A Statistical Analysis of Growth in SBC Congregations by Race and Ethnicity from 1990-2018

Last spring, I commissioned our Great Commissions Relations and Mobilization Team to discover where we were in our SBC congregations by race and ethnicity from 1990-2018. The team consists of Julio Arriola, Peter Yanes, Charles Grant, Ashley Clayton, and team leader, Willie McLaurin. Our Asian American Executive Director, Peter Yanes, was asked to lead this study and secured the needed assistance to accomplish the project.

This fall, one of the most informative and encouraging sessions we had with the Leadership Team of our SBC Executive Committee staff was with Minh Ha Nguyen. Minh Ha is the Manager of Research Data and Delivery of the International Mission Board, and the president of the Southern Baptist Research Fellowship. He has almost completed his PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a concentration in Applied Theology on the subject of globalization, urbanization and migration. Minh Ha worked with our team to present this study based upon research.

As a researcher and statistical analyst, Minh Ha also studies the history and reality of Southern Baptist Convention congregations by race and ethnicity. For example, did we experience growth or decline in SBC congregations by race and ethnicity between the years 1990-2018? Minh Ha believes the statistics and research reveals reality and this reality will encourage our Southern Baptist Family.

Let me share what we discovered thanks to Minh Ha’s research using the Annual Church Profile reports from 1990-2018. Below, you will see graphics that illustrate what we have discovered as well as a few brief observations that we found helpful. 

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10 Observations from This Research

There are 10 observations from this research by Minh Ha Nguyen and our team that I want to share with you:

  1. This report tracks SBC congregations by race/ethnicity from 1990 to 2018 as reported in the Annual Church Profile (ACP). The analysis is done every five years, and the last period from 2015-2018 is incomplete.
  2. The number of SBC congregations increased by 23.3% from 41,799 in 1990 to 51,538 in 2018.
  3. African American congregations saw the largest growth of 289.3% from 1990-2018, while the Anglo group saw the smallest growth of 11.4%. From 1995-2000, the African American group grew by 482 congregations and from 2000-2005, this group grew by an additional 833 congregations.
  4. From 1990-2018, SBC membership declined from 14,826,580 to 14,813,206. This represents a slight drop of -0.1%.
  5. From 1990 to 2018, ethnic minority groups increased by more than one million (1,021,658) in membership while Anglo congregations decreased by one almost one million (900,127) in membership.
  6. While the Anglo membership declined by 6.3% from 1990-2018, the Asian American membership grew by 270.7%.
  7. Between 1990 and 2018, six in ten new congregations in the SBC were ethnic minority or non-Anglo congregations.
  8. From 2000-2005 and 2005-2010, the most growth experienced among SBC membership was among African American, Asian American and Hispanics.  
  9. 22.3% of our SBC congregations are non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. In 1990, 8.4% of our SBC congregations were non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. Therefore, our SBC non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations have grown by 7,992 congregations since 1990, or by 223%.
  10. With 22.3% of our SBC congregations being non-Anglo and many worshipping in multiple languages across America, the Southern Baptist Convention may be the most multi-ethnic and multi-lingual denomination in the United States.

Finally, be encouraged Southern Baptists. While challenges are revealed by the research, we know it also reveals the SBC is growing more diverse in non-Anglo or multi-ethnic congregations.

The future of America offers an amazing opportunity for our SBC to grow in a robust manner in the number of our congregations. While the number of Anglo congregations must recapture positive growth, the diversity of America calls upon our African American, Hispanic, and Asian American congregations to continue to capture the vast opportunities before them.

We will go forward to the future together.

Now is the time to lead.

This article was written by Dr. Ronnie Floyd and was originally sent through the Baptist Press newsletter, which can be found here.

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