It’s been a few years since I attended the annual meeting of my state convention, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. I enjoyed spending some time this week at the meeting. It didn’t hurt that it was in a very pleasant destination, Savannah, where the weather was just right for outdoor dining and strolls along the riverfront park. The historic district is always interesting and half of my party enjoyed the many interesting places to shop. Savannah is sort of the second-string Charleston but I would say that publicly.
I like my state convention. It is one of the largest with a Cooperative Program budget for 2017 of $41 million. On the micro-level, the personal level I have almost always been pleased with interaction with state workers although while I was a pastor, I only occasionally availed myself of state staff services. On the macro-level, the GBMB consumes 58% of Cooperative Program revenues a level that I consider to be too high based on the results.
A few observations about both the macro and micro view of my state convention:
- The CP split for my state is 58/42, the state keeping 58 cents on a CP dollar putting Georgia in the middle of the pack on the split if the new standard is 50/50. A considerable amount of CP revenues in my state is earmarked for legacy institutions and programs. Three colleges get almost 12% of the CP budget. I’m with our recent past SBC president in wondering if long-established institutions ought to reach a point where they should make it on their own and not keep a hold on part of the CP budget.
- I had hallway conversations with two state staff that I have dealt with recently and both were eager to help me, my family, my church in any way that they could. I know these guys deal with hundreds of Georgia Baptists and it was gratifying that one recalled earlier encounters (several years ago) with my wife and me. I am far more willing to devote my church’s CP dollars to people like this.
- The average CP giving for a Georgia Baptist church (percentage of undesignated offering plate gifts) is 4.69%, considerably below the national average of about 5.4% as I recall. I don’t think this is a recent development. There may be reasons for this (some of our institutions have had major meltdowns) but I’ve never seen any state leader attempt to explain it.
- While I’m at it, would my state leadership consider dispensing with the accounting of Cooperative Program revenues that tosses in a third category? The GBMB budget summary has: SBC Ministries, 42%; Georgia Baptist Mission Extension Ministries, 11.74%; GBMB Ministries, 46.26%. The middle category is superfluous and confuses things. We split a CP dollar 58/42. There is plenty of room to put all the money that funds the schools under GBMB Ministries.
- I read that the average age (median age?) for Southern Baptists is around 54. It is obvious that state staff and elected leaders are attempting to put younger pastors forward in our programming and work. This is good, but don’t look for any females on the podium. Unless they sing, they are rarely to be seen or heard.
- What would you think if you heard this from the podium from a state convention leader: “I want you to know that we send 55% of all of the money we receive from Georgia Baptist churches”? I’m guessing that not a few of the hearers would presume that the state keeps less than half of a CP dollar. But no, that’s not what it means. Georgia keeps far more than half. But if Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings (and probably some very small other ones) are added to the calculation then you get the 45/55 split. Of course the state doesn’t keep designated gifts to Lottie and Annie. I suspect these are shown as liabilities on the state balance sheet since no one intends for the GBMB to keep them. They are merely routed through the state office. I think it would be better to stop tossing out a confusing number like this.
- One of our state colleges announced a “sponsorship” and “partnership” with Todd Starnes, Fox News commentator who deals with culture war stuff. Give to the Cooperative Program; Support Fox News? This is all about marketing the school and attracting the culture warrior students, I suppose.
- Had some fried oysters and fried shrimp, both local products. The shrimp weren’t imported from Thailand or some Pacific rim country and the oysters didn’t come from the oil rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They were delicious. Just don’t ask me to slurp a raw oyster.
Our state is stagnant in regard to our work as a proportion of state population. Once we have funded the essential staff jobs (which, in my view have to do with services that churches demand and actually use), maybe we should retool to sunset spending on legacy causes and pour money into people and programs that show measurable results in regard to church growth. Maybe the next generation of leadership will make an attempt at this.
But…all this is above my pay grade.
I’m a CP supporter who thinks getting to 50/50, and beyond, is good for Southern Baptists.