Southern Baptist Convention sees giving increase while baptisms continue to decline

Southern Baptist congregations saw an increase of more than $82 million in overall giving in 2018, according to the latest Annual Church Profile (ACP) report. However, other key metrics declined slightly in 2018 including baptisms, membership, average worship attendance and total number of Southern Baptist churches. 

Cooperating churches

The number of churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) declined by 88 to 47,456 or 0.19%. Southern Baptists also reported 4,085 church-type missions last year, a decline of 291 or 6.65%. The ACP is compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources in cooperation with Baptist state conventions. 

“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. 

Four state conventions saw double-digit growth in the number of Southern Baptist congregations. The Baptist General Convention of Texas added 44 congregations, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention grew by 31, the
Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention added 22 congregations and the SBC of Virginia grew by 20. 

Although Southern Baptist congregations reported increased giving, reported membership of those congregations declined by 192,404, down 1.28% to 14.8 million members. 

Southern Baptist congregations baptized 246,442 people in 2018, a 3.02% decline from the 254,122 reported in 2017. Southern Baptists saw a 9.49% decline in baptisms from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, Southern Baptists reported a 4.89% decline in baptisms from the previous year. 

“Seeing our neighbors or children follow Christ in believer’s baptism has never been something to take for granted,” McConnell said. “Every baptism reported signifies change that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.”

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee (EC), agreed. 

“While this report contains news that concerns us greatly, we need to celebrate every life who was positively impacted by the gospel. As we look forward it is time to press reset spiritually and strategically in the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. 

“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. Urgency is not an option for any of us as Christ-followers. 

“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.”

Several state conventions experienced growth in baptism numbers this past year. State conventions with the largest increases in baptisms in 2018 were the California SBC, which grew by 2,653 to 12,212; the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which grew by 2,092 to 21,563; the Florida Baptist Convention, which grew by 1,245 to 26,162; the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which grew by 469 to 17,511; and the Colorado Baptist General Convention grew by 353 to 1,834.

Total church receipts and undesignated receipts were both up for the second year in a row. Total church receipts reported through the ACP increased 0.7% to 11.8 billion. Undesignated church receipts increased 0.87% to $9.6 billion. 

Giving totals

Giving through the SBC’s Cooperative Program (CP) is not included in the ACP statistical summary. Those totals are available through Baptist state conventions and the SBC EC which processes the funds given through the CP.

Individual congregations voluntarily report their ACP data to their local Baptist associations and/or their state conventions. National statistics are compiled and released when all cooperating state conventions have reported. (BP)