Southern Baptist Convention church membership drops to its lowest point since the 1970s

    By Greg Garrison

    SBC membership fell for the 17th consecutive year, falling below 13 million for the first time since the 1970s.Baptist Press

    The Southern Baptist Convention reported today that membership fell for the 17th consecutive year, falling below 13 million for the first time since the 1970s.

    At its height in 2006, the SBC had 16.3 million members. It is now down to 12,982,090, but remains the largest Protestant denomination in America.

    It’s also the largest denomination in Alabama, where it once claimed more than one million members. That’s now down to 753,653 members in 3,164 Southern Baptist-affiliated churches in Alabama.

    By comparison, in 2016, Alabama had 949,416 members in 3,254 churches.

    SBC Executive Committee President-elect Jeff Iorg said the denomination continues to have a positive impact despite numerical decline.

    “Southern Baptists are a force for good,” Iorg said.

    “We are sharing the Gospel with more people, gathering for worship and Bible study in increasing numbers, giving billions to support churches serving communities across our country and sending millions to support mission enterprises around the world. Southern Baptists are not a perfect people, but we are a movement making a positive difference in our world, and our most recent statistical report underscores this reality and motivates us to press forward.”

    Among the positive signs, the decline was less than 2 percent, smaller than in recent years. Baptisms increased to 226,919, approaching pre-pandemic levels. Average weekly worship attendance surpassed 4 million for the first time in three years. Average in-person small group attendance reached nearly 2.5 million.

    The number of churches decreased by 292 to 46,906. Undesignated receipts were more than $10 billion. Mission funding increased by more than 9 percent to nearly $800 million.

    “It is no secret that we have felt our way through the darkness of night in many respects over the past decade,” said SBC President Bart Barber, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas.

    “For many of our congregations, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their congregating. A great many pilgrims, formerly progressing, lost the path for a while. Churches experienced conflict over COVID-related precautions. Attendances plummeted. Some pastors threw in the towel in the midst of it all. The night was dark indeed.”

    SBC membership declines in Alabama
    In Alabama, the SBC once claimed more than one million members. That’s now down to 753,653 members in 3,164 Southern Baptist-affiliated churches in Alabama.Southern Baptist Convention