New Summer Travel Seminar Planned in Conjunction with Large Churches Survey

The New Survey from Hartford Institute

Prof. Scott Thumma and Warren Bird of Leadership Network have launched their 5th national survey of the largest protestant churches in the U.S.  The survey, expanded to 3300 churches of 1000 attendees and up,  will track changes taking place in these large and highly influential churches.  It also explores the ways they appeal to young adults. The results will be released this summer and will figure prominently in a new course that Prof. Thumma will be teaching as a travel seminar.

The Travel Seminar

“What Churches of all Sizes Can Learn from Megachurches: Eight Days in Atlanta and 100 Ministry Ideas” will run from Jun 21 to Jun 28, and students taking it for MA or DMin credit will receive a 25 percent discount. The estimated cost of room and board per person is $1200 for the eight-day trip. Matriculated students can register for this course (RS-686) through SonisWeb after March 16. All other students can register via this link.

The past thirty years have seen a proliferation of massive churches. There are more than 1,600 of these congregations in the U.S., and while that’s less than half a percent of all congregations, they attract more attention than all other religious communities in the nation combined.  While not everyone resonates with their style of ministry, these churches are doing worship, community and ministry in ways that attract attention and inspire young and old alike.  These congregations have much to teach leadership teams in churches of all sizes.

This Atlanta course will look at the phenomenon through readings, guest lectures, the new national research, and visits to over a dozen of megachurches. The aim will be understanding their common characteristics, how they function, why they are so attractive and what kind of person goes to them.  The class will interact with clergy and staff of these churches as we explore their programs, projects and approaches to ministry.  Additionally, we will use visits to well-known Atlanta landmarks to uncover the social dynamics that both shape and drive the megachurch model.  Most importantly, we will uncover general lessons and specific program ideas from these and other megachurches — lessons that can be used effectively by churches of all sizes and denominational traditions.

The maximum number of students in the course is 16.  Enrollment begins mid-March and extends for two months or until the course is full.  The cost of the course tuition is $575 for auditors and $1491 for credit, a  25% discount off our cost for 3 hours of MA or DMin credit.

The course will be held on the picturesque Agnes Scott College campus in Decatur, GA, a beautiful suburb of Atlanta.  Students have a choice of a single room $54.50/pp or sharing a double room for $48.50/pp.   Agnes Scott College will also provide the class with three meals a day.   The expected total room and board cost per person (whether for audit or credit) is approximately $1200 for the 8 day trip. Participants are expected to make their own arrangements for travel to and from Atlanta.

We will use a classroom on the ASC campus for lectures, videos and guest speakers, but the majority of the course will happen during visits to over a dozen of the largest and most innovative megachurches in the country.  Class members will experience multiple worship services and be exposed to churches that vary by size, race, denomination, and style.   Additionally, we will visit a number of Atlanta’s historic and tourist landmarks for fun and to discuss what these suggest about the cultural reality that megachurches are addressing.

Scott Thumma is a Professor of Sociology of Religion.  He is one of the world’s leading experts on the megachurch movement, is often quoted in the press, and was featured in several documentaries. He has published articles and chapters on megachurches and co-authored the book, Beyond Megachurch Myths. His most recent book, The Other 80%: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Disciples, is a research based analysis of how to increase member involvement and is filled with practical ministerial suggestions.

For more information, contact Prof. Thumma at


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