Only Half of Kids Raised Southern Baptist Stay Southern Baptist

News & Reporting | 5/24/2019 | Staff
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By now, Southern Baptists recognize that their movement is in a decline that shows no signs of changing course.

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By their own measures, they’re not adding as many new believers to their flocks each year—the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) went from baptizing 321,000 in 2007 to 246,000 last year.

Cooperating - Churches - Couple - Decades - Church

Plus, despite adding more than 10,000 more cooperating churches over the past couple of decades, church attendance across the denomination is also dropping.

In 2006, the SBC had 16.3 million members, now that’s down to less than 15 million, according to the denomination’s most recent Annual Church Profile (ACP).

Surveys - Decline - New - Findings - Year

Outside surveys have also tracked the decline. New findings released this year show the Southern Baptist trajectory more closely resembles the downward trend among the United Methodist Church (UMC), the nation’s largest mainline Protestant body, than fellow evangelicals in non-denominational traditions.

According to the General Social Survey (GSS), nearly the same percentage of Americans identified with the SBC as the UMC in the 1980s, then the two denominations’ trends began to separate, and both experienced a slow, steady decline from the mid-’90s on.

Americans - Baptist - Number - Half - %

While close to 1 in 10 Americans identified as Southern Baptist in 1987, that number has been cut in half to 1 in 20 (4.8%) in 2018. Data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) reinforces this point as well, with 5.4 percent of the sample identifying as SBC.

There are four major ways for a religious denomination to change in size over a longer period of time: They add members through conversions, they keep those born into the faith as they grow up, they shed members through people defecting...
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