Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C.
August 3 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C. | Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Friday, Aug. 3, 2001

Population outpacing Baptist growth in N.C.

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor The Baptist presence in North Carolina has declined dramatically in the past 20 years, according to a Baptist State Convention (BSC) analysis of population and church records.

A report by the BSC's Strategic Initiatives and Planning Group shows that membership in N.C. Baptist churches is not keeping up with the state's population.

Tom Jenkins, the group's executive leader, wrote the report. It is based on an analysis of statistics from the Census Bureau and the Annual Church Profile, the annual report churches send to the BSC.

From 1980 to 2000, the percentage of Baptists in the state has dropped from about 25 percent to about 14 percent, the report said.

"In real terms this means that the Baptist presence in North Carolina has dramatically declined," said the report, which is posted on the BSC's Web site at www.bscnc.org.

During the 20-year period, the state's population increased by more than two million, or about 26 percent, to more than eight million, according to the report. Meanwhile, membership in N.C. Baptist churches grew by less than 55,000, or about 1 percent.

"Most of the gain in membership came from new churches and a large percentage of them were ethnic churches that the convention helped start," the report said.

The report also shows that giving to churches grew three times as fast as giving to the BSC.

Between 1980 and 2000, financial contributions to churches increased from about $200 million to about $700 million per year, an increase of more than 300 percent. Money that was passed on to the BSC grew from about $16.8 million to about $34.5 million, or more than 100 percent.

"During that same period of time, the Cooperative Program dollars shrank from over 8 percent of the receipts of our churches to an average of 4.88 percent per church," the report said.

Overall, offerings in N.C. Baptist churches fell well short of 10 percent, according to the report.

"Based upon per capita income in North Carolina, if Baptists were to tithe, over $2.4 billion would be available for kingdom work," the report said.

The best strategies for growth in the BSC are starting new churches and revitalizing existing churches, the report states. Both are included in goals stressed by BSC Executive Director-treasurer Jim Royston.

Historically, new churches grow faster than existing churches, the report said. In many associations, most of the growth since 1980 is in new churches. "With an unchurched population in North Carolina of more than four million people, starting new churches to reach specific people groups is one of our best strategies for reaching these four million people," the report said.

More than 2,000 of the BSC's 3,800 churches are declining or on a plateau, according to the report. Some are in rural areas that aren't growing. Others are in "high growth areas" but haven't responded to cultural and population changes.

"These churches may sense a new vision in their context," the report said.

Some churches might not be able to practically consider numerical growth, but all churches should re-examine their ministries, according to the report.

"The positive side of the data is that it tells us that we have the greatest opportunity to share the gospel with the greatest number of people that we have ever had," the report said.

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8/3/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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