Many have been guessing, including me, that the Cooperative Program is in trouble over the next few years. There is no prophecy in that statement, just sniffing the wind and thinking through some demographics. But the 2008 – 2009 global recession is already making the situation deteriorate much faster.
In a recent letter from Southern Seminary, Dr. Mohler shared his concerns about their budget. In his explanation, he revealed the concerns are growing among denominational leaders. Here is a quote and I’ve emphasized the relevant portion.
The Cooperative Program remains the mainstay of our largest revenue source . . . we are advised by denominational leaders at many levels to expect that the economic challenges faced by the larger society will eventually show themselves in the giving levels of funds contributed through the Cooperative Program. Again, this does not indicate a decreased commitment to the seminary or to the Southern Baptist Convention on the part of individuals or churches. The issue here is not donative intent but the ability of individuals and churches to give what they would want to give during a time of reduced income.
What’s Coming Next?
This letter from Dr. Mohler shows once again that he is a world-class leader. Southern will more than survive the current troubles because of his willingness to make hard choices. Plus, SBTS has a very strong situation with increasing enrollment and brand value.
- What about the other seminaries? Southern is the first to respond, but I would guess they are still more sound financially than the other seminaries.
- What about the mission boards and state conventions? Even a 10% decline in Cooperative Program giving would cripple most of these organizations.
- What about Guidestone? They would certainly have the most exposure to the recession. Rates will increase due to investment losses, but how bad could it get?
What Do You Think?
The charts are still trending in the wrong direction. Comparing the rate of giving versus US dollar inflation alone should make us think. But it looks like this year we will see the first real trouble in denominational funding in many years. Is Dr. Mohler the only SBC leader willing to deal transparently with the coming budget shortfalls? Does the SBC have the spiritual strength to weather this storm? Or will this situation lead to more division and finger pointing?