The Cooperative Program we have…not the one we had or dream about. (by William Thornton)

While this post might seem to be a counterpoint to Rick Patrick’s recent article (first in a series) concerning the CP, it was actually published on February 28 at William’s site, the SBC Plodder. The second post in Rick’s series is due to post Monday. 

The SBC as we know it would not exist without our venerable and beloved Cooperative Program. Without it, there would certainly be a Southern Baptist Convention. It just wouldn’t look like what we see today.

Alas, our flagship denominational giving program is in this slow, steady, relentless decline. As a percentage of offering plate dollars, it has declined from over ten percent 35 years ago to about 5.4%. There is no SBC statistic that is as consistent as this one. Even annual baptisms show an uptick occasionally but not the Cooperative Program percentage.

Frank Page is hopeful for a Cooperative Program uptick.

A couple of things about our Executive Committee leader. First, he is brutally honest, a virtue not found in all SBC leaders most of whom know how to finesse or ignore unpleasant news in hopes that no one will notice or that it will go away. Page noted candidly that charitable giving has increased, most of our churches report increased revenues; however, the Cooperative Program continues to decline. I would add that the stock market is at a record level as well. There is more money around to be given. It’s just not being put in the CP.

Second, Frank Page is relentlessly and unashamedly aspirational about the CP. The one percent increase plan shows some success. He promises to continue to work at it saying, “I supported [the CP] before I was paid to support this. As a pastor, I strongly supported over 10 percent of our church’s undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.” God bless him.

I am venturing here some rank conjecture about the future of the Cooperative Program. Take it for what it is worth.

Forget the ten percent days. They are gone forever and are not going to return.

I hear state convention folks and denominational leaders and staff speak with wistful nostalgia about those days. “Ah, they say, what could we do if churches gave 10 percent rather than 5 percent. Brethren, wait until you are safely settled in a retirement home to let yourself get carried on by such memories. They are gone. Kaput. Life has changed. Churches have changed. We have changed. Better to work at maintaining a threshold percentage, say five percent.

Aspirational SBC leaders like Frank Page and SBC Voices contributor Rick Patrick (whose “Pick a Number” article advocates adopting a 10% CP figure to suggest to churches) are the kinds of people I want to cooperate with in the SBC. We always do a little better when challenged. I just don’t see the least chance of rolling back the clock and rolling up the percentages to double digits.

The Cooperative Program will not be revived by any attempt to cajole churches or shame churches into giving larger percentages.

We have demonstrated over the past 35 years that we seldom find a mega church pastor whose congregation gives in the low single digits whom we are unwilling to elevate to our highest denominational elective office. Check the percentages of SBC presidents over this period.

I get it, brethren. Smaller church pastors resent the fact that their church gives CP percentages that are double or triple the SBC average and often many multiples of some megachurches. Some speak of the “fair share” that should be expected of churches. There is no such thing and if I know Southern Baptist churches and pastors, there aren’t many who will sit still and be lectured on what they owe the convention.

Wise convention leaders express appreciation for whatever level of support the CP gets from churches. This is right and proper, since the convention serves the churches and not vice versa. There is no reason, however, that we cannot find some threshold figure of CP support before we elect officers and trustees. This has to be done informally in a grassroots fashion. No one can pick the number and dictate it.

There is nothing present, nor anything on the SBC radar that promises to increase CP percentages.

We should elect leaders whose percentages are exemplary but I would not be optimistic that the giving example of any leader shows itself in any overall increase. There are too many factors working against it.

State conventions, many of them, have heard their churches call for a greater proportion of CP revenues to be forwarded to the Executive Committee and then to the mission boards and seminaries. We’re talking about fractions of percents annually on this. We’re looking at five and ten year plans that, if implemented, will move state conventions from 60 or 65 percent to 55 percent or so. This is good. It is positive. But it isn’t a substantial enough change to translate into changing church behavior. This will not stop state executives from saying, “We did our part. How about you churches doing yours” but it doesn’t matter. They work for the churches, not the churches for the various levels of convention life.

The pressures in the convention work against the Cooperative Program.

Calvinism/Traditionalism or any of the assorted other issues that swirl around the convention all have a price. At the moment we have some prominent pastors who designate around certain seminaries who are seen to be too Calvinistic. We have others who are displeased with NAMB for their church planting policies which are also seen as too Calvinistic. We have state Baptist colleges who are plainly not comfortable places for Calvinistic students and faculty. All this mitigates against any unity in expanding and increasing the CP.

Think of it on a local church level. All that has to happen for a church to decrease their CP giving is for one of any number of gripes to bubble up in the pastor’s or church leadership’s thinking. Perhaps my fellow pastors would tell me if I am wrong, generally, that decreasing the CP percentage in a local church budget meets with much less resistance that it did thirty years ago. Contrast that to what might happen for a church to increase their CP giving. While possible and while many churches have responded positively to Frank Page’s One Percent CP increase plan, churches will make opportunity cost decisions with their funds and many will conclude that there are other, better uses for their missions giving. The CP simply isn’t presenting an attractive enough appeal to score high on that comparison for most churches.

More churches, and even state conventions, are taking a more direct funding route.

Check the figures. The Executive Committee received more last fiscal year in designated funds from the states than they did in Cooperative Program funds. That old, archaic term societal giving, well it are us these days. We never left it and now it looks more popular than ever. At the SBC level we are a mostly societally funded orgainzation.

Not much has been said about it but one state convention (South Carolina, perhaps others also) is sending some funding directly to the IMB. Their thinking is that they can get to the level of support they wish to give international missions by taking a portion of CP gifts from the churches and bypassing Nashville than they can by submitting their national portion of CP revenues to the SBC Executive Committee’s allocation plan. The math works for them by this method; whereas, it works against them through the traditional route.

The two major mission offerings, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, have fared much better than the Cooperative Program recently. In fact, unless trends change, within a decade the Lottie Moon offering will be greater than the portion of the CP received by the Executive Committee.

The Cooperative Program desperately needs a makeover.

Oh, we tried that with the Great Commission Resurgence, one of those grand eruptions where we clamor for change and recommitment to our main purposes of missions and ministry. Here’s the result of that: NAMB came out better, IMB got a tiny increase, the seminaries successfully protected their slice of the CP pie, and state conventions were expected to shoulder all the costs.

Nothing much about that makes the CP look better than it did before.

We might keep doing the same things and just manage the CP as a declining but still substantial funding mechanism, a legacy brand that has seen its best days. Not a bad idea. Be positive about it, recognizing the realities, adjust to leaner state conventions, try and consolidate some seminary expenses, while keeping NAMB and IMB our main entities robust and vigorous in their work.

Anyone have a better idea?

There are days where I do pessimism quite well. And there are days where I do realism extremely well. You choose which you prefer. I’m thinking there


  1. says


    Interesting post. I’m curious – how “designated” is the designated giving? Is it designated just for $50K to the International Mission Board. Or, could one specifically designate $50K to be used in say Kenya to build a church/school or water wells?

  2. William Thornton says

    I don’t have the figures with me but it’s mostly Lottie and Annie, I think. Very little is designated as in the example you give.

  3. says

    No I do not have better idea so perhaps I should stay quiet. But I won’t. Here are my observations of things that transpired during this 35 year decline that I feel fueled the demise.

    (1) As you pointed out we elected SBC presidents who gave very low per-centages to the CP. What follows, “why should I if he does not”?

    (2) Waste at both state and national levels. Many state conventions were providing a board elected staff person with a new Buick every year. Retreats to Hawaii and other such places (with families) does not sit well with many pastors.

    (3) Golden Parachutes for terminated (let’s be honest, that is the correct word) presidents of NAMB and Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) as high and 1.5 million dollars (at lest that was the rumor). Saying that BSSB or LifeWay does not receive CP funds does not float with most folks, it is SB money.

    (4) Church Planters Salaries….When church planting became popular it became obvious that these Church Planting Missionaries were receiving horribly low salaries to do the MISSION work. That became compared to the large salaries of NAMB building based people, many doing ADMINISTRATIVE work. The difference was not acceptable. A secretary received more than a church planter. Not acceptable.

    (5) The CR, while needed IMO, took us away from the programs and ministries of the Convention.

    (6) A growing fascination with para church ministry organizations that were perceived to be doing a better job.

    (7) The inability of a machine the size of the SBC to make needed changes in a timely fashion. This is the reason many went to the para church groups, they were seen to be more up to date and relevant (how I dislike that word).

    (8) The failure of Pastors my age to educate younger Pastors on the value of the CP with the same passion that Pastors before me taught me.

    In trying to correct this situation the starting point is with the STATE convention not the National convention. If the states can prove value and worth the national convention would follow de facto.

    Let me be clear…I have been from day one and still am today a passionate supporter of the CP. Every church i pastored gave between 14 and 26 % to the CP.

    • says

      “(5) The CR, while needed IMO, took us away from the programs and ministries of the Convention.”

      I think there’s more to this than many folks are willing to admit, for fear of speaking ill of the CR.

      Overall, the CR was about narrowing the parameters of the SBC. While the leadership certainly hoped that people, churches, professors, etc., would get right about doctrine when faced with “Get right or get out,” over time people chose to “get out.”

      And while that has been valuable from a doctrine perspective, have we ever looked out at the impact fiscally. *NOT* that we should have let the money drive any decisions, but simply this:

      If you narrow the participation base of your organization, you have to plan on a narrowing of the financial support. Have we ever re-examined CP growth/spending and budget growth/spending in light of the departure of the liberal third of what was Southern Baptist life?

      Consider this: the CBF didn’t spring up with its own well of support. It came into being by churches redirecting money from the SBC. Any of the financial support for other systems that originated in that time frame–and the departure of missions funding to parachurch missionary orgs by churches and people concerned that the SBC’s fight would politicize the IMB.

      I think the funds departed more slowly at first which caused us to not think it was a problem–“Oh, the CR cost us just 1%? Faithfulness is worth it, and we’ll come back.” But faithfulness is costing more dollars than that at this point. We *MUST REMAIN FAITHFUL* (before somebody accuses me of saying we should abandon the Bible for money–what sense would that make? NONE!) but we need a true reconsideration of how we can support our operations, and what operations are critical, in light of the narrower foundation we have chosen.

      The prior reorganizations were more about jettisoning legacy programs that couldn’t be de-liberaled very well, at least looking at the history of them, then they were about truly saving money and refocusing our spending.

      • says

        I think your liberal 1/3 is overstated.
        The SBC Conservative Resurgence focused on the inerrancy of the Bible.
        When the conservatives clearly won, some left the SBC for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists.
        But I think it was far less than 1/3 of the SBC.
        The big majority stayed with the SBC.

        But, of course, the SBC always has had, and always will have, a few churches leaving the convention for any number of reasons.
        David R. Brumbelow

        • says

          It was early, so I just guessed at a number. It’s hard to figure, because some folks talk about how overrun with liberals we were, and others say it was just a minority. It was a pretty big reaction if it was a small group. And I’d love to see a good answer to it in terms of population: how many people (not churches, people) left the SBC over the CR? There may not have been that many churches that left, but how many “non-denominational” churches are the side effect?

          but I think the point is still there:

          We have churches that left, and some that still leave, over doctrine–and when you see a church with a million dollar budget leave, and that was a church with even 5% to the CP, then there’s $50K.

          I wouldn’t go back, either–but I keep seeing these “long-term” comparisons that run 50 years as if we have not undergone a shift in our denomination in those 50 years. All-in-all, the big thing is this: we cannot go back, and we cannot fix the CP issue by staring only in the rear-view mirror. Too many things are different in 2014 than they were in 1925, or 1955, or even 1985, for us to expect to just turn the clock back.

  4. Allen Calkins says

    I believe the biggest reasons CP giving is in decline and will likely remain heading in that direction are:
    1) Financial pressures at the local church level make it HARD to increase CP percentages.
    2) Tremendous incompetence and waste at the State Convention level is well known, and since the majority of CP giving goes there, churches frustrated with State Convention issues choose to reduce giving to CP as a reaction. Once it is reduced, it is rarely increased.
    3) I believe we would do well to separate giving to the SBC to giving to the State Convention. I should not have to give a raise to a state convention guilty of poor stewardship to increase my support for International missions.
    4) State Conventions, The SBC Exec Board and individual SBC entities need to let us know about the policies and practices they put in place to reduce waste and redundancy and increase efficiency
    …my thoughts after 22 years of serving as pastor of smaller and supportive SBC churches.

      • Allen Calkins says

        I know some are. But many others are not because it is too hard to reeducate the traditional SBCers into seeing the benefit of giving $ only to those directly accountable for it…it is easier to simply give less to the Coop Pgm and promote Lottie and Annie (maybe) more….If it became our official policy and practice it would help a lot!….Churches will bring the Coop Pgm giving to a 50/50- split A LOT faster than state conventions ever will….if ever!

        • Andy says

          I agree, I simply think this is happening faster, and in more churches than you might think. This is exactly what our church has done, making pretty drastic CP & Association cuts, and putting Lottie in our Budget (Plus whatever comes in around Christmas time).

      • says

        I would rather see three line items in a church budget. (1) Association (2) State Convention (3) SBC i.e. Executive board. Let the churches put a percentage to each entity.

        • William Thornton says

          You favor churches eschewing Cooperative Program giving altogether and replacing it with this three tiered giving plan?

          • says

            You said that a three tier plan would eliminate the CP. It would definitely look different than it does now but I don’t see how it would be eliminated. Elaborate on that if you would please. My request is not a point of debate I sincerely want to know how it would eliminate the CP. The reason being I am a staunch supporter of the CP, am I overlooking something? I certainly do not want to kill it.

          • William Thornton says

            If there is no state/national common (cooperative) giving plan there is no Cooperative Program. Separating the two ends the CP. The state conventions would promote their stuff. The national entities would either promote individually or fund some new level at the XComm that would promote that level. Associations have always been separate.

          • says

            I guess I disagree that a three tier approach is not a CP or cooperative approach. It changes the structure but it does not eliminate cooperation. We already have state cooperative agreements in place between NAMB and the State. these could continue with modifications and still be cooperative in nature and function.

          • William Thornton says

            D. L., do you not see that making state conventions and the SBC national entities compete for church dollars independently would end a cooperative approach to this funding?

            The main result of the GCR was that NAMB gained control of their budget, mainly the ability to end the cooperative agreements or modify them to suit NAMB’s task. NAMB now clearly controls this kickback funding by specifying how they are willing to fund or not fund projects jointly with state conventions.

  5. Peaches says

    When institutions become brittle, they also become endangered. The state conventions, at least in the deep south, are indeed brittle and protective. It seems to many of us that they are more protective of what they have than missional about what should be. When the SBC and it’s state conventions articulate a vision that lines up with how the money is spent, the people in the pews will help fund it. Right now, money is spent to preserve programs and is out of alignment with the vision.
    If you doubt this, ask your state convention where the money goes. Ours sent us picture of children in India while most of the money actually stayed right here in our state. We are out of alignment.

  6. William Thornton says

    I appreciate the thoughts here but tried to avoid a long discussion of possibilities for why the CP has declined so much as a percentage of church offering plate dollars. I don’t necessarily dispute what has been offered but would rather explore what possibilities there are for the CP going forward.

    Allen said: “I believe we would do well to separate giving to the SBC to giving to the State Convention. I should not have to give a raise to a state convention guilty of poor stewardship to increase my support for International missions.”

    While it never takes long in a discussion of the CP for complaints about state conventions to arise, the idea of decoupling the state and national causes would end the CP. The states agreed to be the primary promoters and to handle the collection of the funds and to share in them. It is not a solution for the CP to end the CP. Allen is correct in saying that more individual churches are making the choice to bypass their state convention in mission giving.

    What you do not get in most state conventions is any allocation options for your CP dollar so churches who believe that more of their CP dollar should get to IMB and NAMB just shift giving from CP to those offerings. I am not optimistic that state will voluntarily offer churches such choices (unless there are competing state conventions) because they calculate that it will reduce revenue for state causes.

    I would ask my astute brethren here what they think might help the CP, aside from states relinquishing more of a CP dollar?

    • says

      I understand the question in the last paragraph. However, there seems to be much feeling that the state is a big issue. How can we ignore that elephant in the room to find a solution.

      • William Thornton says

        I’m not asking that it be ignored nor am I asking that any components of the national CP allocation plan (mostly IMB, NAMB, and six seminaries) be ignored.

        Bryant Wright notably said that states should learn to live on 25% of a CP dollar, not 50% (or more accurately 60+%).

        • says

          I was responding to your statement, what might help besides states relinquishing more of their CP dollars (paraphrase). I am saying, if states are a major reason for the decline (many seem to think so) we must address that issue, not talk about things “aside from states relinquishing more CP dollars? Not only is that the starting point, until that is resolved it is the discussion.

  7. William Thornton says

    It’s a subject for another article but it is noteworthy that the entities with the biggest target in all this, state conventions, are the only ones who have little alternatives in raising revenues if the CP falls. Seminaries can make direct appeals to their alumni and in some situations to the SBC at large. NAMB and IMB appeal directly to the churches every year for their offerings. It is not surprising that state conventions have been protective of their CP proportion agreeing to slight changes and creating special accounting categories to disguise the reality that they keep most of a CP dollar.

  8. allen calkins says

    State conventions should have to market themselves just like associatiobs do. This has caused some associations to consolidate and others to dissolve. This decoupling would have the same effect, which I see as overall a good thing.

  9. William Thornton says

    Ending the CP hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Gehenna of happening. Is there any movement short of that which would help the CP be more attractive?

  10. says

    The phrase/title Cooperative Program has lost its lustre, or what lustre it had. First, “Programs” aren’t popular, and Cooperative program doesn’t tell us what it is.
    I say drop the name altogether and call it the SBC Mission or something along that line.
    If a church is SBC and glad to support ‘missions’ then it should support “The SBC Mission” which is really the CP but with a different look.

    • Andy says

      8 years ago when I began seminary, I took a course entitled “the cooperative program” which used a book of the same name. Before that I did not know what it was. Having learned about it…I don’t necessarily think the name is the biggest problem…but for an outsider, it is one that needs to be explained. So Perhaps a name change may help some, but will not likely reverse the trends of churches like mine.

  11. Andy says

    To answer William’s primary question: I do not see any foreseeable set of circumstances that would entice churches who have decreased CP giving to increase it again because the State and National conventions are to big to make the drastic changes that would enable it…I’m referring to a CP breakdown something like this (just an example):

    States: 25%
    National: (broken down as below)
    -IMB: 50%
    -NAMB: 10%
    -Seminaries: 10%
    -Executive Salaries, ERLC, other entities: 5%

    I know these numbers are unrealisic, but they are the kind of numbers I believe might make financially responsible, missions-minded pastors and church members look at and say, “Here’s something I can get behind.”

    This won’t happen, but if current CP giving is around 480 million (2011), and it drops over time to half that (entirely possible), then a state that is taking 50% of half the former amount is going to end up in the same place as taking 25% of a possibly stable or rising number, right?

  12. says

    NAMB is all about church planting and the Church Planting” Movement’.

    Questions: (1) Is the average pastor and church member sold on the concept of planting new churches or is this a top down denominational emphasis (2) If less money was poured into church planting by NAMB would the average church be more excited about giving to NAMB?

    I am not trying to hi-jack the thread, but simply trying to determine if this and other issues like it are the reason for the decline in CP

    • Andy says

      1. I don’t really know where the emphasis came from initially…but there does seem to be a church-planting emphasis that was not as prominent 15 years ago, in both NAMB & IMB. I admit that I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing (based on (a) research about which kinds of churches reach the most unchurched people…it’s newer churches, and (b) biblical beliefs about the church being the center of God’s mission on earth.). But there is also a case to be made for other types of missions that NAMB could do, as well as revitalizing existing churches.

      2. I don’t know that the average church member knows much about what NAMB does, or how its money is spent, or how our state convention uses some of its CP money for in-state church-planting partnerships with local churches, and which after sending some CP money to the national SBC, also get some money back from NAMB that gets poured back into local church-plants within our state. It’s all very confusing, and difficult to know specific numbers.

      I do know that many, if not most, NAMB church planters do NOT get anywhere near full support through NAMB…but must also get assistance from their state, from local churches and individual donors, etc. This is perhaps a RESULT of declining CP rather than the cause of it.

      Some have even suggested doing away with NAMB and letting each state oversee its own church plants, which has the advantage of more local involvement, but the disadvantage that states with a small SBC presence will continue to be small.

      I don’t think NAMB specifically is anyone’s #1 reason for not giving to the CP.

      • says

        thank for the input. As I stated I am just asking. I am trying to figure this whole thing out. CP is declining and we seem to be giving simplistic generic answers as to why. I have heard little that is satisfying as to why the decline. I suspect it is multiple reasons.

        As to where the emphasis on church planting came from I am fairly certain it came from HMB/NAMB. In 1993 I pastored and I heard little to nothing about church planting. In 1993 I was appointed by the HMB as a missionary to Montana. I first heard about church planting at HMB/NAMB meetings.

    • William Thornton says

      Namb’s goal is 50% of budget to church planting. That leaves lots of money for other tasks.

      I think most pastors highly favor the church planting emphasis though some are wary of the types of some churches.

      SEND North America is about the only successful new national initiative found anywhere in the SBC.

  13. allen calkins says

    The state convention component cannot be ignored. It seemsto me what I and others are advocating is still a Cooperative Pgm, just three levels worth to repkace the rwo levels we now have. I believe the church I now serve gives 6 percent. If I asked the church to make that 3% to the MBC & 3% TO THE SBC it could happen in next year’s budget. But itwilltake the MBC a decade to make the same change.

  14. says

    Namb has always had that control because they had the money in their account. When I was negotiating cooperative agreements with NAMB I received what they wanted me to have. Th only exceptions were when the well funded states could bring pressure to bear on NAMB. At least two of the powerful states reduced the level of giving to CP and did not ask for any money back from NAMB but funded their own ministries with money that would have gone to NAMB.

    • says

      I am sure that is true. It has been awhile since I have dealt with that. Would you mind expanding on that a little. How do you feel the GCR impacted this issue. Were there any positive fundamental changes.

  15. William Thornton says

    NAMB adopted a policy of funding that recognizes the proportion of existing churches with low church/population ratio areas getting higher levels of funding and the reverse getting much lower. They also have more consistent policies on what positions they will fund, the intent here being to put more funds into planters and planting.

    GCR didn’t directly address these but the thrust was that NAMB should have control over their budget rather than states expecting these legacy kickbacks under cooperative agreements.

    • says

      William T
      You are absolutely correct . Here in Montana we got hit hard by this policy. In fact that is one of the reasons I retired from NAMB. We had “too Many” funded Church Planter Cats or Strats for a state with our population. We knew in 2011 we would lose some so more could be put into populated areas. To be honest I am OK with that. I see the rational.

      Regarding “States expecting”, we expected because that was the agreement. States would send NAMB their money and through the agreement ask for some back. What I advocate is to stop trading the same dollar back and forth with each entity taking our a portion for expenses and salaries along the way. That makes no sense to me.

      The problem with what is happening now is that the door is open for NSMB to work directly with a local church. That is no problem in theory, however the association knows more about the local needs than does NAMB. We need more not less inter-entity cooperation.

  16. Allen Calkins says

    The REAL elephant in the room that has not been addressed in this CP post, but is very relevant to the discussion, is the number of layers we try to support. We have three, National, State and Assoc. Most other denominations that are more top down in their satructure and polity (like most corporations and non-profits) have eliminated administrative layers through consolidation. But our polity does not make this very easy. I thought NAMB might be trying to do that with their regional structure, reducing the need for the state convention. But NAMB is not being very aggressive about this….For the sake of financial effectiveness, one of our three layers really needs to go.
    IMHO, this is one BIG problem the SBC has going into the future; trying to sustain adequate funding for all three layers of our administration and support. Given the ability churches have of connecting to resources online, and using DVDs etc., much training done at the Assoc. level as well as at Nashville, Glorieta and Ridgecrest is just not necessary. Already some smaller associations and state conventions are feeling the pinch, being unable to have funding to do much more than pay their leaders. How does that help churches? But our polity makes an ‘across the board’ restructure almost impossible. The worst outcome is probably the most likely, keeping all three levels but not funding them well enough to do what we expect them to do with any kind of excellence….which leads to a vicious cycle where ineffectiveness leads to even less support as the whole SBC hierarchy circles the drain.

    • says

      I think that was the plan. However, the State Execs put a stop to that. The most powerful force in the SBC are the State Execs when they act in concert. The NAMB President hit several walls with the execs his first few months in office

    • William Thornton says

      Since associations aren’t part of the CP funding stream, they either show churches some reason to receive church funding or die a natural death or consolidate with neighboring associations. An association where a missionary, admin assistant, and office expenses consumes 80% of their budget can hardly be seen as essential to the churches it serves.

      State conventions have this guaranteed stream of income from the CP at a minimum level of at least 50% of every CP dollar. There is no incentive for them to change unless the dollars decline. When the revenue stream declines, as it has since 2008, they are forced to change. If it were to increase in accord with Rick Patrick’s 10% goal (unimaginable, but let’s just assume it will), does anyone think states will look or act much different that they do now with a central office and executive staff, and the usual programs?

      None of this matters much because churches can make their own funding choices which they do rather that attempt to change the institutional inertia they see in SBC life.

      I cannot imagine that many SBCers would think that 60+% of any increase in funding would be best spent by handing it to state conventions! yet that is what would be done.

      • says

        William T
        In general I think that the 80% budget figure is a valid observation in the south. However in pioneer areas it is different. The role of the DOM or someone like him is absolutely essential: (1) I am the only SB some pastors see and that happens when I can go to them. (2) Most churches in my assoc would have no idea how to call a pastor when needed. I am the man who goes to them to help (3) I am nearly the only eye to eye mentor many pastors have, when I go to them. (4) I am the consultant mentor, counselor, etc. to rookie or untrained (many times both) pastors.

        I am mostly what they have who can get to them in a time frame that is practical in my 14 county association.

        Our budget is 80% me. I have no assistant, my office is in my home.

        My point is that one must exegete the culture when making determinations or blanket statements.

        • Tarheel says


          If I had EVER in my life seen a DOM like you…I would not dare mention or even think of desiring to see them go…but as you pointed out in another discussion, I live in the deep SBC country of the south so…..

          • says

            You are kind my brother. I would like to tell you how I am suffering for Jesus up here, but the truth is I am having the best time of my life.

            When I go South for a missions conference someone will always say we appreciate your sacrifice in serving up there is Montana. I smile and say “thank you”. What I am really saying is “it would take Gabriel and a whole herd of angels to get me out of Montana.

      • William Thornton says

        I recognize the differences and was referring to the hundreds of traditional associations in the legacy states. I haven’t checked lately but I think NAMB funds not a few in weaker areas and they have implemented some guidelines.

        D.L., are you actively serving and if not how long since you were?

        • says

          William T
          I retired from NAMB IN 2011. However I still serve my association but I have no church planting responsibilities. I am funded by the association and serve mainly as a strengthener/trouble shooter which is where my heart is.

          We stil have NAMB funded Church Planter Strats in Montana. There is no funding for associations or DOMs in our state.

        • Allen Calkins says

          My experience is 22 years in four associations, 2 rural, one rural and the current one more rurban. In all those situations the local Assoc played a relevant role, especially in guiding troubled churches open to help and pastorless churches needing supply and guidance on calling a pastor. And all of them did a decent job of facilitating some level of fellowships among the pastors of the various churches. BEYOND THAT their effectiveness was in the skills, interests and abilities of the DOM. Some did their job a lot better than others, which made a big difference even in the same association with the same funding. One time a new many greatly enhanced the ministry. And another more recent time, a new couple of inept men nearly destroyed a GREAT missional association. But in every case, calling a more Christ-motivated and gifted DOM made things much better….and as pastor of one of the churches I had a hand in each turnaround. But all I have been able to do about our State Convention mess in MO is watch. That is why I feel it is the State convention that needs to go. Their redundancy in much of their ministry and a general lack of relevance and/or helpfulness to the local church makes them expendable IF someone has to go for the sake of Kingdom efficiency…and someone DOES have to go. Perpetuating our three tier status quo administrative burden will take the entire CP ship down sooner than later.

          • Allen Calkins says

            Two rural, one suburban and one ‘rurban’ (rural setting with smaller towns and churches BUT closer to a major metro area so more urban acting)

          • says

            You have hit on a salient point. Doms are like Pastors, some build some destroy. That is sad but a fact of life.

            You have also demonstrated my much stated position. The smaller the entity the easier it is to turnaround and correct. Which is one reason I favor Associations.

            I was born and raised in St. Louis. I also pastored there for 6 years. It is heart breaking to see what has happened in Missouri.

          • says

            Allen, if you’re tired of the situation with the state convention in MO, you should at the least check out what Churchnet (formerly known as the BGCM) has to offer. If “moderate Baptists” don’t frighten you away, Churchnet has a lot going for it. It’s a very lean organization with no physical office space (our meetings are held in churches), and no full-time staff (those of us who serve as staff are all either serving full-time in other ministry positions or in a couple of cases recently retired from such). We’re not interested in establishing a denominational infrastructure, but rather we exist to serve churches. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in learning more. I live in Lee’s Summit where I serve as associate pastor of the First Baptist Church.

          • says

            Sorry Gary but seeing as the initial “leaders” of what you now call “Churchnet” aka the BGCM, are the CAUSE of the problems the MBC is now facing, I have a hard time seeing how they are “better”. Unless you believe that absconding with 5 state agencies and forcing now nearly 15 years of legal cases is a good thing. And don’t try to argue that “Churchnet” had nothing to do with that. The founding pastors of BGCM were the ones on the trustee boards that enacted the criminal breakaway.

            If you want to “fix” the MBC, then end the breakaway, end the trials, give the entities back, and the MBC can/will switch the monies they were using for the legal fights and put it into the CP, which they have indicated they would have every intention of doing once this is finished.

          • Allen Calkins says

            I would not be interested in Churchnet either…for the same reasons stated. And it would still be a redundant administrative layer. So, no thanks!

    • William Thornton says

      BTW, after Glorieta lost money for 24 out of 25 years, LifeWay finally GAVE it away (they are being sued over that at the present).

      It is extremely difficult for these legacy organizations to change, every one of them has a constituency that fights against it, but churches just adjust their giving and put their own dollars where they think they are better utilized; hence, the CP’s long, slow slog downward.

  17. says

    The problem with eliminating the Assoc and the state Conv. is that they are the only entities dealing with the issues of existing churches in the area of church health. This is a vital need. We cannot plant one and lose one.

    • Allen Calkins says

      I agree that Associations and/or State Conventions are needed as a resource for the churches and an org that helps the local churches stay on track and interpret SBC level initiatives and resources available to the local church. My point is that BOTH are not needed. BOTH were at one time needed. But in our more connected society, both are no longer needed….but which one goes and which one stays? The Association is a much more historic org than our than state conventions. To me, they are the ones that need to be on the chopping block. This extra layer of admin is sucking up way too many resources and spending them redundantly and sometimes foolishly. Much of our angst in the SBC has originated and been sustained by State convention personnel. I know this was true in MO with our struggle with liberals and the endless lawsuit we have been embroiled in. In TX, rival state conventions have divided churches over nothing. It simply needs to be done…but how?

      • Tarheel says


        “In TX, rival state conventions have divided churches over nothing. ”

        I’ve agreed with much of what you’ve said but ask here…

        Aren’t there two state conventions in TX because of the issues related to innerrancy and SBC support?

        • Allen Calkins says

          This is true. However, the only way a rival state convention was possible was because there WAS a state convention. There is no way they could have established a rival network of associations.

          Politics is just easier in the state conventions than in the local associations where we get to see those with differing opinions face to face and know they are not demon possessed or worth demonizing.

          And actually, in the case of TX it was the conservatives that set up the rival convention….in MO it was the moderates that left the MBC.

          • Tarheel says

            Yea, in TX and VA the bible believing conservatives pulled out of the liberal state convention and started new ones….There were (and are) also issues of money laundering within the liberal state conventions to CBF, BWA and other liberal groups. It was a matter of biblical and financial integrity and fidelity that caused that…it was necessary.

            To be clear, I did not take objection to your saying these states have ‘rival’ conventions as that is the certainly the case….however I do object to your saying that it was “over nothing.”

          • Tarheel says

            that said…I am all for ridding the associational layer…it has become pointless, IMO – there was perhaps at one time a reason for them – but now I am not convinced that there is.

  18. Allen Calkins says

    State Convention is what needs to go in most states. But in some states like in our more pioneer areas, State conventions may make more sense UNTIL there are enough churches in close proximity to one another to support multiple associations.

    • says

      Associations will always be closer to the action and will be better able to exegete the culture than any entity except for a local church. Churches have more control and input into associations that any other entity. The turn around time in the association is faster that any other entity.

      Associations are currently on the wane, we will regret that.

      • says

        You are asolutely correct in saying the Associsation has become pointless. By the same token we can say that state conventions have become pointless. I thus conclude that something drastic must be done. It would be easier to remake the association than to remake a state convention simply because smaller entities are easier to change and manage. In addition a church has more input into the smaller entities, in this case the association. Think about it, you have less influence in the state than you do in the association. You have less influence in National entities than you do in a state entities. why? They are smaller thus easier to get consensus and get work done.

        Granted this is just one opinion. The main point is that something must be done. It is not working as it is.

      • Tarheel says

        DL, maybe I just have come along too late..LOL.

        Perhaps this will sound harsh…but I am not particularly known for my tact…LOL

        I have been actively in SBC local church ministry for the better part of 22 years in three states and as such have interacted with multiple associations. I must say that I truly have not seen where any of them have been all that necessary…in fact they seemed to exist almost solely for the purpose of “having one” because they should and of course to give retired pastors a place to hang their hat as DOM for a few years.

        Maybe my experiences are an anomaly and not the norm…of course that is possible.

        That is why I said I would not mind seeing them go.

        • Tarheel says

          I did and do however see great benefit and important ministry being done at the state convention level…so I think we have to agree to to disagree on the solutions…

          I so think thought that we agree there are numerous problems with our current structure and that those problems are part of the reason we are seeing less CP monies come in.

          • says

            Re. last paragraph, you are absolutely correct. I have some opinions as to how to fix it, but I am more concerned that it get fixed than I am about adopting my solutions. Whatever the plan, if it is Biblical and will work, I’m in.

        • says

          Sadly you have several valid points. I am DOM in Montana. However the Associations as well as the State convention play a much different role here than in the South. I would not say this publicly, so don’t breath a word, I would not want to be a DOM in the South pretty much for the reason you have articulated. (Remember now mums the word).

          I had the chance to be DOM in a rather large association in the South but chose to come to Montana and work in a much smaller and weaker association…..go figure

          Agreeing to disagree, ummm, let me think about that… OK. (does that mean we are not real Baptist :-)

          • Tarheel says


            “I would not want to be a DOM in the South pretty much for the reason you have articulated. (Remember now mums the word).”

            Don’t worry. As far as I am concerned it stays with the two of us. 😉

            Glad to know though that I am not crazy and others see what I see…I did not think my experiences were an anomaly.

    • says

      One point I forgot to mention. You are right on the “over nothing” issue. The inerrancy issue is fundamentally basic to who we are. We don’t have to agree on every issue of interpretation but we must be in unison relative to the accuracy and authority of scripture. Obviously that is not a new statement by any means.

      • Tarheel says


        “Tarheel, one point I forgot to mention. You are right.”

        Thank you for acknowledging this! Now – if the rest of the world would follow your lead!


  19. Allen Calkins says

    I am not familiar enough with the rival state convention in VA to comment on it. But I do know that in the case of the TX conventions, there are very conservative churches in both state conventions…and many churches have felt the need to contribute to both the BGCT and the SBCT.
    As far as effective associations, I have been involved in at least two that were very good at what they did in encouraging the pastors, coordinating Disaster Relief, training and Church Planting efforts as well as putting together camps, mission trips and other activities several churches participated in, things they could not have done for themselves. These effective associations encouraged large church pastors to mentor/resource younger pastors just getting started and even taught some Seminary Extension classes on one Association. So I know it is possible to have effective Associations. State conventions can do interesting stuff given the skills of their staff. But they are too far away to personally encourage churches and pastors much. If I had to choose, I would definitely choose to keep the Association.

    • says

      Your reference to pastors mentoring pastors is one of the strong arguments for the Association. I do not doubt the value and expertise of State personnel. However when I use an experienced pastor in my association for a training or whatever, he comes FREE. that is good stewardship.

      I was actively involved in my association as a young pastor and found great hep from the “large” church who let their staff work with me in vital areas.
      Again it was at no cost. That arrangement was brokered by the DOM.

  20. Tarheel says

    It seems many if us agree that there are too many layers … But we disagree on which ones need to go.

    Associations are helpful to some and worthless to others but they cost the CP nothing. I hardly think church reductions in CP giving are going to associations.

    IMO, the state conventions and NAMB are quite redundant.

    Despite past issues Most SBC peeps I know generally are happy with IMB.

    Eliminating NAMB and having states do state work seems reasonable, practical, keeps mission on America, raises international missions spending by 25% AND eliminates a layer of money switching.

  21. Andy says

    Perhaps other areas are different, but all this “3 layers” (local association, state, national) talk does not describe how things work in my area.

    For us, we give some money to CP, and also to Lottie moon/AA. This is 2 layers as to where CP money goes.

    The association is completely independent of that and unrelated to it, ie, we ALSO give a small portion of money to our association which it uses for it’s own uses), But it forwards NONE of that to the state as far as I know…It almost wouldn’t matter if the association was related to the SBC or not…It functions as a separate local thing.

    • Tarheel says

      “The association is completely independent of that and unrelated to it, ie, we ALSO give a small portion of money to our association which it uses for it’s own uses), But it forwards NONE of that to the state as far as I know…It almost wouldn’t matter if the association was related to the SBC or not…It functions as a separate local thing.”

      This is certainly in line with my experiences with Associations. This is why I think that they are irrelevant to discussions of the CP.

      The only thing I might say is that in your last sentence you state it “almost would not matter…”. I would just simply say it does not matter if the association was related to the SBC or not, it does function totally apart from it.

      • says

        We are beginning to get at the issue. Historically associations were formed first and for completely different reasons. When state conventions came along and then the national convention they made the association a part of that structure. Problem was the association was swallowed up in an activity for which it was not designed or suited. The association was use as the final outlet in the dissemination of programs etc. With this redundancy abounds . the state and association each had SS men, CT men etc.

        If associations would get back to doing what they were designed to do we would see the relevance. As it is too many people doing the same thing.

        You are right thy are not and rightly so part of the CP process.

  22. says

    I would argue that at the 3 levels (4 if you count the local church), the problem is not that the structure is wrong or bad, but because of the human condition, all 3-4 have the effects of the fall ingrained in them. The system is not broke, but those who work the system are.

    Local associations and DOM’s are often set in their ways. They don’t like change, they don’t like new comers. I have tried to send my resume to several DOM’s and asked to visit with them to see if there is anyway I can move too and serve the churches in their area, only 2 have sort of responded to me both serve “busy” big city associations.

    State associations are very ingrained in denominational politics. 30+ years after and most conventions still are feeling the effects of the CR. And to be sure there is some levels of “power” that those in leadership of the State conventions have and hold on to. Similar issues with national level.

    Ultimately, in my opinion, this all filters down and emanates from the local churches. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t recognize that many of our churches are sick. That sickness spreads out like a disease. Cutting off levels (local/state/ect) like diseased limbs does not work if the rest of the body is infected.

    • says

      Your second paragraph needs a lot of re-working. Most conservative SB are set in their ways. Anyone over 40 doesn’t like change. There are a lot of reasons why I deep six resumes that I receive. I assure you not wanting new comers is not a reason. For associations new comers are a fact of life. Pastor die, get fired, quit, or whatever. NEW pastors is a given.

  23. Tarheel says

    Let me spell out my plan again…it has gotten lost in the thread.

    All I am trying to get at with my idea (that we all know will never happen, as no one is really serious about DOING anything about the problem we all agree is there!) is address the fact that our CP, while worthwhile and noble goal…has become in many ways a money laundering scheme…churches give to states who give back to churches – churches give to NAMB – which gives back to states and to churches.

    This is why I am thinking we should simply enlarge the pie, split it 50/50 and have a simple stragtegy. 50% goes to state conventions (which should be used for the purpose of church planting and missions within their state/region and 50% goes to the SBC (75% of the SBC 50% going to international missions) and the rest going to other entities and seminaries in the SAME dollar amounts as today, with the excess from the larger pie going to help pioneer states/sparsely populated regions to help them out. I also would encourage state conventions to not enlarge their budgets astronomically due to larger pie surplus but to use those funds to help out the aforementioned pioneer states and sparsely populated regions.

    • says

      the second paragraph, the portion in parentheses, is probably the answer to all we are saying. No significant changes will be made. We will talk a lot, but that will be it. On the bright side, however, I am having fun with all of this.

      • Tarheel says

        Yep. It’s fun to talk about it – but actually doing something is the hard part.

        Guess we will wait till we have no other choice, but by then it will be too late.

        It is too confusing.

        Wouldn’t it be nice if we could honestly say to our people…

        the 10,000 we gave last year to the CP is divided like this….

        50K to our state convention for church planting and statewide mission work. We use some of that money to help other states in the USA who are smaller and without the benefit of many SBC churches. Thier budget is determined at state annual meeting, which is always reasonably close so we can send church representatives.

        50K is sent to the SBC and their budget is split three ways –

        (75%) $37, 500 of that is going to foreign mission work.

        (20%) $10,000 will be divided between our 6 SBC seminaries

        (5%) $2,500 going to Guidestone, ERLC and convention administrative costs.

        It is not anywhere near that simple now.

        • Tarheel says

          whoops I forgot a zero in my opening amount.

          It was supposed to be 100,000 not 10,000.

          I will also say that since I in a state convention that I hold great trust and respect for, I do not have problems suggesting this.

          I will say too, that I guess if I did not trust my state convention or thought they were a waste factory, I might be opposed to the idea, should someone suggest it as I would not want the state convention getting a bigger pie.

          • Tarheel says

            If someone has a better idea to offer up for discussion – I am all ears. Er…eyes. 😉

          • Tarheel says

            The way we do it now with all the back and forth is what is confusing…

            I know that others have suggested that instead of getting rid of NAMB…we might get rid of state conventions….or even end the practice of allowing them to set up CP giving in their states and simply mandate that they send 50% of all CP to the SBC..what they do with the other 50% is up to them.

            I would like to see these idea’s fleshed out.

          • says

            Let me picky here. What we do now is not confusing, it is all to plain. It is very inefficient, wasteful and poor stewardship of mission dollars.

          • Tarheel says

            It’s also currently confusing with each state doing something different and ridiculous that some states keep 70+% of all CP money given in thier convention.

            I’m trying to address those issues.

          • says

            Yes, you are right. So many dollars given by churches and so little actually hitting the field is my issue and I gather you agree.

            Does anybody find it strange that in the promo stuff rom NAMB it is always a picture of a church planting missionary. But so little actually goes to him to support his family and so much goes to administrative salaries travel etc. If the little ole WMU ladies ever connect these dots there would be revolution.

          • says

            I realize I am being mean spirited, but I would not want to be around when the widow realizes her mite went to a golden parachute to get rid of a man doing a bad job.

          • Allen Calkins says

            That is not being mean-spirited…that is being concerned about true stewardship. But we also need to realize there will always be some level of waste in larger bureaucratic organizations…and the larger the organization the greater the waste. ;-/