It’s the most … wonderful time … of the year. But, wait! Haven’t we just completed that most wonderful time, otherwise known as Christmas? Indeed, the wonderful time referenced here is when churches are asked to provide key demographic info through what’s known as the Annual Church Profile (ACP).
Most pastors and churches don’t think of that as a “wonderful time.” Several years ago, when I was reaching out to churches about completing their ACP information, one pastor simply said, “We will not be complying with this request,” and another said, “Why would I want to waste my time completing this information?” As I said, most pastors don’t view this as a “wonderful time.”
But it IS wonderful in the sense that this information helps us see what’s going on in the life of the churches. It’s a snapshot of each church. Then, when all the snapshots are together, a collage emerges that reflects the movement of God throughout our convention.
At our 2021 Annual Meeting, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) detailed six goals that we desire to work towards between now and 2025:
- 50 church plants.
- 100 churches engaging in revitalization efforts.
- 10,000 baptisms.
- One million missional engagements.
- $4 million in Cooperative Program receipts.
- 100% participation in protecting vulnerable people groups.
Data gathered from the ACP will help us measure how effectively we progress towards these goals. Some pastors and churches may be reticent to turn in declining numbers, but the knowledge of that information can help us provide useful resources and assistance in seeking to reverse those trends. In addition, we have a rich and diverse state convention, and we want to celebrate together the good things God is doing, as well as provide assistance where that’s needed. The information from the ACP will help us do both.
Also, information gathered from the ACP is what our national partners use to determine various levels of support through partnership arrangements. If a church member committed to giving additional tithe money if we published attendance figures in our Sunday bulletin, most of us would gladly publish that information. When churches don’t complete the ACP, it’s like knowing the additional tithe is available but not publishing attendance figures and, thus, not receiving those gifts. The inability to report complete demographic information inadvertently leads to the loss of partnership funding, money that ultimately makes its way back to the churches through resourcing the BCM/D can provide. Besides providing celebratory and evaluative tools, partnership funding is another reason for churches to complete the ACP.
Data from the ACP also proves useful to churches during times of transition. Pastors and staff members considering a call to serve a church will often desire to know such demographic information about that church in seeking to discern God’s potential call to serve there. Churches that consistently complete ACP information can help to set their church up for future success in the call of pastoral staff to serve.
In 2020, the BCM/D only saw a 40% participation rate in churches’ data reports. I am praying we see that increase to at least 75% this year. And, in the future, I pray that we can approach, if not reach, 100%. Please complete your ACP data and turn it in. Assistance is available if you need help. Please contact Iris White at email@example.com with any questions about accessing, completing, or turning in your ACP data. For the success of our kingdom efforts, let’s all work toward this end so that this truly does become a wonderful time of the year.
Cover photo: Middle River Baptist Church,
Mark Dooley serves as the BCM/D’s interim executive director.