Stay-at-home orders around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect churches and church giving. As a result, all aspects of Southern Baptist life are beginning to feel the economic changes.
While data points related to giving have been sparse in the initial phases of the pandemic, national Cooperative Program (CP) receipts are beginning to reflect the stalled global and national economy. National CP receipts in April dropped more than 8% compared to April 2019, and totaled $14,165,824.93, giving Southern Baptists their lowest monthly national CP total since December 2016.
April also saw Southern Baptist seminaries, entities, state conventions and churches reduce spending and cut future budgets in preparation for the expected financial downturn coming in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of our churches are beginning to see a decrease in giving on the local level due to the effects of COVID-19, and our giving through the Cooperative Program on a state and national level is beginning to reflect this decline,” said Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) President and CEO Ronnie Floyd in a statement. “Our churches have been unable to gather in person for worship over the past several weeks, and there has been a rise in unemployment with businesses across the nation being shut down due to COVID-19. We are facing days now – and in the future – that our generation of Southern Baptists have never faced before.
“With a grateful heart to our churches and the support they are sending, I am confident that God will see us through together. In this hour of immense uncertainty, I do appeal to our churches, that in the midst of your challenges and decision-making, let’s resolve to do all we can to keep our missionaries on the field across the world through our continued support through the Cooperative Program.”
As of April 30, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP Allocation Budget total $115,304,511.36. This is slightly less than last year’s budget contribution of $116,186,117.28 by $881,605.92 or 0.76%. The amount given is still above the $114,625,000.00 year-to-date budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $679,511.36 or 0.59%.
The final amount received in April 2020 was $1,283,915.54 (8.31%) less than the $15,449,740.47 received in April 2019, and $2,209,175.07 (13.49%) less than the monthly budgeted amount of $16,375,000.00.
Designated gifts received in April amounted to $10,156,450.84. This total was $2,933,764.58 or 22.41% below gifts of $13,090,215.42 received in April 2019. Also, this year’s designated gifts through the first seven months of the fiscal year amount to $126,103,444.55, which is $3,014,772.73 or 2.33% less than the $129,118,217.28 given through the first seven months in the previous fiscal year. 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, Disaster Relief and other special gifts. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to SBC entities.
The CP is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2019-2020 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to SBC national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
The convention-adopted budget for 2019-2020 is $196.5 million and is disbursed as follows: 50.41% to international missions through the International Mission Board (IMB), 22.79% to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16% to theological education through the six SBC seminaries and the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, 2.99% to the SBC operating budget and 1.65% to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If national CP gifts exceed the $196.5 million budget projection at the end of the fiscal year, the Executive Committee’s portion of any overage falls to 0.0% while IMB’s portion increases to 53.4% of the overage. The other entities’ percentage distributions of the overage remain the same. The SBC Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the SBC ministry entities.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the SBC by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices, to the state Baptist papers and are posted online at sbc.net/cp.