ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) – The North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee (EC) announced a new investment that will help Southern Baptists boost student evangelism efforts across North America. NAMB will support student-focused evangelism outreach across North America through an additional $5 million in new and expanded efforts over the next four years.
This new investment is on top of, and separate from, the $4.5 million in evangelism grant funds to be distributed by NAMB to non-South state conventions starting Oct. 1, 2021, which already reflected a nearly $1.2 million increase over funds available to the non-South states this year.
“One of the last movements of God in the United States began among students in the late ’60s and early ’70s,” said NAMB Senior Vice President of Evangelism and Leadership Johnny Hunt about a period commonly referred to as the Jesus Movement.
“In recent years we, as Southern Baptists, have seen a great loss in reaching students,” Hunt said. “We at NAMB are focused on doing our part to see this decline turn around by joining with our Executive Committee, state conventions, local associations and local churches to make a major difference over the next four years.”
Current trends among students in SBC churches are discouraging. Last year, Southern Baptists baptized 38 percent fewer teenagers than they did in 2000.
“When I talk about the great need of focusing on reaching, baptizing and discipling teenagers in our churches, people understand this great need,” EC President Ronnie Floyd said. “When they hear that our churches are baptizing fewer teenagers than in the year 2000, they begin to see this great need, and God begins to burden their hearts about their churches.”
A similar downward trend of Christianity in younger generations is taking place outside of the Southern Baptist Convention as well. Recent research has made an abundantly clear point: successive generations are less likely to attend church than their parents were.
A 2018 Barna study found that 42 percent of the Gen Z generation (those born between 1999 and 2015) say they identify with a faith besides Christianity or have no faith at all.
“There are two sobering realities that fuel our passion for reaching the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Shane Pruitt, NAMB’s executive director of next gen evangelism. “First, the vast majority of Christians surrender to Jesus before the age of 18. Second, there are tens of millions of Gen Z’ers who are not connected to the local church or to Jesus through a personal relationship with Him.”
On top of the troubling statistics that point to the steady decline of faith, a 2019 Barna study revealed that nearly half of Christian millennials (those born between 1984 and 1998) declared it wrong to share their faith with the goal of seeing another person come to Christ.
“In the face of these realities, we can’t continue to wait and wish that the downward trend in student evangelism will change,” Pruitt said. “The harvest is plentiful, and now is the time to reach students with the hope of Jesus.”
Student leaders and churches, who are on the front lines of reaching the next generation, and state conventions, will be able to leverage their resources and the additional investment from NAMB to tailor and target what is needed in different regions of North America.
NAMB, in turn, will also provide national messaging, people, events and resources as comprehensive support for the effort to enhance student evangelism.
“Our hope is that this investment sets the tone in locking arms within our SBC family in a unified effort to maintain a laser focus on the Gospel,” Pruitt said. “This is what truly matters.”