Baptist Press has the unofficial count, 5,406, for the meeting in Columbus earlier in the week. Sorry I couldn’t make it 5,407. The last six years are shown below:
2010 Orlando 11,070
2011 Phoenix 4,814
2012 New Orleans 7,814
2013 Houston 5,103
2014 Baltimore 5,294
2015 Columbus 5,406
Absent some white hot Baptist controversy, folks that like to go and have the money will go and folks that don’t see it as all that important will stay home. When there is an attraction apart from the meeting itself, attendance bumps up (Bourbon Street, Mickey Mouse).
There are over 46,000 SBC churches these days. The typical husband/wife messenger system means 3,000 or so churches had folks present, six percent or so.
My state, Georgia, one of the largest SBC state conventions, had only 287 people registered. There are over 3,300 Georgia Baptist churches. Figure that about one church per dozen sent messengers.
The annual meeting, manifestly, is not that important to most Southern Baptists, even Southern Baptist pastors. I don’t see much that will change it. Attendance for the last five years is about at the same level it was during the late 1930s and early/mid 1940s.
Contrast attendance at the SBC annual meeting with registration and expected attendance for NAMB’s Send North America conference that is scheduled for Nashville in August. More than double the number are paid and registered for the SNA conference.
I don’t know what the attendance was for the pre-convention Pastor’s Conference or if linking the two meetings more closely would draw more attendees for the Annual Meeting.
The paltry attendance that is routine for the SBC Annual Meeting is begging for some proposal that would incorporate remote participation, sattelite locations, and/or electronic voting. Moving away from the paper ballots eliminates one obstacle but I recognize that there are a number of hurdles to overcome. I don’t know if it would be an improvement to our ancient system of having a mass meeting in the heat of the summer where if you show up, you count and if you can’t be physically you don’t count.
St. Louis next year? Yawn. Look for the same 5,000 or so.