Statisical analysis looks back at the last 10 years
By Elizabeth Young | May 17, 2023
David Johnson, who will celebrate his 10th anniversary as executive director of the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists on June 1, reported on a statistical analysis of Arizona Southern Baptists’ last 10 years during a Convention Council meeting held via Zoom May 9.
The analysis highlighted bright spots regarding church planting, Cooperative Program giving and giving to churches but also noted areas of decline in membership, baptisms and Bible study. The data was gathered from the North American Mission Board, Annual Church Profiles and AZMN annual reports.
From 2012 to 2022, a total of 187 churches were planted or affiliated with Arizona Southern Baptists. However, the total number of churches only grew by 52 — from 410 to 462 — as 135 churches disbanded, left the SBC, merged with other churches or became a campus of another church.
While it is not likely the Centennial Vision goal of having 1,000 churches by 2028 will be reached, the planting of almost 19 churches per year “is such a blessing and such a tribute to what God has done,” Johnson said.
The overall picture from the numbers for membership, baptisms and Bible study from 2013 to 2022 is one of decline, mirroring the SBC trend.
“Our efforts at revitalization, while well-received and helpful, have done little to stem the tide of churches that are declining,” Johnson wrote in his report to the Convention Council.
Church membership dropped from 71,169 in 2013 to 58,084 in 2023. Baptisms decreased from 2,345 to 1,993, with a high of 2,694 in 2015. Bible study attendance dropped from 22,996 to 14,284.
“Addressing this decline in our churches will be a big challenge over the next ten years,” Johnson wrote. “Unless this trend can be reversed, the Arizona Mission Network and the SBC will have a difficult time sustaining its mission efforts and missionary force.”
However, there was also good news, with churches’ income and Cooperative Program giving both increasing.
From 2013 to 2022, churches’ undesignated receipts increased from $55 million to $66.4 million, a 20% increase. Cooperative Program giving increased from almost $3.2 million in 2012 to more than $3.8 million in 2022, a 19.6% increase.
“It says that our churches have confidence in what the Cooperative Program is doing and [are] supportive of the idea of giving to international missions,” Johnson said.
Another positive point is Arizona’s increased percentage giving to national and international missions causes through the Cooperative Program. From 26% being sent to the SBC in 2012, the percentage rose to 38% in 2022 and reached 40% this year. The portion of Cooperative Program funds remaining in Arizona dropped from 74% in 2012 to 62% in 2022 and is 60% this year.
This has resulted in an additional $641,000 going to national and international missions through the SBC, Johnson said. It represents an 80% increase, from $801,000 in 2012 to $1.4 million in 2022.
“The surprising thing is that during that same period of time when we were reducing the percentage that’s staying in Arizona, we actually increased in the amount of funds that we have to do ministry in Arizona from $2.27 million in 2012 to $2.35 million in 2022, and that’s an increase of $80,000 that stays in Arizona,” he said.
Looking back at the last 10 years, Johnson wrote, “The health of our network has also been affected by issues such as turmoil in the national convention, the sexual abuse crisis, and issues related to COVID-19. In spite of all this, we continue to have strong relationships with our churches and trust among the vast majority of our pastors. Nevertheless, there are many challenges facing us in the future including the continued decline of perceived denominational value, divisive issues in the SBC, and pastors/churches that have less connectedness with our network and mission.”