Friday, March 22, 2013

Do you do the Annual Church Profile?

All SBC pastors know that the Southern Baptist Convention compiles   statistics with a form called the Annual Church Profile, ACP for short.

The form is administered by LifeWay with state conventions and associations cooperating. LifeWay in fact just had a meeting in Nashville for state convention "statistical representatives" a report of which was made by Baptist Press:

State ACP reps discuss data's value

The most recent version of the ACP (may be viewed here) asks for just two pages of figures along with names and addresses of various church staff and volunteer positions.

Simple, right? Absolutely. Very short and sweet.

Sweet? Not according to many.

I wrote previously on the ACP in a piece entitled, Annual Church Profile, RIP?. The ACP is not quite RIP but a growing number of churches are refusing to file it. In my article linked I noted that about 15% of Florida SBC churches are non-filers (and labeled by the FBC as "uncooperative" as well). I do not know the figure here in Georgia.

Why would any church refuse to file this?

I looked at the ACP every single year of my 30 years as a pastor and saw to it that it was filed each year. The scenario always went like this: Associations would make the request in August of their churches and then beg, plead, and cajole them into returning it by a September deadline in time for church statistics to be compiled and handed out at the associational meeting in October. At the meeting attendees would look at what the churches were doing or not doing - baptisms, giving, etc.

Nothing was reported out of the Nashville meeting about churches refusing to file the ACP but I would bet it was a subject of considerable discussion. Why do churches refuse? What can be done to make it simpler? Less objectionable?

One of the reasons for declining participation is that the ACP data from individual churches is sometimes used as a club.

Did not baptize anyone? Wham!

Did not give much through the Cooperative Program? Wham!

Did not participate in the Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon offerings? Wham, bam!

Those running for state or national SBC office, or nominated for SBC entity positions can be sure their ACP will be scrutinized. Part of the reason for the new giving category, Great Commission Giving, was to make those churches with low Cooperative Program giving percentages  and office seekers that pastor them look better.

I like figures. I like delving into statistics. And although I understand using stats as a weapon I believe churches should be cooperative and file the ACP, unless someone convinces me of the impropriety of it.

If you want to be an SBC church, well, grit your teeth and file the ACP.

Of course, churches have been known to lie to the ACP...but that's another article.

1 comment:

D.R. said...

Just saw this and thought I would comment. We chose this year to purposefully not file an ACP report. The reason why was what you described in your article - that increasingly it is being used as a weapon by various people in the SBC. The GBC and the SBC has the power and ability to end this usage by simply making the ACP's anonymous and private. The NC Baptist convention has already gone to this method from what I understand. In order to view another Church's ACP, one must "apply" and be approved by the convention and the Church in question.

Additionally, some bloggers claim that the ACP is the means by which Southern Baptists hold each other accountable, but that is a clear violation of Baptist polity. No one holds autonomous Churches accountable except the Church itself. Again, as long as these attitudes exist and the SBC and/or GBC does not use the tools at its disposal to suppress the misuse of the ACP, we will keep our Church's statistical information "in house" and encourage others to do the same.

That might not be very "Southern Baptist" in some folks minds, but neither is the idea that our convention should be holding individual Churches accountable.