When interim Executive Committee CEO Augie Boto made his report at #SBC18 he shared the graph below. While the subject is arcane to most Southern Baptists it is critical to leaders at the state and national level and what the graph shows is no surprise to those who must watch their revenue streams to maintain employment levels and ministries.
Here is the way Boto put it in his report (this excerpt from my state paper, The Christian Index):
Boto then explained that the statistical information shows that in the last 18 years “our national receipts have improved by just over $17 million while our state ministry support has shrunk by over $41 million.”
The EC’s interim president continued, “During this time how has our Cooperative Program fared? Our total Cooperative Program receipts have declined by over $13.5 million. What should we take away from all this?
“I believe that we could take away that Southern Baptists are a sacrificial people – that we willing to try to do more with less. But I think that we also need to understand that while national ministries are being well funded, state ministries are not. Our total CP giving is not doing well at all.
The simple way to look at this is
- The national CP revenue stream for IMB, NAMB, the six seminaries and a couple of smaller entities is flat, up by $17 million over the past 18 years and probably not staying level when inflation is factored in. This slight actual dollar increase over time is insignificant to our entities. This flat (or slightly declining in real dollars) is a long enough trend that the mission boards and seminaries aren’t counting on increased CP revenues when they make future plans.
- The state conveniton share of the CP revenue stream has declined considerably, the 42 state conventions having $41 million less to spend on their state ministries and staffing.
Graphs are an easy way (if accurate and presented properly) to understand stuff at a glance.
Anyone in touch in their state will have noticed the results – less staff, various ministry cutbacks.
The economic problems of a decade ago account for most of this, although CP as a percentage of church offerings has consistently declined for several decades.
A secondary but important factor is the push in the Great Commission Resurgence Report, adoped by the convention in 2010, which called for the state conventions to cut the percentage of CP receipts that they keep in-state for their own use. The call was for movement towards a “50/50” split. Since then the percentage kept by the states has declined from 62.33% to 58.51%. While this is less than four percentage points, it is significant to the states, especially the large states. The “lost” revenues would be in the millions; hence, cuts in employees, etc.
A few editorial observations from this hacker and plodder in the SBC hinterlands:
- I doubt the CP decline can be reversed but I certainly hope it can be stopped. We’re slightly under 5% (CP percentage of undesignated church offering plate dollars) and that’s seems like a good floor to me. It looked like the decline had flattened out but then this past year the percentage declined from 5.16 to 4.86. That bit of news was lost in the other noise of #SBC18.
- No one is forcing state conventions to cut their “take” of the CP…except their own constituent churches. The SBC GCR might have called for movement towards 50/50 but no state convention had to go along. If states want to jack it back up and keep more money, thereby giving less to the seminaries and mission boards, they are free to do so, unless their churches rebel against such a retrograde movement.
- Informed people are asking if state conventions are even necessary. I think they are but if their fit and function in SBC life isn’t obvious to churches and pastors, then maybe the state leaders need to do some serious self-examination.
- Older SBC leaders, and I’m referring to folks my age and thereabouts, 60 and up, sometimes appear not to have grasped the changes in reality of 21st century denominational life. The CP is almost a century old. The simple appeal of it is lost on many younger leaders, pastors, and SBCers.
But, this is mostly my opinion. The declining revenues are hard facts.
I’d be interested in your take on all this.