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The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the world. The organization's publishing wing, the Baptist Sunday School Board (BSSB), prints literature for 40,000 churches, runs a chain of 65 bookstores (Baptist Book Stores and Lifeway Christian Stores) and manages conferences, among other activities. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, BSSB employs approximately 1,600 people and had annual 1994 revenues of $225 million. Bill Peter, a marketing analyst, explains to Business Geographics how his organization uses geographic technology as a component of the overall ministry. "This isn't about trying to compete," said Peter. "This is about trying to understand our customers." A BSSB customer, in many cases, is one of its churches. "I like to think of the 40,000 churches as site locations," comments Peter. "We provide information that helps them evangelize within their neighborhoods." – "Holy marketing", Business Geographics magazine, Fort Collins, CO


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Some Protestant denominations have experienced tremendous growth in the past two decades by promulgating a fundamentalist reading of the Bible. The Southern Baptist Convention is the prime example of that change. At the same time, more liberal denominations, including United Methodists, have been on a 20-year skid in membership. – "Methodists find openness bring mixed blessings," by Anne Saker, The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer


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The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention recently conducted an advertising campaign called "Here's Hope," which offered print, TV and radio ads to local churches. Tom McEachin, associate director for mass evangelism, said the radio spots will be "re-scripted" without the evangelistic message as public-service announcements — which are run free at stations' discretion. McEachin sees a "diffusion" of religious TV and radio advertising because of the great expense at a time when many denominations are suffering financially. He is looking into less expensive and more efficient mechanisms, such as direct mail and the Internet. – "Learning to 'lure' members," by Bill Broadway, The Wichita (KS) Eagle


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Baptists don't approve of gambling. But a Baptist church in Alexandria, facing costly building repairs and dwindling membership, gambled its assets on a real estate venture and ended up half a million dollars in debt. It avoided disaster by selling, in a second deal, what the congregation most wanted to save: the buildings and 2.6-acre site the church had occupied for 42 years. That's the downside. In the next two years, the 25 or so members of Duke Street Baptist Church could receive as much as $2 million from the sale of their property. … How Duke Street got to this point is no mystery, said the Rev. Robert L. Perry, executive director of the Mount Vernon Baptist Association. "Dozens and dozens" of Washington area congregations are experiencing declines in membership as the average age of their members increases, he said. Most of them are in urban locations with its rapidly changing demographics, "great shifts in ethnicity and all kinds of diversity in lifestyle," said Perry, whose association represents more than 100 Southern Baptist churches and missions in Northern Virginia. Churches "programmed to appeal to traditional families with traditional Anglo, mainline-denomination backgrounds" will not survive in such an environment, he said. Duke Street Baptist, which began in the basement of an apartment building in 1952, lost many of its members to the suburbs over the years. But its failure to develop a ministry for the thousands of single adults living in the apartments around the church, many of them with children, contributed to the church's decline, Perry said. – "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, a church dies; money and membership woes force Baptists to sell property," by Bill Broadway in The Washington Post

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