By Diana Chandler
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — This year for the first time in at least two decades, churches in every state sent messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, the SBC Executive Committee said in official statistics released Tuesday, June 25.
Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam were also represented among the 8,183 messengers who attended the meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama, which drew a total of 13,502 attendees, said Bill Townes, convention manager and EC vice president for convention finance.
Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, praised the broad participation.
“We rejoice that for the first time in at least 20 years, every state registered messengers to this year’s Southern Baptist Convention,” Floyd told Baptist Press. “While our convention is a national gathering, the greatest number of messengers usually come from the states that are closest to the convention’s host city. Regardless of where we meet, we need thousands of our churches participating with us annually.”
Urged to plan for future meetings
Floyd encourages attendance as an efficient way to discover the SBC’s broad ministry and missions footprint funded through the Cooperative Program.
“I would encourage pastors to prioritize the dates for the convention each year,” Floyd said. “I would also appeal to the churches to send your pastor and his spouse, along with other messengers, to our annual meeting.
“As churches invest in Great Commission missions and ministries that we do cooperatively,” he said, “it is good for these churches to come and check on the Gospel investment they are making financially.”
Just over seven percent of Southern Baptist churches, or 3,428 of 47,456 congregations, sent messengers to the meeting, statistics show. Among the available statistics on church representation, a high of 13.8 percent of churches sent messengers in 1996, and a low of 4.7 percent of churches sent messengers in 2017. Attendance by church representation was not tabulated before 1993, including the year of the highest messenger attendance of 45,519 in Dallas in 1985.
Georgia with second-highest attendance
The host state of Alabama led in messengers sent and churches represented, with 1,380 messengers attending from 498 churches, statistics show. Following were Georgia with 848 messengers from 319 churches, and Tennessee with 745 messengers from 297 churches. Florida sent the fourth largest group of messengers, 582, representing the sixth largest group of churches, 215. Conversely, Mississippi sent the fifth largest number of messengers, 523, from the fourth highest number of churches, 234. Texas was a close sixth in messengers, sending 518 messengers from the fifth largest group of churches, 233.
Most messengers, 5,453, were male (66.64 percent); compared to 2,730 women, (33.36 percent).
Only 860 messengers completed the survey tracking messengers’ age groups. Of those 860, a total of 280 were ages 60 and above, 111 were ages 55-59, messengers between ages 50 and 54 numbered 75, messengers in the 45-49 age group totaled 78, those ages 40-44 totaled 100, messengers from 35-39 totaled 84, the 30-34 age group included 59 messengers, and messengers ages 18-29 totaled 73.
- In 2019, just over 1 of every 4 messengers of those completing the survey (27 percent) were attending the SBC annual meeting for the first time. The average since 2003 has been 1 out of 5 messengers attending for the first time.
- The average travel cost per attendee in Birmingham was $776, the lowest since 2006, while the average travel cost per attendee over the last 17 years is $969.
- 80 percent of attendees this year traveled to Birmingham by personal vehicle, significantly higher than the 57 percent average over the last 17 years.
- 25 percent of Birmingham attendees were under age 39 (1 in 4). Over the last 17 years, that average has been 20 percent.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.