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Southern Baptists Lost Half a Million Members Last Year

Southern Baptists Lost Half a Million Members Last Year

Membership in the Southern Baptist Convention continues to decline, and last year was its biggest drop yet. In 2022 the SBC lost nearly half a million members, Lifeway Research reports.

According to the report, the SBC had 13.2 million members in 2022. In 2021, the convention had 13.68 million. Lifeway says that loss of 457,371 members is the largest drop within one year in more than a century."SBC membership falls to lowest number since late 1970s" Graphic courtesy of Lifeway Research

The SBC has been on a steady decline for several years now. At its peak, it counted over 16.3 million members. Back in 2006, however, things started to shift. And while the convention has lost over 3 million members in the last 17 years, the decline began to really pick up speed within the last five years.

Lifeway shared that the COVID-19 pandemic certainly was a key factor in the downward trend, as did the reality that as older members die off, there are typically fewer young people to replace them. But the constant state of crisis in recent years — major sex abuse scandals, racial controversies, division on leadership roles — appears to play a major part in the membership decline.

It also doesn’t help that last year the SBC lost 416 churches and another 165 “church-type” missions, either from closing their doors, merging or leaving the denomination.

“Much of the downward movement we are seeing in membership reflects people who stopped participating in an individual congregation years ago and the record keeping is finally catching up,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.

For now, the SBC still remains the largest denomination in the U.S, with the United Methodist Church coming in at a not-so-clsoe second with 7.6 million members.

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