by Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board
Recently NAMB was able to share good news that Southern Baptist church plants were up 5 percent in 2014. We still have a lot of catching up to do because our church planting efforts lost pace with population growth decades ago, but hopefully last year’s increase will begin a new trend.
In addition to starting more churches, we must pay close attention to the health of these new congregations. Do they have staying power? Are they reaching people for Christ? Do they give to missions causes? In short, are they having an impact? We cannot and will not sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.
At the North American Mission Board we started monitoring Southern Baptist church plants much more carefully beginning with the class of 2010. We are continuing to improve this process, but we already know a lot more than we did a few years ago.
As a reminder, the church planting class of 2010 started with 943 church plants. We pull our data from the Annual Church Profile (ACP) so we can make comparisons to the broader report that includes all SBC churches. The most recent ACP year for which these details are available is 2013, so that’s the data we are using.
- Survival Rate — Of the 943 churches planted in 2010, 757 are still functioning and are identified in the 2013 ACP database, resulting in a survival rate of 80 percent.
- Membership — Churches planted in 2010 reported a 7 percent growth in membership from 2012-2013. During the same period, SBC-wide church membership declined .86 percent.
- Attendance — Worship attendance also continues to increase. 2010 plants reported a 20 percent jump in attendance for the reporting year, compared to a 2.21 percent drop across the SBC.
- Baptisms — We plant churches so they can reach people for Christ. The Class of 2010 reported one baptism for every 13 members, a ratio of 1:13. Across the SBC the ratio was 1:51.
- Giving — The Class of 2010 continues to support missions with their offering dollars. These church plants gave more than $3.3 million to missions in 2013. That’s up 12 percent over the previous reporting period. The giving includes the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings.
The good news is not limited to the Class of 2010. Churches planted in 2011 are doing well also. They have a two-year survival rate of 87 percent and saw membership rise 20 percent in the most recent year. Attendance jumped 52 percent, missions giving 47 percent and they had a baptism ratio of 1:14.
These trends give us an encouraging snapshot of how recent church plants are doing. If more established churches come alongside our plants, their chances for success will increase greatly. Please keep these church plants and their pastors in your prayers. Many of them are ministering in difficult areas and your prayers and offerings make a huge difference.
Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board.