My take on the 2011 SBC messenger count…if anyone still cares!

…with some homage to Jonathon Woodyard

In 2011, 4852 messengers from 2158 churches showed up in Phoenix to condut the business of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Many have ballyhooed this drop-off in attendance….

Others surely have ignored it….

I have belatedly added my two cents, with a spin: some math-modeling! As an amateur statistician-nerd, I used a 5-year exponential moving average (EMA) to smooth the data over the presidential election cycles…

and noticed how dramatic the 2011 drop-off actually was!

For the first year since 2002*, the messenger count came in not only the lowest in years, but UNDER the moving average!

Which, at least in the field of stock-market economics (I said I was a statisician-nerd!) is a negative signal–as in RUN FOR THE HILLS!

To answer why I used an EMA to study the messenger trend, I wish to only add one additional interesting observation:

“VMAs are used to observe volume changes over time and have a smoothing effect on short-term volume spikes…. Significant volume surges often precede trend reversals on the indexes.” (Technical Analysis, Studies, Indicators: VMA (Volume Moving Averages), accessed 7/19/2011)

So I projected what should have been the expected messenger count using the EMA trend. Without getting too deep into the math, let me just say that 2011 should have seen 9,800 – 11,200 people.

Well, why didn’t we?

Again, skipping over the math, let look at two other messenger count misses:

2006 – noted for the election of Frank Page – should have seen 14,000…or about 2400 MORE people. Why did we?

  1. the previous year was Nashville, which may have artificially inflated the numbers
  2. the election was thought to have been a done deal for Ronnie Floyd…and it was until the nomination speeches!

2009 – noted for the sesquicentennial celebration of SBTS – should have seen 7,700..or about 1000 FEWER people. Why did we?

  1. the previous year was Indianapolis, which was deflated with being outside the core 14 SBC states AND the flooding in southern Indiana
  2. the mother seminary’s anniversary drew a fawning crowd…of which I was one.

From this brief study, I propose two reasons for the down interest in the Annual Meeting:

  1. The previous year was Orlando…vacation plus controversy equals blowout attendance!
  2. There was nothing to rush to after the GCR report.

My prediction…to be returned to in one year and possibly revised!

2012 will see an higher-than-expected attendance for three reasons:

  1. New Orleans is both a vacation spot and the home of a beloved seminary
  2. the presidential election will be contentious, I fear
  3. backlash from both upstarts and denominational loyalists to change/preserve things at the next opportunity

I would love to hear thoughts on the trend or the 2012 prediction….



* = the data used is very limited, given the availability of messenger and church numbers at past years’ Conventions online – as a good amateur statistician, I will advise that these statements should be reviewed when more data is available…and I’m going to the denominational library as soon as I find one!


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