For the 14th year in a row, Southern Baptist membership has declined. Lifeway Christian Resources, which tracks official denominational statistics, reported 14 million Southern Baptists in 2020, a decrease of over 400,000 members from 2019.
“COVID-19 clearly impacted in-person attendance,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Throughout much of the year, churches tried to find the right balance of both in-person and online events. More congregations participated than we expected, showing they value sharing their experience and telling the collective story of Southern Baptists.”
Worship attendance also decreased by roughly 15%, with 4.4 million people attending in-person services each week. The decline is significant but it is likely due to the global pandemic.
“Based on the very limited data we were able to obtain due to a global pandemic, we know this is an incomplete picture of the reality of our Convention and how God is working in and through Southern Baptists,” said Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
Over 2 million members have left the convention since 2006. The SBC has experienced major shake-ups within the last year, including Russell Moore stepping down from his position with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission last week and Beth Moore leaving the convention in March. Additionally, numerous Black churches left with the convention following racial controversy.
“I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists,” Beth Moore said. “I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.”
Despite the battles the SBC is working through, the number of Southern Baptist churches grew throughout the pandemic, adding 588 new church plants in the United States. Floyd is grateful for the strides that were taken this year. “We greatly appreciate the efforts by churches and state conventions to collect ACP data for 2020. For us even to have some data on our churches is amazing after the year we had.”