by Ronnie Floyd
July 15, 2014

When the Pastors’ Task Force on SBC Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms report was released this late spring, to say the least, I was overcome with a great burden. The entire report was concerning in every way. I wrote a response here, which received much feedback. One of the realities, which did not surprise me but absolutely grips me, is the reality about youth baptisms.

60% of our 46,125 SBC churches reported NO baptisms (age 12-17)

Please grasp this reality: 27,675 Southern Baptist churches reported they did not baptize one single young person between the ages of 12-17 years old. This is unacceptable and must change. Of course, this always makes one ask the honest question: How many young people did our churches really baptize? Of the remaining 18,450 churches that did report baptizing at least one young person between the ages of 12-17 years old, how many even baptized 50 students last year? This would be an embarrassing number. Did we penetrate the true lostness of any middle school or high school at all in this nation?

Why are we not baptizing many young people through our churches? What does this mean? Without documented research, I believe this is occurring because:

• We are not reaching young people effectively

• *We are not discipling young people effectively

• We are not prioritizing reaching, baptizing, and discipling young people

Many would say more money needs to be thrown at this problem or more staff allocated. Others would blame it on the church, the worship ministry, or the pastor.

Let’s face reality and own the problem

We need to stop blaming, face reality and own the problem! It starts with each church asking: Do we have a culture that embraces reaching young people? Each pastor, staff member, and student leader needs to ask: What do we need to do to prioritize the reaching, baptizing, and discipling of young people through our ministry? Can we each win one to Christ, or five to Christ, or disciple ten who will, in turn, reach another ten with the gospel? All of us need to be asking and insuring that we ask ourselves honestly: Are we really preaching and teaching Jesus Christ, His gospel, and calling young people to follow Jesus Christ unashamedly?

If we face the reality we are in today and own the problem individually and as a church, I believe we can see this turn around quickly. You have to believe that our God is able!

4 ways we can reach and baptize more young people through our churches

1. Boldly teach and preach the gospel to young people, calling them to follow Jesus boldly through professing their faith and being baptized.

To each pastor, student pastor, or student lay leader, I want to challenge you to stand up boldly for Jesus before young people, calling them to follow the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciple. Refuse to relax on the call or compromise to make it contemporary. Be clear. Be bold. Call young people to follow Jesus.

2. Baptize young people during the main worship services of the church.

I realize that many churches baptize while at student camp, and that is a local church decision. Beyond that experience, here is my appeal: You have 52 Sundays each year; use this incredible opportunity to baptize students before the entire church. All churches love to see young people baptized, and they will celebrate when it occurs. The more young people we see baptized within the Sunday morning services, the more young people we will see baptized in our Sunday morning worship services. Yes, I meant to write that sentence, so read it again slowly. Make sense? I guarantee you it will happen.

3. Student pastors, reach out and help a few of the 27,675 churches that did not baptize one young person between the ages of 12 to 17, to see them baptize at least one young person.

You may wonder what you can do. Contact your local Director of Missions or the Evangelism Department of your state convention, and volunteer yourself and some of your workers and students to help a church that did not reach and baptize one young person last year. This could be over a weekend event or a Student Sunday. Brainstorm, use your influence, own the problem, and let’s get this turned around now.

4. Pray for the next great move of God. This will turn it around quicker than anything else.

In 1972, we had had the largest number of baptisms in our Southern Baptist Convention. Why? We were in the middle of the Jesus Movement, a great move of God. Young people were being reached, baptized, and discipled in great numbers. This is the last great move of God documented in recent United States history. Guess what? I was reached in the fall of 1971 and was baptized the following day. Therefore, I was one of many young people reached and baptized during the year we had our greatest number of baptisms in a single year – October 1971, through September 1972.

Let’s remember this: A great move of God will always reach great numbers of young people, which will result in great numbers of young people being baptized and discipled.

Pray for a Great Awakening that will turn the young population upside down for Jesus Christ! Student pastors, student lay leaders, and parents need to be crying out to God daily for a move of God to take place among our youth population in the United States.

The hour is late

The hour is late. The need is great. We must rise up and prioritize the reaching, baptizing, and discipling of young people through our Southern Baptist Churches.

— Ronnie Floyd is Pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and President of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination.