If you want to see autonomy in action, look at all the footnotes from the 2021 Annual Church Profile. The ACP is collected by the state conventions, 41 of them. Fully ten states don’t collect some of the data and the vocabulary and terms used for some categories differs. No big deal but each of the state conventions is autonomous and doesn’t have to do what LifeWay asks. The states could collect data on left-handed clergy if they wished, not a bad idea. And no church has to give all data or any data.
Carol Pipes has an informative story on the 2021 ACP here.
Generally, all statistics are in long term decline, finances included. After the 2020 COVID year data, there are some increases. I don’t see how you can make valid comparisons until next year when things will reflect a mostly back to normal church life.
Here are some quirky and interesting things about the ACP.
More churches responded and filed at least one piece of data through the ACP. Seventy percent of churches participated, up one percent from the previous year. The last normal year, 2019, showed 75% responding.
Churches can answer all questions or whatever ones they want. Presidential candidate Tom Ascol’s church hasn’t reported a number for baptisms in 15 years or so. This is totally their choice and I know of other churches and pastors that don’t want to get on the baptism scrutiny bus.
There’s bound to be confusion about churches and church-type missions. It used to be simple. Now we’ve got franchise locations, sattelite campuses, and other stuff.
Don’t get me started on Great Commission Giving. I have no objection to asking for a figure that includes all gifts to the CP and other SBC causes, but it’s a garbage category. No one can verify any single church’s figure on this.
Fourteen local Baptist Associations left us last year. They probably needed to go anyway. My state has 159 counties a number that leads the nation. It’s a political thing. Georgia has 89 associations (behind only Southern Baptists of Texas which has 100) for our 3,374 churches. Generally, an association of churches is for a county, a totally artificial geographic entity.
825 churches are related to more than one state convention. Pastor gets not one but two occasions in the fall to attend.
158 churches are affiliated with a state convention but not the national convention. I don’t know how you even do this. No church has to take positive action to “join” the national SBC. Maybe these 158 churches asked to be dropped from the Executive Committee’s list of SBC churches.
1,737 churches relate to the national SBC but not any state convention. I know a few pastors who consider the state convention totally irrelevant.
15,763 churches (that’s about one-third of all churches) did not report anything in 2021. LifeWay’s policy is to carry over data from the previous year for these. That’s a staggering proportion but I suppose it has to do with COVID.
We used to be scolded by leaders for declining statistics. I’d call the report the “annual weepfest” for the SBC. I like Interim EC leader Willie McLaurin’s approach. He praised the churches: “I am incredibly proud of local churches that have stayed steady with evangelism during the pandemic.”