LifeWay Annual Church Profile Says Southern Baptist Churches are Experiencing Historic Drop in Membership

Southern Baptist church service attendance is on a major decline. (Photo by Daniel Morton on Unsplash)

A growing number of Southern Baptist churches are home to a shrinking number of Southern Baptists.

Total membership in the Southern Baptist Convention fell almost 2% to 14,525,579 from 2018 to 2019, according to the Annual Church Profile compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions. The decline of 287,655 members is the largest single-year drop in more than 100 years.

The number of churches grew slightly to 47,530, an increase of 74 from 2018. However, the number of church-type missions fell by 477 to bring the overall number of SBC congregations down to 51,138 in 2019. Multisite congregations reported an additional 505 campuses where local church ministry takes place.

Churches and Missions

McConnell said the significant drop in membership is due in large part to the decrease in church-type missions and congregations continuing to update their membership.

While some missions no longer exist, others moved from that category to full-fledged churches.

“The term ‘mission’ is an important missiological designation that points to the fact that churches are started with the help of many others,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“In 2019 several state conventions confirmed with congregations that they are now self-sustaining, shifting their designation from being a mission to a church. Although in many cases this is belated, we celebrate this ministry milestone with these congregations.”

According to LifeWay Research, 75% of Southern Baptist congregations participated by reporting at least one item on the profile, which is similar to previous years. McConnell said these reports are beneficial during COVID-19.

“In this season of social distancing, we realize how important our cooperative connections are within the SBC,” he said. “The Annual Church Profile is an important annual check-in to make sure other congregations, associations, state conventions and national entities have the contact information, leadership names and a few statistics to stay connected with a congregation. Many contacts have been made during this difficult time that were only possible because information was updated and stored in a national database.”

For the first time in 100 years, however, a state convention did not collect total membership numbers, he said. An estimate for Oklahoma congregations is included in the data based on previous reporting from current congregations.

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SOURCE: Charisma News

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