Gifts received by the Executive Committee for distribution through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaled $44,269,204, which is $3,334,711 behind the $47,603,915 received at the end of December 2010. For the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $44,269,204 is 95.20 percent of the $46,500,000 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
North Carolina Baptists seem to have a tender heart when it comes to missions. In 2011, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) exceeded amounts contributed in 2010.
“Even in a down economy, I see God calling people out to minister,” said John Butler, executive group leader in business services at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC). “As people get their hands involved in ministry when their financial means come back they tend to want to invest their funds as well as their time and energy.”
In a financial report released by the BSC, 2011 giving between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 shows an 8.07 percent increase for international missions (from $11,652,395 in 2010 to $12,592,515 in 2011)*, a 7.18 percent increase for North American missions (from $5,245,512 in 2010 to $5,622,012 in 2011), and a 2.49 percent increase for the NCMO (from $1,871,204 in 2010 to $1,917,740 in 2011).
Overall the BSC’s 2011 Cooperative Program (CP) budget was $29,814,749, a decrease of 8.78 percent (from 32,685,480 in 2010). CP dollars with no restrictions or designations were down 1.16 percent from $28,232,359 (2010) to $27,905,656 (2011).
The amount specifically excluding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) dropped 17.45 percent (from $562,406 in 2010 to $464,282 in 2011).
Butler said he sees some “systemic changes taking place in how people support missions.”
Directed giving and designated gifts are the “en vogue” thing to do, he said.
“It doesn’t bode well for the Cooperative Program and the idea for the shared missions giving,” Butler said.
Giving to the missions offerings allows Baptists to reach the underserved parts of America and unreached people groups around the globe, Butler said, stressing that “the Cooperative Program is the single best way to … for lack of a better phrase … cover all your bases. You are supporting international missions; you are supporting national missions; you are supporting local missions. [It] allows missionaries to focus time on ministry rather than focus their time trying to raise money through the churches.”
Because of the down economy churches are struggling as well.
“Churches aren’t able to send the same amounts as in past years because their budgets have suffered,” Butler said.
Churches struggle to pay certain fixed costs such as building payments and salaries.
“Missions is usually the nonfixed cost that suffers,” said Butler, indicating that generally churches give a fixed amount to CP. That amount is usually set by the church’s finance committee. Unlike the missions offering, churches don’t usually take up a special offering for CP.
Butler advised churches to make CP a percentage amount in the budget, rather than a fixed amount. As the budgets increase, so will the church’s CP giving.
BSC leaders have moved each year during its annual meeting to raise its CP giving a half percentage point. Even while tightening its belt in other areas, the Convention has worked to continue to raise the CP amount sent to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Butler highlighted the push for church planting expressing the statistic that new churches reach more people within a community than older, more established churches. Giving to the Cooperative Program allows finances to help with church planting efforts.
“It’s causing churches to rethink their values and their priorities in terms of how they can be more effective in reaching their communities with essential resources.”
Because money is tight, many are evaluating whether they are using their resources wisely.
“I see [God] engaging people in hands-on missions because maybe they don’t have the money to give but they want to give to ministries across the state,” Butler said.
Churches can restrict funds given through the Convention by designating that certain amounts go to specific organizations or excluding any of the funds that go to the SBC or another entity.
Any restricted funds are sent straight to the organization and are not considered CP giving.
What is the Cooperative Program?
The Cooperative Program is a program of giving that allows churches to pool their resources to aid various missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention with a single contribution.
State and regional conventions collect CP funds. They keep a portion and forward a percentage to the SBC. The SBC distributes the funds to all the missions efforts, seminaries, organizations, etc.
A news release issued in early January reported that year-to-date contributions to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries received by the SBC Executive Committee are down.
As of Dec. 31, 2011 giving is down 7.01 percent below the same time frame in 2010. The total includes receipts from state conventions and fellowships, churches and individuals for distribution according to the 2011-12 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
As of Dec. 31, designated giving of $11,700,343 for the same year-to-date period is 3.04 percent, or $367,238, below gifts of $12,067,581 received at this point in the previous 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.
“It is a great blessing to witness the faithfulness of God’s people to give to God’s work even in difficult times,” said Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee president and chief executive officer. He cited the lingering impact of the economic crisis that has affected so many churches.
Noting that consumer confidence continues to lag, he said, “Our confidence in God’s gracious provision has not wavered. The promise of Philippians 4:19 remains true – our God ‘will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.’”
December’s CP allocation receipts for SBC work totaled $15,841,477. This is the first month in the new fiscal year – which began in October – that contributions have exceeded monthly budget projections.
During the last fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010 – Sept. 30, 2011), Cooperative Program receipts for the year were up 0.06 percent – the first increase since 2007. Combined CP and designated giving for the year, meanwhile, were up 0.17 percent.
* Numbers have been rounded to the nearest dollar.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – A report from Baptist Press was edited into this story to reflect the SBC CP giving as a whole.) Related story