The thing about an article like this is that those who care already know. Those who don’t know the history and trends don’t much care. But consider a few things.
- These three offerings combined totaled about $682 million for the most recent year’s data available.
- The CP, received by the states, was $463 million. Lottie was $157m. Annie, 62m. I’m rounding the numbers.
- The CP has been trending down for years as a percentage of church offerings, well below 5% and still going south.
- The CP at the Executive Committee level is flat, not declining, mainly because states have cut their ‘keep’ of the offering from around 62% to about 59%.
- Lottie has lurched between around $145m and $165m, the last few years between $153 and $157m. The high year was an aberration. It is concerning that the offering declined by over $2m with this year’s report, although you will not read that in the article linked. (As an aside, there was a year that Lottie increased by over $20m.)
- Annie is the only one of the three offerings that is trending upward, about 1% annually, not a lot but worth mentioning.
- The SBC Executive Committee has for a good many years now received more money from the states in designated (almost all Lottie and Annie) offerings than undesignated, CP offerings. This says something about the priorities and preferences of SBC churches.
I find no reason that Lottie couldn’t explode if Southern Baptists started thinking and prioritizing their mission giving. Yes, I’m talking about reassessing the fake shoe boxes with neat stuff in them and the myriad of ad hoc mission organizations and ministries, large and small. Find another one that has a long term, on-the-ground presence in unreached countries and among unreached people groups and give to them. The definitive opinion piece on this has already been written, here and here.
Annie and NAMB are clearly engaging a growing segment of Southern Baptist churches and individuals. The focus on planting churches isn’t all of their work but it is the most visible. It is easily recognized that starting new churches is a compelling need and one that Southern Baptists are willing to support.
The venerable Cooperative Program, soon (2025) to celebrate a century of existence and service to Southern Baptist causes and ministries and still generating mammoth sums, is in entrenched decline. If anything is true in SBC life it is that whatever genius there was and is about the CP, it simply isn’t capturing the interest and enthusiasm of most Southern Baptist churches. Someone need some new ideas here – ice buckets, shoe boxes, or ribbons – anything other than the lugubrious whines about how we used to really support the CP. I’d start with the obvious: most of the CP goes to state conventions. If it were possible for the CP to be designed any national SBC leader today, would anyone think it was the best use of scarce church mission dollars to keep most of it in fourteen southern states?
We all are granted our opinions and preferences. You take the numbers and tell me yours.
The old saw that “we used to be about cooperative missions and not societal missions” won’t work here. We’ve always had a combined approach. The point is that societal missions is being given increasing preference