Does church size matter? A cross-sectional and longitudinal study of Chinese congregants’ religious attitudes and behaviors

Sing-Hang CHEUNG, C. Harry HUI, Esther Yuet Ying LAU, Shu-Fai CHEUNG, Doris Shui Ying MOK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Despite the proliferation of megachurches, it is unclear how the size of a religious organization affects its members. Two opposing assumptions are (1) size is a liability and (2) size is an asset. According to the first assumption, size negatively impacts the religious attitudes and behaviors of church attendees through the reduction of motivation and a loss of coordination (Hypothesis 1). According to the second assumption, a large church benefits from the economies of scale, and therefore size positively influences religious attitudes and behaviors (Hypothesis 2). A third possibility is that the outcome variables are curvilinearly related to size (Hypothesis 3). Using an Asian sample, we compared congregants from churches of different sizes to evaluate these hypotheses empirically. Analyses of cross-sectional and longitudinal data revealed that although churches of medium size (501–1,000 attendees) may be more successful in attracting and retaining believers more committed to their religion and positive about their congregation, they are no better or worse than smaller or larger churches in fostering religious commitment or building relationships among the congregants. Furthermore, our data showed that larger churches are more effective than smaller ones in preserving the “vertical” aspect of faith maturity. They are, however, less effective in fostering a sense of bonding among attendees. Thus, both Hypotheses 1 and 2 received partial support. A sweeping statement of whether being large is good for a religious organization and its attendees cannot be made. Copyright © Religious Research Association, Inc. 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-86
JournalReview of Religious Research
Volume57
Issue number1
Early online date13 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

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Longitudinal Study
Religion
Religious Organizations
Religious Buildings
Maturity
Faith
Believer
Megachurch
Liability
Longitudinal Data
Economy
Religious Commitment
Asia
Congregations

Citation

Cheung, S-H., Hui, C. H., Lau, E. Y. Y., Cheung, S.-F., & Mok, D. S. Y. (2015). Does church size matter? A cross-sectional and longitudinal study of Chinese congregants’ religious attitudes and behaviors. Review of Religious Research, 57(1), 63-86. doi: 10.1007/s13644-013-0116-3.

Keywords

  • Church size
  • Religious attitudes
  • Religious behavior
  • Spiritual development
  • Economies of scale
  • Anonymity