Southern Baptists say giving, baptisms up in 2021, but attendance, number of churches down

The nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, saw an increase in baptisms last year as well as an increase in donations.

Southern Baptist-affiliated congregations reported 154,701 baptisms last year, up 26% from the 123,160 reported in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the world. The data comes from the “Church Annual Profile,” compiled by the research unit of Lifeway Christian Resources in cooperation with state Baptist groups known as conventions.

The Southern Baptist Convention reported total donation revenue of $11.8 billion in 2021, up 2.6% from the previous year.

“Increased generosity among churches is a highlight of the church’s annual profile,” Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, said in a statement. The increase, he added, has accelerated the “mobilization of more missionaries and the planting of more churches.”

But the news isn’t all good: The Southern Baptist survey lost members overall, falling to 13.7 million from just over 14 million in 2020, and the total number of congregations fell. to 50,423, about 1,500 less than five years ago.

In addition to affecting the total number of baptisms in 2020, the global pandemic has hurt weekly church attendance, the group said. Congregations reported an 18.75% drop in average weekly attendance for in-person worship, from 4,439,797 in 2020 to 3,607,530 last year. For in-person Sunday School, Bible study and small group meetings, average attendance fell 22.15%, according to the denomination.

“It’s no fun documenting tough seasons in ministry, but we know God is as faithful today as he’s ever been,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of the research unit. by Lifeway. “And these statistics continue to show the faithfulness and sacrifice of congregations during difficult times.”

Not all Southern Baptist churches participated in the 2021 survey, Lifeway said. Although 70% of congregations reported at least one item in the annual survey, that was “well below” the 75% reporting mark reached in 2019, officials said.

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