The benchmark for the general financial health of the Southern Baptist Convention has always been Cooperative Program giving. It is certainly the measure of state convention financial health, not so much for the mission boards and seminaries. Regardless, the recent SBC Executive Committee report of giving through May, 2016, two-thirds of their fiscal year, shows a notable CP increase and indicates a spectacular Lottie Moon Offering increase.
As of May 31, gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget through the first eight months of the Convention’s fiscal year totaled $131,956,900.93. This total is $7,623,567.60 above the $124,333,333.33 year-to-date budgeted amount to support SBC ministries globally and across North America and is $3,405,282.76 more than the $128,551,618.17 received through the end of May 2015.
Designated giving of $170,515,243.82 for the same year-to-date period is 9.02 percent, or $14,107,608.63, above gifts of $156,407,635.19 received at this point last year. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee 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.
The figure to note about CP giving (and this is only the part of CP revenues received by the Executive Committee, less the majority share that is kept by state conventions) is that it is about $3.4 million more than received for the same period last year. Absent some kind of meltdown, when the fiscal year ends on September 30th this year, the CP will be up two to three percent from last year.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions looks to be substantially above last year’s total. Designated giving to the Executive Committee is up over nine percent, about $14.1 million from last year. The IMB will disclose the total LMCO offering at or around the SBC annual meeting. I’ve predicted a record offering of over $161 million. I may be too low. It will be spectacular. Thank God for that.
Just for contrast, consider the two increases (and I’m projecting the CP increase for a full year): $5.1 million CP increase and an estimate of a LMCO increase of $10 million over last year.
Because of the most robust giving year recently for the Cooperative Program IMB will receive about $2.6 million more from it this year than last. That less than 1% of their annual budget. Not chump change but not significant in their future planning and budgeting.
The additional $10 million from Lottie Moon, about 3.5% of the IMB budget, arrives in Richmond undiluted. For the Cooperative Program to put another $10 million into international missions, SBC churches would have to increase CP giving by about $50 million. No one expects that to happen.
The Cooperative Program is our primary giving program and almost every single SBC church devotes some part of their budget to the CP, an average of over 5% of undesignated church giving per congregation. It provides almost all state convention revenues and a solid base of revenue for the mission boards and seminaries (roughly one-third of their budgets). Simple math explains why any expansive plans for the future on the part of the seminaries, NAMB, and IMB will be based on designated giving, not CP giving.
Nonetheless, we should all feel better that the CP is showing a modest increase rather than being flat or decreasing, but look for some level of denominational lamenting come October this year when fiscal year totals show designated giving considerably above CP giving.