Last year, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions was a stupendous $165.8 million infusion into our flagship SBC mission board which had been struggling financially with serious and continuing deficits. Over 1,000 personnel, mostly overseas workers, took the early retirement offers and reductions in personnel costs put the board on a sustainable path. That Southern Baptists gave over $12 million more to the LMCO in 2015 than 2014 was an added boost and a great help in restoring reserves and providing stability going forward.
Alas, it looks like the 2016 offering will drop back down into the $155 million range, perhaps a little lower and render the big jump from 2014-2015 an historical anomaly, probably a delayed reaction to the downsizing.
When our Executive Committee gives it’s monthly report, it follows the same template of reporting the receipts, both designated and undesignated (Cooperative Program gifts), and compares them to the same period last year. The Baptist Press story dated April 4th, Nat’l CP 4.07 ahead of projection at mid year point, Note the following paragraph:
Designated giving of $115.081,792.04 for the same year-to-date period is 10.87 percent, or $14,041,006.13, below the $129,122,798.17 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the EC and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities. Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Southern Baptist Global Hunger Relief and other special gifts.
If designated giving (which is mostly Lottie and Annie, and NAMB’s Annie Armstrong offering which is only just now coming in) is down by over $14 million, one can make the assumption that most of this is accounted for by reduced LMCO receipts.
Oddly, IMB doesn’t issue monthly financial reports and Southern Baptists will have to wait until June to know exactly how much the LMCO will be for 2016, IMB closing the books on it at the end of May this year. There’s no good reason our IMB needs to hold their cards on this until the end of their accounting year in May. Seems to me that if SBCers knew how the offering was being received through December, January, and later, we could give more if it looked like the offering was going to come up short. Perhaps the brain trust at IMB could reexamine their policies and be more open and accommodating here. I see no reason not to.
I may not like all the news and editorials that come out of the Louisiana state paper but the Baptist Message and Will Hall seem to be the only ones paying attention to this. Check their story from yesterday. It’s a bit of a negative rehash of IMB difficulties but if Southern Baptists can’t stand bad news we better ask for a total blackout of news. There are some difficult days coming, I think.
IMB budgeted on the basis of a $170.5 million LMCO. They are going to be severely short but should have the reserves to manage. More retrenchment may be coming. We will see.
But why would the LMCO be so much less than last year’s record year? My conjecture is that it is strictly a function of the boost given by many churches to their offering for 2015 and that as a result of the missionary downsizing. It is sad to think that Southern Baptists came through once to give a hefty boost to their support of international missions but are one and done on that.
I would love to be proven wrong in this but am not seeing any numbers that lead that way.