When the North American
Mission Board (NAMB) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary joined
forces to survey 1,000 “effective” or moderately effective churches last year,
they defined “effective” using the criterion from Bill Day’s 2004 study of
healthy, growing churches.
Day is professor of
evangelism and church health at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. One
day he grew curious about the oft-quoted statistic that only 30 percent of
Southern Baptist churches are growing.
That finding came from
church growth researcher Kirk Hadaway, who worked at what is now LifeWay
Christian Resources 1986-91. Hadaway defined a growing church as one that
increased 10 percent in total membership over five years and found that 30
percent of Southern Baptist churches fit.
Using that definition, Day
analyzed the list of current churches and found the 30 percent figure was still
But 1,400 of the “growing”
churches did not baptize a single person in the year of the study. That implies
their growth was from transfers.
So Day redefined his
parameters. To be included a church had to have baptized at least one person in
the first and last years of the 5-year period.
Additionally, the church
needed to have a member-to-baptism ratio of no more than 35-to-one and
conversion growth needed to account for at least 25 percent of the church’s
Day discovered only 11
percent of Southern Baptist Churches are “healthy, growing” churches by that
definition. Day said the NAMB and Southwestern study on evangelistic outreach —
to be released this spring — shows that “we need to be open to new ways of
doing things, but we also need to realize some old ways of doing things still
work today if we give them a chance.”