Is the Southern Baptist Convention Dying? [research]

Craig Van Korlaar —  June 20, 2012

Recently Ed Stetzer and LifeWay Research released the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2011 membership and baptism trends. Unfortunately, they have been declining for some time.

Total membership decreased 2% since 2007.
Total baptisms decreased 20% since 1999.

Using a charted graph for the past 6 decades, the membership decline doesn’t look too bad when viewed as total membership numbers. However, it is very significant when viewed as annual percentage change.

The same is true for baptisms per 100 members.

As Ed Stetzer says, “The membership decline of the SBC is not a matter of debate, it is a matter of math.” Fortunately, Ed offers 4 very useful recommendations for SBC pastors.

Ed Stetzer’s 4 Recommendations

  1. Work together rather than bicker.
    Rally around the mission of God and partnership through our theological consensus.
  2. Engage new leaders.
    Partner with, encourage, and learn from leaders of different generations and ethnicities.
  3. Reach more people and plant more churches.
    Church planters are a gift and should not be viewed as competition.
  4. Don’t be discouraged.
    Instead, focus on pulling together and joining on mission. Good things are still happening.

What We All Can Learn

A denomination perpetually at war with itself cannot survive, but a denomination focused on engaging new leaders, reaching out to other ethnicities, and reaching others through evangelism and church planting will thrive.
- Ed Stetzer

The SBC is not the only denomination in decline. In fact, many are. It is difficult for a ministry to sustain high results past 7 years and lasting a generation is even more difficult.

For Discussion:
What do you think are the keys t0 reviving a denomination like the SBC?

Craig Van Korlaar


Craig is founder of, a curation of best practices from the world's leading nonprofits. His skills were honed as a decorated sergeant and enlisted aerial navigator for the U.S. Marine Corps and nurtured through his work at public schools, the YMCA, and Food for the Hungry. Most recently, Craig has served as operations director at Phoenix's New City Church, co-founder of SoChurch communications software, and a key player in laying the groundwork for Craig spent much of his formative years as a missionary's kid in Kenya and civil war-torn Zaire.

One response to Is the Southern Baptist Convention Dying? [research]

  1. I grew up southern baptist. My current church (which is another denomination and is atypical for that denomination) has probably a yearly baptism rate of 14% (14 for every 100 people). Of course, we never say, “We’ve never done it like this before” or “in the _________ church we don’t do it that way.” I’ve dreamed of being in a church like this since I came to know Jesus in 1982, so I’m excited by the fact that I get to be here and have been a part of this community since 2000.