Big Prayers

The Wild Success of Megachurches

California’s economy may be tanking, but for megachurches, business is booming. Megachurches—huge, unconventional houses of worship that draw in members with Christian rock, giant TV screens, and a more casual atmosphere—have been cropping up around the country over the past several years, and have proven especially popular in the Golden State. Some have ministries for specific demographics, ranging from dog lovers to those struggling with eating disorders. "They are essentially re-creating a small-town milieu and giving folks…a place to plug in and share experiences with like-minded people," said a sociologist studying the phenomenon. California now has 193 churches with more than 2,000 congregants each, and some, like the nondenominational Shepherd of the Hills, can attract up to 8,000 people at a time, leading smaller congregations to complain of losing attendees to their flashier counterparts.