Published February 19, 2015
NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptists appear to be defying the prevalent notion that young adults are abandoning the American church – at least by one measurement.
Attendance by younger generations reached a 10-year high at the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2014 meeting in Baltimore, according to an annual survey of attendees. The survey, conducted by the SBC Executive Committee, showed nearly one-fourth (24.68%) of attendees were younger than age 40. That surpassed by more than 4 percentage points the previous best for the age group, recorded in 2013.
The 2014 survey also showed 10-year highs for SBC attendees who are under 45 (33.44%, a gain of more than 3% over the previous high in 2013) and under 35 (15.93%, again an increase of more than 3% over the earlier high, which came in 2012).
Though not a scientific sampling, the dramatic upswing in younger-generation participation at the SBC annual meeting since 2005 – especially during the last three years – reinforces what he has “noticed anecdotally,” said Southern Baptist entity head Russell Moore.
“The hand-wringers are wrong,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “There are always those who are, for whatever reason, drawn to a myth of decline. And there are always those who, for whatever reason, want to chasten the next generation for being disengaged. But they’re not disengaged, and they’re getting more engaged all the time.”
The survey results also provide encouragement to SBC leaders regarding the future of Southern Baptists.
“I love the passion and vision of younger pastors and church leaders,” said Roger S. Oldham, the Executive Committee’s vice president for convention communications and relations. “The older generations launched out, thinking that with God on our side we could reach the world in a single generation. This generation is no different. The tempering of experience, however, shows the value of multi-generational cooperation.
“Growth in attendance of younger pastors demonstrates the enduring value of cooperation and an increasing sense of ownership that we really can do more collectively than we can do individually,” Oldham said.
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