"Small Empty Church During the Day" by Connor Cunningham / CC BY-SA 4.0

Southern Baptists see historic drop in membership

Jun 5, 2020

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Total membership in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination fell at a historic rate between 2018 and 2019, according to an annual report released Thursday.

The Southern Baptist Convention said it had 14.5 million members in 2019, down about 287,655 from the previous year. Membership dropped 2 percent, the largest single-year drop in more than 100 years, according to a survey from LifeWay Christian Resources, the denomination’s publishing and research arm.

The decline reflects a larger trend of Americans leaving Christianity at a rapid pace. According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of Americans describe themselves as Christians, down 12 percentage points during the past decade.

Southern Baptist baptisms fell by more than 4 percent, a key metric in measuring new members of the faith. Average weekly worship service and Sunday school or small-group attendance each dropped by less than 1 percent. Giving was down, and total church receipts fell 1.44 percent to $11.6 billion.

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