- Baptist Press - https://www.baptistpress.com -

SBC church membership up, baptisms down, ACP shows


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Increases in church membership, number of churches and all church program areas highlighted the Southern Baptist Convention’s statistical report for 1996.

The Annual Church Profile is compiled by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s strategic information unit from church reports routed through local Baptist associations and state conventions.

The 1996 report showed SBC church membership climbed to 15,694,050, up almost 26,000, or 0.17 percent, from 1995. The number of Southern Baptist churches increased by 526 in 1996 to total 40,613, a 1.31 percent increase over 1995.

Only two categories registered declines in 1996: baptisms, which totaled 379,344, down 14,467 or 3.67 percent from 1995, and missions operated by churches, down from 4,026 in 1995 to 3,592 in 1996, a 10.78 percent decrease.

The ratio of baptisms to Southern Baptist church members for 1996 was 1 baptism per 41 church members.
All church program areas registered increases in 1996, ACP stats showed, including:

— Sunday school enrollment, 8,242,128, up from 8,207,860, a 0.42 percent increase.


— discipleship training enrollment/participation, 2,347,695, up from 2,171,993, an 8.09 percent increase.

— music ministry enrollment/participation, 1,915,288, up from 1,881,754, a 1.78 percent increase.

— WMU enrollment, 1,071,240, up from 1,061,279, a 0.94 percent increase.

— Brotherhood enrollment/participation, 769,248, up from 749,310, a 2.66 percent increase.

BSSB strategic information unit supervisor Cliff Tharp said some questions on the 1996 ACP were asked differently, possibly impacting totals in the following categories:

— total tithes and offerings and special gifts, $6,438,550,187, up from $5,635,014,266, a 14.26 percent increase.

— undesignated receipts, $5,040,070,313, up from $4,538,898,609, an 11.04 percent increase.

— total receipts, $6,878,906,615, up from $6,069,724,030, a 13.33 percent increase.

— total mission expenditures, $891,259,062, up from $858,779,214, a 3.78 percent increase.

The value of church property increased from $29,103,227,053 in 1995 to $30,533,888,520, a 4.92 percent increase.

Increases also were reported in both morning and evening worship service attendance. Morning attendance climbed to 4,898,872, up from 4,562,639, a 7.37 percent increase. Evening attendance totaled 1,902,519, up from 1,792,876, a 6.12 percent increase. Tharp emphasized these figures represent the attendance in churches on the last Sunday of the associational year and are not necessarily an average for the year.

Two new questions were asked on the 1996 ACP, Tharp said. Statistics compiled from those answers showed 25,319 churches give to their association on a percentage basis and 20,231 churches have an ongoing intercessory prayer ministry.

Tharp said 100 percent of the ACP data for 1996 was received electronically, adding software for 1997 is being distributed to state conventions this month.