This article is an evaluation of and reaction to a suggested giving plan for Southern Baptist individuals, churches, state conventions, and Executive Committee made by Rick Patrick on his site. He calls it “The 10-3-10-50 Plan for Southern Baptist Cooperation” a rather unwieldy but descriptive title. Here…but pay no attention to the other nonsense there.)
The numbers are percentages:
- 10%, an individual’s tithe to their local church;
- 3%, the percentage of the local church’s undesignated giving to their local association;
- 10%, the percentage of the local church’s undesignated giving to the Cooperative Program;
- 50%, the percentage the state convention forwards to the SBC Executive Committee for the SBC CP allocation.
For comparison, the percentages currently in use for these are:
- 2% for individuals. (I’m going from memory on this one.)
- 1% for the local association (I’m guessing on this one; it’s probably under 1%)
- 5% for the Cooperative Program
- 40% the percentage state conventions forward for the national CP allocation plan.
Thus, the plan suggests individual giving be quintupled, associational support by churches be tripled, church CP support be doubled, and state convention support for national CP allocations be increased by about 25%. I’n my view he only achievable one of these is the last.
I’m in favor of anyone, anytime suggesting ways to increase giving. Here’s my evaluation of Rick’s plan.
- “Hey, Southern Baptists, give more!” This is the thrust of this plan. Give more to your church. Churches, give more to the CP and local association. State conventions, give more to the Executive Committee for CP allocations. This is the (ahem!) traditional manner that the CP and associational missions have been promoted. No problem with me in asking church members to give more, since there isn’t a church in the SBC where congregants all tithe and couldn’t do better. For associations, state conventions and national CP recipients the better appeal would be, “Here’s what we’re going to do differently and why we would ask that you consider giving us more of your church offerings.”
- The downward trend in Cooperative Program is decades long. We may lament that churches have moved from over 10% CP giving to around half that but an appeal to go back to the halcyon years of double digit giving isn’t much of a motivation. The CP has declined for multiple, concrete reasons. While the concept is sound, the program is sclerotic, highly resistant to change, and as presently structured, better represents mid-19th century denomination building than 21st century semi-post-denominational realities.
- Making Great Commission Giving the culprit doesn’t explain or help anything. After the SBC in annual session created GCG, critics began to blame it for declining giving. GCG isn’t a giving plan. It’s a giving metric. It merely reports all giving to SBC causes. Rick Patrick’s church, the churches I pastored, just about every one of the 50k or so SBC churches practices GCG. They give to the CP and the annual mission offerings through their state. Those numbers are reported. They also give to their association and perhaps directly to the children’s home or other SBC/state ministry. The total of these is GCG. The figures reported through the Annual Church Profile for GCG are virtually useless anyway, since recalcitrant state conventions and churches refuse to report them. The only use I’ve seen for GCG is in reporting giving for nominees to SBC offices and we’ve been electing low CP people to the SBC presidency since Adrian Rogers. I’m glad to know that churches are giving a lot to SBC causes even if the gifts are not made through their state convention.
- Why should the CP get 10% of a church’s undesignated offerings? The old saw that God expects individuals to give the tithe to their church and for churches to give the tithe to the CP is not biblically founded. It may be the right number. If so, justify it, don’t presume it.
- Why should associations get an automatic 3%? I’m not saying some shouldn’t but am asking why all should? If anything illustrates the problem of arbitrary percentages it’s this. A recent survey found that even paid associational staff weren’t all that enthused about associational work. Associations are struggling to find relevance and a mission in the 21st century that appeals to churches. Tripling their funding isn’t a solution.
- Why should states get half of every Cooperative Program dollar? Again, I’m not saying some states shouldn’t get half (or more) but am asking why all should have this floor level? Actually, state conventions get on average about 60 cents of every CP dollar. I’m not optimistic that they will relinquish another ten cents (neither is Rick, since he clarifies that states should be “in the vicinity of” 50%). Of course, this was the “deal” in 1925 when the CP was created – states and the SBC split the money. This is 2018.
- The dual cooperative/societal mission support system that we have had since 1925 is sound. After almost a century the propriety of cooperation among churches, state conventions, the SBC entities is proven. The method, the concept is splendid. We couldn’t exist in our present form without it. But we have always had a dual system: cooperative and societal. The SBC never left societal giving as an important component of mission support. Churches give some of their SBC mission gifts through the Cooperative Program and some directly to their association, to the mission boards, to their state causes, and occasionally to the SBC entities. Societal shouldn’t be a dirty word among Southern Baptists. We shouldn’t disparage it. Even Rick manifestly supports societal giving. It’s in the 10-3-10-50 plan. So do I. We disagree on the percentages and in some ways in the promotion of it.
- No bill was ever paid by a percentage. Only dollars pay bills. I’m with Adrian on this one, always the mic drop point for this discussion. Thank God for the church that gives 10%, 15%, 20% to the CP. Thank God for the church that gives 2%, 4%, and 6%. Sometimes that 2% is hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here’s the salient point about dollars vs. percentages: No one has a right to presume on any percentage – not the current average of about 5%; not the traditional 10%. Rick asks if one would rather have $1 billion of Jeff Bezos’ wealth or 10%, the point being that the percentage is many times the $1b. But we don’t get to presume Bezos will give a single dollar or any percentage. Same for SBC churches – we don’t get to presume they will give anything.
- I fully support the 10-3-10-50 plan…for Rick and his church. We’re all autonomous.
- I’ll predict a slight increase in the average church CP percentage this year…which will be good news for us all.
- Frank Page already has a better CP increase plan. He asks for a 1% CP percentage increase. He is always positive about churches and state conventions and their denominational giving. I like his plan better.
- We will see if the 10-3-10-50 plan is a plan for cooperation or a plan for condemnation…based on how it is used. Time will tell.
Always happy to encourage discussion of an important topic and appreciate Rick’s concrete and thoughtful contribution to the topic.