NASHVILLE – The Cooperative Program (CP) ended its fiscal year 3 percent over budget and at 99.41 percent of last year’s contributions.
Church giving hopefully has dipped as low as it will from the U.S. economic downturn and may be ready to stabilize or climb, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank Page said.
“Those who research these things tell us that church giving usually lags one to two years behind the general economy,” Page said. “God’s people are not immune from the hardships associated with this life. Our Lord reminded us, ‘He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45). It should come as no surprise, then, that church giving has been deeply affected by the nation’s four-year recession.
“With that in mind, the Executive Committee sought to achieve a balance between faith and realism when it set this past year’s budget,” Page said.
The SBC received $191,678,994.28 in CP gifts during the fiscal year Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012, or $199,650.88 less than the $191,878,645.16 received during the last fiscal year. This year’s giving is $5,678,994.28 above the budget goal of $186,000,000.
“We finished 3 percent ahead of our budgeted goal and only slightly under last year’s CP total. This is hallelujah territory! To God be the glory,” Page said. “Based on our approved CP allocation budget goal, IMB will receive 51 percent of the $5.6 million overage, providing additional resources for reaching the nations with the gospel. Our other ministry entities will receive their allocated portions of the overage as well, with the overage portion coming to the EC falling to only 2.4 percent.”
School children in Lusaka, Zambia, crowd around Troy Lewis, whose primary ministry among those impacted by the AIDS crisis is supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program. Lewis, with the International Mission Board, works with local churches, organizations and schools to provide students with Christian support and access to True Love Waits, an abstinence-before-marriage program.
The CP is a channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the various ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a single contribution. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches, state conventions and fellowships for distribution according to the 2011-12 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
The budget outlook comes at a time when the SBC is aiming to bolster the Cooperative Program in local churches. For the past two years, Page has challenged Southern Baptist churches to increase their CP contributions by 1 percentage point of their budgets. The “1% Challenge,” Page said, would generate an additional $100 million for Kingdom work.
SBC President Fred Luter Jr. is featured in a series of video messages addressed to state conventions, encouraging support of the 1% Challenge.
“Imagine if we take on the 1% Challenge that’s given to us by Dr. Frank Page, that each of our churches would give an additional 1 percent [of their budgets] – $100 million, imagine that,” Luter has said. “One percent would equal over $100 million to do the work that we’ve been challenged to do through the Great Commission by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
In designated giving, the fiscal year’s total of $190,744,940.28 is 0.59 percent below the previous year’s $191,878,065.75.
The convention-adopted budget is distributed as follows: 50.2 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education, 3.2 percent to the SBC operating budget and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Because the convention exceeded its annual budget goal of $186 million, IMB’s share goes to 51 percent of the overage in Cooperative Program Allocation Budget receipts. Other ministry entities of the SBC receive their adopted percentage amounts while the SBC operating budget’s portion is reduced to 2.4 percent.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press’ staff writer.)