NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear announced via Twitter that next year’s SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., will not include any evening sessions.
The announcement came the same week the SBC Executive Committee released data indicating a growing role for digital media in conjunction with this year’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
Following a Sept. 19 meeting of the SBC Committee on Order of Business in Nashville, Greear tweeted, “Spent the day w/ the Committee on Order of Business under chairman @AdamGreenway’s excellent leadership. Very excited about #SBC19 next summer. New ideas coming — it’s a new day. Tightened schedule — No evening sessions.”
Greear’s tweet also signaled his decision to utilize the social media hashtag #sbc19 rather than an updated version of this year’s #sbcam18 hashtag. He told the Committee on Order of Business the shortened hashtag seems more memorable.
Greenway, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, said the shift away from evening sessions is similar to the scheduling model utilized by former SBC president Bryant Wright in 2011 and 2012.
For those two years, afternoon sessions Tuesday and Wednesday were scheduled to last until just before 6 p.m. and were not followed by evening sessions. In comparison, this year’s afternoon sessions each were scheduled to end at approximately 5 p.m., with a two hour and 45 minute session scheduled Tuesday night.
The 2019 program “will be much more streamlined and focused,” Greenway told Baptist Press. Greear’s goal, he said, is “to make every session something messengers will not want to miss.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Committee reported increased use in 2018 of the SBC annual meeting mobile app, annual meeting web streaming and the BP website, along with increased visits to SBC-related Twitter feeds and hashtags.
“The trends that we are currently seeing on the increased use of social media related to the SBC annual meeting reinforce the reality that as Christians we need to use every new method available to continue to convey the unchanging and timeless message of the Gospel,” said Bill Townes, EC vice president for convention finance.
Among digital media, Twitter saw the greatest percentage increase over the past year, according to data compiled by the EC. Clicks on annual meeting hashtags and visits to all official annual meeting-related Twitter handles the week of the 2018 SBC were up 256 percent from the previous year to 22,671. Twitter handles included in the calculation were @SBCMeeting, @baptistpress, @SBCPastorsConf, @SBCCP and @SBCLife.
This year’s annual meeting set a record for most unique livestream viewers during a single event webhosted by LifeWay Christian Resources, the EC said. Nearly 76,000 unique viewers from more than 70 countries livestreamed the SBC Pastors’ Conference and annual meeting. The number of unique viewers was up 91 percent from 2017.
In 2018, there were 5,815 users of the SBC annual meeting mobile app, up 45 percent from 2017.
The overall increase in digital technology use corresponded with a decrease in average age of messengers. As BP reported previously, 25.2 percent of 2018 SBC messengers to complete the annual meeting survey were between the ages of 18 and 39. Over the past 16 years, the average has been just under 20 percent, according to EC data.
In related news, the EC has debuted a Twitter handle: @EC_SBC.