curious about all the other megachurches out there. The word megachurch just implies that it’s a really large church and nothing else, even though the megachurch stereotype includes modern worship services with loud music and a place where you have comfy seats and can bring your coffee in, but not all of these churches are like that. It was eye-opening for me to check out all these other churches (by looking at their websites and articles about them- thanks Google!) and compare them to mine. Kind of brought me out of my bubble a bit. On the one hand, it was interesting to see so many commonalities between them all (like their extension locations), which made my church not seem as unique, but it also made me appreciate my church more for certain things, like how we don’t sell books and other materials on our website and our senior/founding pastor doesn’t even have a picture or bio up on the website because he’s not trying to make it all about him (I’m assuming). They are all heavy on the males in leadership- every single church has a male senior pastor that is on average 54 years old and only two- The Potter’s House and Hopewell Missionary Baptist- are non-white. All the pastors are married with kids and it appears only one- William Sheals of Hopewell Missionary Baptist- is divorced (he is now remarried).  I found only two churches, The Potter’s House and Crossroads, that listed female pastors.  Most of the churches, especially those near the top of the list, had very snazzy websites and videos. Oddly, I was kind of happy my church’s website wasn’t as sleek- it felt more like a true church and less business-like and consumer-driven (update: the website has been updated since this post was written).

I love that my megachurch is a place that is capable of doing great things. Crossroaders are very generous people who have donated tons of their own money to make things happen in our city and elsewhere, like funding after-care homes for girls rescued from sex slavery in India. We don’t focus on religious rituals but rather on community, service, and educating people on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s definitely a Bible-based church, not some New Age self-help center like some people think, and people there are the real deal. I’ve truly been challenged to change the way I think about things and live my life. I’ve also managed to find really good friends there, something I didn’t think would be very easy at a megachurch. I’ve learned A LOT as well. Before I came to Crossroads, I didn’t really understand what it meant when people said “Jesus died for your sins” and things like that. I get it now and I’m very grateful I found Crossroads.

Please take all this information with a grain of salt as websites are not always up-to-date and I’m not actually visiting or talking with people to get this information.  I  compiled it primarily through Outreach Magazine’s 2014 “Largest Churches in America” list and added a few churches I knew were missing, like Lakewood (probably because they didn’t fill out Outreach’s survey), and googled around for other lists. The attendance totals for a few may be from a different year and it’s also hard to compare a church if they list membership instead of attendance, because that’s not the same thing. So the bottom line is that this list is not perfect and could be missing a couple churches and the order could be slightly off. And when reading my notes, keep in mind that no churches are perfect, they all have flaws as they are being ran by flawed people.

Getting Kreative

UniqueNameCount
Click to enlarge.

In a previous post, I talked about how common names today are not as popular as the popular names decades ago.  Names like Mary, John, James and Linda were huge during their prime time and could account for as high as 8% of all names that year. Popular names today often only account for 1-3% of all baby names. The chart above shows the distinct number of baby names given out each year since 1880*. If you go to this post, you can see how many babies were born each year for reference. About the same number of babies were born in 1961 and 2013, so obviously from the above graph you can see that there are way more names given out these days- about triple the number between the 1950s and 2000s despite there not being more babies born. Parents want their kids to have more unique names, either by picking something they’ve never heard before or coming up with a new spelling. Like the name Ashley? Why not go with Ashleigh so they can stand out? People started doing things like substituting “ie” for “y” in names like Kellie, Bailie, and Haylie. The letters “ae” also work instead of “a” or “ay” like in Caeden and Kaelyn. I could go on and on…

It’s also interesting to note how the line goes downward in the last couple years. Did we hit a peak? I think there started to be a lot of talk and articles out there about goofy baby names and people started poking fun at them, making parents more cautious.

*Source is the Social Security Administration and only names that occur at least 5 times a year per gender are included in the data set.

Keeping up with the Kardashians’ Names

Kardashians

The Kardashians (and Jenners) have been one of the most famous families in recent years thanks to their reality show that premiered in 2007, so it was fun to run this graph above and see how they have influenced the public in baby names. A few takeaways:

  • Khloe and Mason certainly shot up after they made their entrance into reality television but then the trend quickly reversed and their numbers started dropping. I feel like this is common- people are introduced to a more unique name on TV, they have a baby a few months later and name their kid that having no idea or way of knowing if parents around the country are doing the same thing. Then, once the public realizes how popular the name is (or the celebrity becomes even more famous), they ditch it.
  • Brody was on its way up but started going downhill after Bruce Jenner’s son Brody Jenner started making appearances. Apparently people didn’t like what they saw??
  • I originally had Kimberly in this graph (for Kim, of course) but it was so popular in the 50s-70s that it made it hard to see the details on the lesser used names like Penelope, so I took it out. Plus it didn’t appear that Kim Kardashian had any affect on it.
  • Penelope clearly rose in popularity and I’m curious to see her numbers for 2014.  Penelope (or “P” as I’ve heard her called on the show) is Kourtney’s second child and she recently had a 3rd child, a son she named Reign, so I’d also like to check that one out on future name lists.

Stay tuned for a future post on the Teen Mom gals and their kids- they made quite an impact. Let’s just say teachers should expect to see some Bentley’s in their classes soon.

Cincinnati School Rankings

Ok, this might only interest my few Cincinnati readers (or maybe just me), but I really wanted to get some stats on the schools here. I grew up in Cincinnati, so I find it interesting to compare and contrast different schools. As an athlete, we played against many schools in this list- we got our ass kicked by the rich suburban schools (Mason, Anderson, Turpin), we beat up on the little rural schools (Batavia, Western Brown, etc) and marveled at the large new schools like Lakota West and Mason (they had a fireplace in the lobby!). The schools in parentheses at the end of each list were added because I know certain readers would want to know where their alma mater or school they teach at ranks.

There were 109 high schools that I found to be in the greater Cincinnati area- this includes Hamilton, Warren, Butler, Clermont, Brown, and Clinton counties in Ohio, and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky. I removed online, adult and juvenile detention schools from the list (FYI the largest school in my entire database is the Ohio Virtual Academy with 11,640 students in grades Kindergarten-12th). Ohio has on average 637 students per high school- for comparison, Florida has 1513 and California has 1416. Ohio ranks 33rd and Kentucky is 21st in average high school size.

Largest High Schools:
1. Mason, Mason OH, 3246 students (largest in state of Ohio)
2. Oak Hills, Cincinnati, 2537 students
3. Lakota East, Liberty Township OH, 2522 students
4. Lakota West, West Chester OH, 2475 students
5. Fairfield, Fairfield OH, 2079 students (Grades 10-12)
6. Colerain, Cincinnati, 1903 students
7. Hamilton, Hamilton OH, 1880 students (Grades 10-12)
8. Milford, Milford OH, 1809 students
9. Sycamore, Cincinnati, 1763 students
10. Middletown, Middletown OH, 1691 students
(Anderson is 22nd, Glen Este is 23rd, Amelia is 26th with 1080 students, and Northwest is 31st with 970)

Smallest High Schools (all in Cincy unless noted):
1. East End Community Heritage School, 24
2. Accelerated Achievement Academy of East Cincinnati, 33
3. Leadership Academy of Mathematics & Science of Cincinnati, 34
4. Arlington Heights Academy, 34
5. Summit Academy Secondary School, Middletown OH, 51

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20 Largest U.S. High Schools

I downloaded public school data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 2011-2012 school year. I uploaded all 99,000+ schools it had in its database and hope to do the private schools in the future. Below are the top 20 largest high schools.* I did do some manual sanitizing of the list to remove online schools and any schools with multiple campuses (such as Noble Street Charter High in Chicago which has 10+ extension campuses).

Some things I noted while compiling this list:

  • Some of them are in dense, urban areas but they always seem to make room for a football field and track
  • Most are located in California (mostly LA), Chicago, Texas, and New York City. There’s also one in Indiana, two in Florida, and one in Massachusetts.
  • They offer such a wide variety of programs, electives, activities, and sports.
  • A couple of these schools separate out the freshman (and possibly the 10th grade as well) into a separate building that is nearby
  • Unsure about some of the free/reduced lunch percentages, in particular for the California schools.  They just seemed a little low after looking at the surrounding area, but I could be wrong.
  • The national average for students receiving free or reduced lunch is about 48% for 2011-2012
School Name City State Students Type Free/ Reduced Lunch Notes
1 BROOKLYN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL BROOKLYN NY 5323 71% Very urban, highly selective, at least 9 stories at the tallest point. Has 3100 seat auditorium. Students choose a major much like what you do at college.
2 PARAMOUNT HIGH PARAMOUNT CA 5015 3.7% Has a Freshman campus right behind it
3 POLYTECHNIC HIGH LONG BEACH CA 4745 Magnet N/A 2nd oldest high school in L.A.
4 NORTH SHORE SENIOR HIGH HOUSTON TX 4607 67.0% Looks like a mall to me
5 CARMEL HIGH SCHOOL CARMEL IN 4555 9.1% Has 14 tennis courts
6 WARREN TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL GURNEE IL 4442 14.2% Split amongst two campuses for 11th/12th and 9th/10th
7 LANE TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL CHICAGO IL 4330 Magnet 60.9% North side of Chicago, just like the other Chicago schools in this list
8 WAUKEGAN HIGH SCHOOL WAUKEGAN IL 4293 66.5% North of Chicago, near Warren Township High
9 BELL SENIOR HIGH BELL CA 4290 7.8% 98% Hispanic
10 SKYLINE H S DALLAS TX 4289 Magnet 79.6% First high school in US to offer a magnet program to train students in certain careers. Goal was not to be a vocational school for low achieving students, but to train “superior students”
11 FORT HAMILTON HIGH SCHOOL BROOKLYN NY 4261 60.7% The football field has patches of dirt on it because they have two baseball fields overlapping (space is a premium in NYC!)
12 DOWNEY HIGH DOWNEY CA 4255 4.8% Located just 3 miles from Paramount High, the #1 school and 5 miles from Bell (#8)
13 JOHN A. FERGUSON SENIOR HIGH MIAMI FL 4245 Magnet 57.4% Variety of programs in areas like Game/Animation Programming, First Responder, Veterinarian Assisting, Industrial Biotechnology, Hospitality & Tourism, IB program
14 GRANADA HILLS CHARTER HIGH GRANADA HILLS CA 4201 Charter/ Magnet 23.8% Regular school turned into charter school
15 DEWITT CLINTON HIGH SCHOOL BRONX NY 4195 73.7% In 2010, was declared the most dangerous school in NYC with 252 violent or disruptive incidents and 33 weapons seized, mostly via the metal detectors at entrances
16 CYPRESS BAY HIGH SCHOOL WESTON FL 4192 15.8% Satellite images of the surrounding area are really cool- very planned out, suburban community
17 FRANCIS LEWIS HIGH SCHOOL FRESH MEADOWS NY 4154 68.8% Located in the Bronx
18 WILSON HIGH LONG BEACH CA 4148 Magnet 9.5% Very diverse, aka Wilson Classical High. Have something called the “Wilson Male Academy” to improve graduation rates of males and encourage/prepare them for college or other careers.
19 BROCKTON HIGH BROCKTON MA 4135 71.2% School has been on the upswing since very dismall performances hitting a low around 2000
20 JAMES LOGAN HIGH UNION CITY CA 4133 0.1% Regular day runs from 7:16 to 4:26!
21 THE WOODLANDS H S THE WOODLANDS TX 4122 4.3% Cool circular building design, looks like they may have a separate 9th grade campus. Have a “Future Homemakers of America” club

*Okay, there are really 21 because I accidentally forgot one and didn’t bother dropping The Woodlands off the list.
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Netflix Doc

I stumbled upon a documentary on Netflix last night that is about names! I was like, this is the documentary I would want to make! Granted, after watching it, it’s not precisely how I’d do a names doc, but it was still pretty entertaining to me. It was made by this guy named Alan Berliner and he gets together with a dozen other Alan Berliner’s in the world (most seemed to be from North America) and discusses the concept of names.  It can be found here.