The Money Quote: What To Expect From The Cooperative Program

Many have been guessing, including me, that the Cooperative Program is in trouble over the next few years. There is no prophecy in that statement, just sniffing the wind and thinking through some demographics. But the 2008 – 2009 global recession is already making the situation deteriorate much faster.

In a recent letter from Southern Seminary, Dr. Mohler shared his concerns about their budget. In his explanation, he revealed the concerns are growing among denominational leaders. Here is a quote and I’ve emphasized the relevant portion.

The Cooperative Program remains the mainstay of our largest revenue source . . . we are advised by denominational leaders at many levels to expect that the economic challenges faced by the larger society will eventually show themselves in the giving levels of funds contributed through the Cooperative Program.  Again, this does not indicate a decreased commitment to the seminary or to the Southern Baptist Convention on the part of individuals or churches.  The issue here is not donative intent but the ability of individuals and churches to give what they would want to give during a time of reduced income.

What’s Coming Next?

This letter from Dr. Mohler shows once again that he is a world-class leader. Southern will more than survive the current troubles because of his willingness to make hard choices. Plus, SBTS has a very strong situation with increasing enrollment and brand value.

  • What about the other seminaries? Southern is the first to respond, but I would guess they are still more sound financially than the other seminaries.
  • What about the mission boards and state conventions? Even a 10% decline in Cooperative Program giving would cripple most of these organizations.
  • What about Guidestone? They would certainly have the most exposure to the recession. Rates will increase due to investment losses, but how bad could it get?

What Do You Think?

The charts are still trending in the wrong direction. Comparing the rate of giving versus US dollar inflation alone should make us think. But it looks like this year we will see the first real trouble in denominational funding in many years. Is Dr. Mohler the only SBC leader willing to deal transparently with the coming budget shortfalls? Does the SBC have the spiritual strength to weather this storm? Or will this situation lead to more division and finger pointing?


  1. Jerad File says

    Other seminaries are having to face the same kind of decisions. SWBTS announced last Friday to the parents of their child care center that they would be suspending operations of the center as of December 31.

  2. says

    It is refreshing to see the transparency of Dr. Mohler in dealing with this issue. I would like to see much more of this “trust building honesty” throughout the convention. I have come to appreciate the fact that Southern Baptists can be trusted with the truth; good or bad.

    In these economic hard times that we are facing; “Tell the truth and trust the people” is still the proper way to go.

    Grace Always,

    Greg Alfords last blog post..Pelagian Beliefs in the SBC

  3. says


    As for my church, our 2009 budget is about $10K less than our 2008 budget. Our budget is over $300K so that’s about a 3% reduction overall. However, we have increased our CP percentage from 6% to 8%, thus our CP giving in total dollars is about the same.

    It is my hope that other churches can increase their CP percentage even in the midst of reducing their overall budget.


    Les Puryears last blog post..The Dark Side of the Church

  4. says

    @Les Puryear: Thanks for sharing your church’s strategy. We have a similar size budget, but when our church moved to a more conservative budget for 2008 (down 9%) we did not adjust CP. So, it was a net reduction of giving from our congregation.

    We still give 8.5% via CP, 2.5% via the association and another 2.0% to individual missionaries and projects. Our congregation’s response is probably more typical.

  5. says

    Sirs: The situation will grow much worse and soon. The reason? There are no jobs. In 1990-91 I was an Industry Education Coordinator and Counselor in a Senior High School (bi-vocational pastor), when the Voctional Director of the County School System gave me some material from a conference she had attended and asked that I write an evaluation and response to it. Basically, I concluded from the materials that there were no jobs for our students in the future. The reason? Automation, computerization, and robotics. Examples: A fast food operation (please remember fast food places are one of the biggest employers in the nation or have been, ranking right up there with the government), A Burger King, a 24-7 business with 400 employees, automated. They hired a German technician at $90/hr to operate the laser cooker, and an assistant from Japan at $60/hr. The rest of the crew, 18, were cleanup workers (you can guess they were probably at minimum wage or a little above (after all it was NY)). That’s quite a savings to the business. But 380 people were out of work. Other cases could be mentioned, but the point is clear, especially when you add the fact that they started shipping all of the jobs our Southern Baptist laypeople were doing overseas, leaving hardly anything for employment. Even counties here in North Carolina exported some county work jobs to India to save money. Yup, it put people out of work. Now if all this continues, and it did and does, we come to the crunch. This is crunch time and it is going to hurt like the dickens, if people don’t wake up. As one who joined the ranks of the umemployed and found nothing except temporary work since, I have some personal insight from experience into how the average John Doe feels. There is a great big empty, aching void in front of us, and the results might be terrible to behold. I pray for a great awakening. The Information Age could be by God’s grace made into something unimaginably great or a horror to behold…after all, I have read H.G. Wells; Open Conspiracy and what the plan is for “useless eaters.” Mr. Lewis (C.S.) in his That Hideous Strength said of the successful conspiracy, “They pull down deep Heaven upon their heads.” And that was the solution to the problem as he foresaw it. And apparently God might well grant such thing. As Mr. Spurgeon, a believer in particular redemption, prayed for the conversion of the whole world, so must we. See his Evening Devotions for August 6 and December 24., and, for every one’s sake including your own, start praying while you look for work.