During my early school years, I can remember bringing home a report card for my parents to examine. Sometimes I was a bit ashamed for them to see it, but doing so was a requirement and needful. Grades and comments by teachers were vitally important in the educational accountability process. Areas of improvement were noted, and I was the better for it.
Most local churches keep records so they can measure progress or track areas of needed attention. Although there is no Biblical requirement for this record keeping, it does make good sense. As a pastor, I made sure we kept good records and I also led the way for my churches to do an Annual Church Profile (ACP), which was sent to the State Board of Missions each year. At least one Baptist commentator has called the ACP a “church report card.”
In recent years, for several reasons, some churches have chosen not to be involved in sending in an ACP which is used in research by various people. The Alabama Baptist Convention and the SBC need this information for accurate recordkeeping purposes. To not be a participant in this information sharing leaves gaping holes in the research process.
When our new SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, visited Alabama recently, he and I discussed many topics of interest and concern. One of them was the need for churches to participate in the Annual Church Profile. We both agreed that this information represents the vital signs for ascertaining, to a measurable degree, the health of the local church. It also aids those seeking to determine the vital signs of Baptist life as a whole.
In the late 1990s, 98 percent of Alabama Baptist churches participated in the ACP process. Last year that percentage had dropped to 83 percent. With some researchers forecasting a decline in SBC life, my concern is that we are actually experiencing more percentage decline in churches reporting their vital signs data via the ACP than in other arenas.
My appeal to you as a church leader is to make sure you prepare and send in the ACP. It will assist you in your ministry and it will help others do so across the landscape of Baptist life. The process is relatively simple and we seeking to simplify it further. Rest assured that we all want the ACP to be both simple in form and substantive in nature.
For now, let us do our church report card and be a part of the ACP process. I am hopeful that we in Alabama Baptist life can return at least 90 percent participation in the near future. Your support of this endeavor may be off the radar, but believe me this information helps us learn about ourselves and also what we need to do differently and better under our Lord’s guidance for the future. I want to thank you in advance for your involvement.