Mega-Churches Offer Prayer, Play, Shopping

ByABC News via logo
March 27, 2005, 10:08 AM

March 27, 2005 — -- Americans are known for their love of "super-sizing" -- from French fries to cars to houses -- and on this Easter Sunday, many Americans are celebrating on a much larger scale, in huge congregations known as "mega-churches," where people can do much more than just worship.

These mega-churches are places where members can not only pray, but work out in a gym, eat at a food court or browse in a bookstore. And they are becoming more popular across the country.

For the Ellis family of Plano, Texas, church is not some chore to attend to on Easter Sunday. It's not even just a Sunday outing. The Ellises spend as much time at Prestonwood Baptist Church as they do at their home.

"In our family we almost kid, because we spend so much time up here, just because we love it," said Johnson Ellis. "There's just a lot of fun things up here."

Prestonwood is not a simple church -- its sprawling campus covers 140 acres.

Dad works out at Prestonwood, and mom, Beth, teaches religion. The kids, Graham and Sheridan, hang out in the children's section, and their older sister, Landen, goes to school at Prestonwood and sings in the choir.

Prestonwood has sports fields, an arcade, small bible-study groups and a bookstore on what is called Main Street. There is even a food court where the Ellises frequently eat, complete with a Starbucks.

For the Ellis kids, church is actually fun.

"It's not like, 'Oh, gosh, I have to go to church and be bored and have them spit scripture in my face,' " said Landen. "It's like it's fun and they make it great to learn."

Prestonwood's worship center seats 7,000, but even that isn't big enough to hold all of the members.

Every weekend, there are three services to accommodate Prestonwood's membership of 24,000 people.

"It's like a small town in a big city. And what a blessing to be able to come together with people with like values," said Beth Ellis.