Subsidizing Religious Participation through Groups: A Model of the "Megachurch" Strategy for Growth
Either despite or because of their non-traditional approach, megachurches have grown significantly in the United States since 1980. This paper models religious participation as an imperfect public good which, absent intervention, yields suboptimal participation by members from the church’s perspective. Megachurches address this problem by employing secular based group activities to subsidize religious participation in an effort to increase attendees’ religious investment. This strategy not only allows megachurches to attract and retain new members when many traditional churches are losing members, but also results in higher levels of individual satisfaction thereby allowing the megachurch to raise levels of commitment and faith practices. Data from the FACT2000 survey provide evidence that megachurches employ groups more extensively than other churches and this approach is consistent with a strategy to use the provision of groups to help subsidize individuals’ religious investment. Religious capital rises among members of megachurches relative to members of non-megachurches as a result of this strategy.
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