America’s largest evangelical denomination debated the “stark patterns of decline” in its baptisms at its recent annual meeting—as it has now for seven straight years. But in an attempt to “own the problem,” a special task force of pastors in the 15.7-million-member Southern Baptist Convention—which still baptized more than 310,000 people in 2013—highlighted how the drought differs by demographic.
In 2012, 60 percent of its more than 46,000 churches reported zero youth baptisms (ages 12 to 17), and 80 percent reported only one or zero baptisms among Millennials (ages 18 to 29). One in four churches reported no baptisms at all. Intriguingly, the “only consistently growing” group in the denomination that historically has epitomized adult believers” baptism: children under age 5.