For several years, membership in Southern Baptist churches has been in decline. The American denomination hit its peak in 2005 with 16.6 million members, and since then, communities have seen a steady drop, hitting 15.8 million members in 2012. That’s nearly one million members lost in roughly a decade””a period during which the overall U.S. population grew by more than 18 million.
But arguably, the more significant decline is happening within church communities: They’re not performing as many baptisms anymore. The top baptismal year was 1999; since then, the ritual has become more and more infrequent, dropping by about 25 percent.