The Southern Baptist Convention is continuing to experience declines in key areas of denominational life.
The latest Annual Church Profile report documented continuing downturns in the numbers of SBC churches and missions, baptisms, membership and average attendance. LifeWay Communications published an article May 23 summarizing the statistics.
There were areas of improvement, too, including an $82-million increase in giving from 2017 to 2018, and a rise in new churches in four states.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, said the numbers are a concern and a signal that it’s time Southern Baptists to reconsider priorities.
“As we look forward, it is time to press reset spiritually and strategically in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd said in the LifeWay article. “Urgency is not an option for any of us as Christ followers.”
The report found that the number of churches cooperating with the denomination declined by 88 to 47,456 – 0.19 percent. Congregations described as missions dropped by 291 overall, a 6.65 percent decrease.
The total number of cooperating congregations was 51,541 last year, according to the report.
SBC membership declined by 192,404 members from 2017 to 2018, a 1.28 percent drop to 14.8 million members. Average weekly attendance was also down, declining 0.43 percent to 5.3 million worshipers.
Another slide occurred with baptisms. SBC congregations reported 246,442 baptisms in 2018, a 3 percent decline from 254,122 tallied the year before.
The article added that the convention reported a 9.49 percent decrease in baptisms from 2016 to 2017, and a nearly 4 ½ percent drop from 2015 to 2016.
But there were other positives noted in the report, in addition to giving. They included four state conventions that added churches and missions last year.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas reported adding 44 new congregations and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention expanded by 31 congregations. The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention picked up 22 and the SBC of Virginia added 20.
The report is compiled annually by LifeWay Christian Resources and SBC state conventions.
Several state conventions put “extra effort” into compiling statistics for the report, LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in the article.
However, he added that the final tallies do not reveal a complete picture of trends in the SBC because many congregations do not participate.
“The percent of churches reporting in 2018 is up two percentage points from 2017 but lower than the three previous years (2014-2016) when we had 77 percent participation,” McConnell said.
The 2018 participation was 76 percent, he said.