The Southern Baptist Convention experienced a decline in membership and worship attendance in 2018 but also an increase in financial giving, according to recently released numbers.
SBC's newly released Annual Church Profile report noted that from 2017 to 2018, membership in the country's largest Protestant denomination went below the 15 million mark, declining by 192,000 people to about 14.8 million members.
Weekly worship attendance also declined, going from approximately 5.32 million in 2017 to approximately 5.29 million in 2018. Attendance for small group and Sunday School also declined, from about 3.34 million in 2017 to 3.24 million in 2018.
LifeWay Christian Resources compiled the ACP statistics with assistance from Baptist state conventions. Data for this year’s report came from 76 percent of SBC congregations responding to at least one of the report items. Nearly a quarter of SBC congregations did not respond at all.
“Part of the Annual Church Profile process is for associations and state conventions to connect with each congregation and to confirm they still exist and are cooperating together in ministry,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, the Baptist Press reported.
“This year several states put extra effort into identifying and confirming cooperating churches, revealing the decrease in the number of congregations.”
Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said on Thursday that the ACP report shows it's “time to press reset spiritually and strategically in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“Prioritizing and elevating the advancement of the good news of Jesus Christ into every town, city and county in America, as well to every person across the world, must be recaptured by every church,” stated Floyd, as reported by BP.
“People need Jesus and they need Jesus now. Our generation of Baptists must believe and determine now that we will do whatever it takes to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.”
As with other Protestant denominations in the United States, the SBC has experienced decline in its membership over the past several years.
The SBC first reported this decline back in 2008, when it the ACP reported that membership numbers had decreased from 16.3 million members in 2006 to 16.26 million members in 2007.
“For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline,” said Ed Stetzer, at the time the director of LifeWay Research, in a 2008 blog entry.
“… you cannot miss the fact that a dubious historical milestone has been reached — and it needs to be noted in denominational and church offices across the country.