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SBC messengers ‘getting younger,’ Dallas report shows

DALLAS (BP) — Nearly twice as many messengers attended the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting when compared to the previous year, fueled by a strong Southern Baptist presence in Texas, the SBC Executive Committee has announced.

The latest registration report also showed increases in first-time attendees and those in the 18- to 39-year-old range.

Messengers in Dallas totaled 9,632, SBC registration secretary Don Currence announced July 10. Including guests, exhibitors, credentialed press and others, 16,032 is the official attendance count. In 2017, SBC messengers totaled 5,015, with registered attendance numbering 9,315, according to 2017 attendance figures.

“We weren’t surprised,” Currence told Baptist Press. “We were expecting it to be on target for what it did for Dallas.” The 2017 annual meeting site, Phoenix, draws a lower crowd because of travel expenses and a lower Southern Baptist population, Currence said.

Specifically, Texas has 2,654,439 Southern Baptists among 6,275 churches, the largest membership of any state. Arizona has 88,502 Southern Baptist members among 417 churches.

More first-time attendees

Working with Currence in compiling annual meeting statistics, Bill Townes noted the high percentage of first-time attendees.

“An interesting fact is that 35 percent of attendees (completing the survey) reported attending their first SBC Annual Meeting,” Townes, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention finance, told BP. “The average percentage of first-time attendance over the last 16 years is 21 percent.”

Dallas messengers represented 3,796 churches in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Texas led states in messenger representation with 2,055, followed by Louisiana with 737, Tennessee with 617, North Carolina with 552, and Oklahoma with 536, according to the registration report. Similarly, Texas led in the number of churches that sent messengers, 709; followed by Tennessee at 253; Louisiana, 229; Georgia, 225; and North Carolina, 216.

Two thirds of messengers, 6,404, were men, compared to 3,228 women. Statistics tracking gender were similar in 2017, when 64 percent of messengers were men.

‘Getting younger’

Less than 15 percent of 2018 messengers, 1,333, completed the SBC annual meeting survey that gathers additional demographic information, Currence reported. Of the sampling, 25.2 percent were between the ages of 18 and 39, while 26.7 percent were age 60 and above.

Currence found the number of young adult messengers encouraging.

“What I like is that the age is getting younger,” he said. “We’re seeing younger people in their 20s and 30s more and more. That’s part of the life of the convention.”

In 2017, the 14.8 percent of messengers who completed the survey tallied 21 percent in the 18- to 39-year-old range, with 32.7 percent age 60 and above, according to 2017 attendance figures.

Senior pastors continue to comprise the largest segment of messengers, 39 percent in 2018 and 47 percent in 2017.