Southern Baptist Churches In Decline! But Why?

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled 13 Signs People Are Excited To Attend Your Church.  To read that post, click here.  I must now address the opposite situation.

Earlier today, Lifeway Christian Resources reported declines in Southern Baptist churches in attendance, membership, and baptisms from 2009.  The baptism totals are the lowest in 60 years!  To read the full report, click here.

Here are the facts from the report:

  • Baptisms had a 4.98% decline.
  • Total membership had a .15% decline.
  • Attendance had a .19% decline.

Lifeway President and CEO Thom Rainer states “I pray that all of us will see the urgency of the moment…These latest numbers should be received with a broken spirit and a God-given determination to reach people for Christ.”

Out of this sense of “urgency of the moment”, Dr. Rainer offers his solutions to the declining results and negative momentum:

“Our identity comes from missions involvement and a passion for the Great Commission.  We certainly pay attention to categories such as missions expenditures…It is critical for our churches to not just get people in the door, but to also train them and disciple them in how to share their faith.”

This is a leadership issue.  The primary responsibility of leadership is to properly address reality.  A mistake leaders make is they spend too much time on solutions.  The problem is to properly identify the problem.  The solution then becomes obvious.

If I switch churches for a reason other than relocation, here is what I will be looking for in my new church home:

  1. Better leadership.
  2. More clear and compelling vision.
  3. Better messages.
  4. Better children’s ministry and programming.
  5. Better, more relevant music.
  6. More energy in the service.
  7. More life change.
  8. More opportunity to serve and get involved.
  9. Less wasting time and spinning my wheels.  
  10. The church should be answering the questions that the changing culture is asking.

I think people are flooding to non-denominational churches for many the same reasons.  Rainer’s solutions tend to be better spending, more training, and working harder.  My advise would be if I whip a dying horse harder, it’s not going to make it run faster.  No matter how fast and hard I whip it, the horse is still going to die.

The horse (model of ministry) is dying.  That’s the problem.  The solution is to get a new horse (model of ministry). 

Leaders, it is O.K. to change!!!  Matter of fact, it is visionary and advisable.

I love Southern Baptist churches and am very proud of my heritage in that denomination.  That is why today’s report bothers me.  But the answer is to change the way the way they do ministry.  Until that happens, you will not reach the next generation or the changing demographics in our communities.

Here’s some posts to help provide insights and reverse the trend of declining numbers:

10 Leadership Practices Of The Future – Passion City Church

The 10 Last Words Of A Dying Church

17 Signs Of A Fast Growing Church

If you are a Southern Baptist leader, what are your solutions?  Your thoughts are desperately needed.

Also, to test these theories, join the conversation.  If you have either recently left a Southern Baptist church or chose to attend another church instead, please tell us your reasons why.

To make your voice heard as a leader, click The Leadership Tribe link.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

3 Responses to “Southern Baptist Churches In Decline! But Why?”

  1. Most denominations are seeing decline. And a lot of the problem does come from an unwillingness to try new directions. That being said, I think that a lot of the problem comes from the leaving behind the philosophy of planting a small church and moving on to plant another and so on and turning instead to bigger is better. We have centuries of proof that the former works and a couple of decades that show a focus on the latter does not produce overall growth. See my post “THE Missions Strategy of the 21st Century” at my blog. Thanks for your good observations.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

  2. Brian, this is a good post. I had missed this report and glad you pointed it out. We are Southern Baptist, but hide it pretty well…just being honest. I love my heritage too, but SBC has not given us a seat at the table of discussion and we are one of the faster growing churches in our state. We started by tithing to the SBC, but heard nothing from them. When we dropped our giving in favor of supporting our own causes, we still heard nothing. Not sure they know we exist…

    But we are growing.

    • Ron,

      Thank you for commenting and trust me, they know who you are. Most of us have been greatly impacted by your ministry and your thoughts. On a personal note, I am a big fan of your blog and twitter work. You have blessed me greatly and I am honored you would take time to comment on this post. I hope to hear from you again in the future.


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