By Will Hall, Baptist Baptist Message executive editor
RICHMOND, Va. — The SBC International Mission Board reported that its pipeline for missionary candidates has 1,200 trainees. This is a significant milestone for Southern Baptists, as the number of missionary candidates in 2019 was 300, according to the IMB press release.
The goal is to always have more than 1,500 applicants in the pipeline. [This is the number of candidates in line prior to the 2016 drawdown (which focused on eliminating 50-year-old missionaries with five years of field experience) under former IMB President David Platt.]
The announcement comes as IMB has suffered an ongoing decline in overseas missionaries for more than two decades, with a significant slide since 2010. IMB reported having 3,527 deployed missionaries (including 126 unpaid “team associates”) on February 28, the lowest number of missionaries on the field since 1983 (3,386), counting only paid personnel (3,401) , or 1984 (3,432) if the 126 “team associates” are counted. In 1985, there were 3,597 missionaries on the field.
Southern Baptists have given generously to abate the shrinking missionary force, donating record amounts to the last three completed Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings: $203.7 million (2021-2022), $177.6 million (2020–21) and $159.5 million (2019–20).