Southern Baptist Convention Losing Young Leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Young leaders stayed away in droves from the 2007 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, setting what may be an all-time low for that age group’s attendance at the meeting.

New statistics from LifeWay Research reveal that the percentage of messengers in the 18-39 age group has steadily declined since 1980 – the early days of the conservative resurgence – and has dropped sharply since 2004. The percentage of messengers in the 60-plus age group, however, has increased dramatically.

LifeWay Research looked at messenger registration survey data for every annual meeting since 1980, analyzing the trends for three major age groups: 18-39, 40-59 and 60-plus. They found:

• Messengers ages 18-39 represented 33.6 percent of the total in 1980 but dropped to 13.1 percent by 2007.
• The 40-59 group stayed fairly constant: 49.9 percent in 1980, compared to 51.6 percent in 2007.
• Registrants aged 60 and above accounted for 12.9 percent of the messengers in 1980, but 35.4 percent in 2007.

“This sample represents all messengers, and historically 40 percent of the messengers have been senior pastors,” said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. “The percentage of senior pastors attending the annual meeting has remained relatively constant, but the age of attendees has risen dramatically.

“Simply put, the proportion of those under 40 attending the SBC is declining precipitously – down by more than 50 percent since the beginning of the conservative resurgence.”

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