Marc von der Ruhr on Megachurch Recruitment and Retention
Date: September 6th, 2010

Marc von der Ruhr, associate professor of economics at St. Norbert’s College (DePere, WI), discusses how megachurches recruit and retain membership.  Contrary to the popular notion that megachurches are simply a watered down version of Christianity aimed at a luke-warm religious adherents, Prof. von der Ruhr explains that many of these churches do indeed require deep commitment.  Initially, megachurches use low levels of commitment to attract religious “seekers.” people searching for a new denomination or returning to church after some time away.  Through the promotion of small groups, which often are connected to secular activities, individuals become more connected with the church and their overall level of commitment increases.  In this way, megachurches can effectively promote conservative theologies and personal behavior.  Our primary focus is on seeker-oriented megachurches, though von der Ruhr mentions other types of megachurches.  This podcast is based on a number of papers Marc von der Ruhr has co-authored with Prof. Joseph Daniels (Marquette University).  We conclude our discussion with thoughts about applying economic theory to religious organizations and practice.  Recorded: July 20,2010.

Please note:  Due to a serious problem with static, we re-recorded a segment of the conversation at the 16:50 minute mark.  We retained the original content, though listeners will notice a slight difference in the recording quality.


Marc von der Ruhr’s website.

Joseph Daniels’s website.

Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture (ASREC).

Hartford Seminary’s website on megachurches (featuring research by Scott Thumma).

Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches by Scott Thumma and Dave Travis.

The Purpose Driven Church: Growth without Compromising Your Message & Mission by Rick Warren.

Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey and report.


J. Gordon Melton on Mega-Trends in American Religion

Brad R.E. Wright on Christian Stereotypes.

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