One of the things I like about our Executive Committee is their straightforward reporting of giving. The current issue of SBC Life, the EC’s “Journal of the Southern Baptist Convention” sent to churches and pastors and published online several times annually, has a nice article by Roger S. Oldham, the EC’s Vice President for Convention Communications and Relations, on the Cooperative Program: The Cooperative Program, A Three-Legged Stool.
The three legs are: the local church, the state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention. I’d like to think that all SBC pastors and lay church leadership would already understand this but experience has shown me that few laypeople and a surprising number of pastors haven’t grasped this most basic Cooperative Program truth.
The article is short and worth reading and has data, not just words. Here are a few items:
For the first time in 66 years state conventions kept less than 60% of Cooperative Program revenues.
In the 1950-1951 fiscal year state conventions said to the Executive Committee, seminaries (there were only four then) and mission boards, “We will keep 59.41% and you can divide the remaining 40.51%. Not since. Dave Miller might remember that year. I was only a few months old. You can check the historic giving division between the states and EC here.
In 1975 the states kept almost two-thirds of the CP revenues, 66.56, their high water mark. In the most recent fiscal year, 2016-2016, state conventions kept 59.92% of CP revenues. That’s significant and involves a lot of dollars although variation between about 60% and 66% isn’t a very wide spread. I like the idea that states keep less money but don’t think it will drive total CP giving from the churches upward in response.
Good news. Cooperative Program revenues received by the Executive Committee is up a tiny bit.
“After trending downward since the global economic recession eight years ago total Cooperative Program from the churches eased upward by almost $1 million in 2015-2016.” The increase was a tiny percentage, 0.21%, but an increase is not a decline. Good news. The article didn’t report total Cooperative Program revenues which may have decreased. Since the state conventions as a group decreased what they keep, what the EC received bumped up a tiny bit.
Designated giving received by the Executive Committee continues to be larger than Cooperative Program revenues.
The article notes that “for the fifth consecutive year, designated gifts to SBC entities are on track to surpass national Cooperative Program gifts for Southern Baptist Convention causes.” I have heard not a few people complain about this but I’ve not heard anyone predict that this change will be reversed. Southern Baptist churches, mainly through the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings, prefer to give more that goes to the mission boards undiluted than to give more to the Cooperative Program where states lop off 60% of the revenues before it is divided among SBC entities. The only thing that would flip the statistics would be if Southern Baptists became disinclined to give huge sums to these two mission offerings and the offering totals plummeted. That would be a disaster.
Is Great Commission Giving responsible for the Cooperative Program’s decline?
The Great Commission Task Force affirmed the Cooperative Program as our primary giving channel and called on state conventions to increase the percentages of CP revenues that they forward to the Executive Committee (or, negatively put, to cut their ‘keep’ of the churches CP dollars) and for churches to increase their CP giving. The Task Force also created the controversial giving metric, Great Commission Giving, which is the total giving by a church to all Southern Baptist-related causes. GCG for a church would mainly be the sum of Cooperative Program giving, giving to the mission offerings (Lottie, Annie, Global Hunger, state mission offerings), direct gifts to the mission boards or seminaries, and any other Southern Baptist-related destination. GCG isn’t a giving plan, just an aggregate number. Some churches don’t report it. Some entire state conventions don’t report that from their churches.
This paragraph is from the article,
Prior to the creation of the Great Commission Giving category, Cooperative Program gifts had always outpaced designated giving to SBC causes. Since 2011, designated giving to SBC causes first approached, then surpassed annual CP gifts from the churches.
So far as I know, no one at the Executive Committee is making the case for a cause-and-effect relationship between the creation of the GCG category and designated giving totals received by the EC surpassing CP totals but the paragraph juxtaposes the two items.
Happy reading, brethren, and thanks EC for the information (and thanks Dennis Salley for his reference yesterday to this article). Unknown at this point: what will the CP figures look like at its centennial in 2025?