Monday, March 28, 2011

When church offering plates talk: Cooperative Program or Mission Offerings?

There is good news of a sort concerning Southern Baptists and mission giving.

The Cooperative Program has dropped like a rock, about 50% since 1978, going from 11.13% of the undesignated offerings of churches to around 6% today; however, what churches have been giving to the International and North American Mission Boards through their special offerings (Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, respectively) has declined at only about half that rate.

Sort of backhanded good news, I guess, if you love missions.

I don’t have exactly comparable statistics but consider the following:

Percentage of Undesignated Giving 1987
Lottie Moon/Annie Armstrong....... 2.276
Cooperative Program.................10.323

Percentage of Undesignated Giving 2009
Lottie Moon/Annie Armstrong.......1.725
Cooperative Program (2007-8)......6.082

Percentage decline of CP 1987-2008......... 41.08
Percentage decline of LM/AA 1987-2009......24.2

The latest comparison may show an even greater contrast between what churches give to CP as compared to LM/AA, since 2009 actually showed an increase compared to the previous year of LM/AA gifts as a percentage of undesignated church offerings.

One result of the 2007 LifeWay Research survey on Cooperative Program was that “70 percent of responding pastors agree that CP allocates contributions among state, national, and global ministries, missions, and entities appropriately.”

The great majority of pastors are happy about the allocations, right?

Maybe so, but when churches make decisions about their own offerings, they have chosen to devote more of their offering plate dollars the mission boards than to the Cooperative Program.

This isn’t brain surgery. Churches have drastically reduced their CP percentages but have not chosen to decrease their special mission offerings nearly as much.

The Cooperative Program is vitally important to the Southern Baptist Convention. It makes no sense to try and massage the statistics to present a more pleasant picture. Southern Baptists may respond to a survey and sing the praises of the CP but when their offering plates talk, you hear a different story.

Pastors and church members are 'saying' that they want a greater proportion of their dollars get to the two mission boards.

Maybe someone should listen.


Notes on the figures: I am not a statistician but know that the better comparison would be between LM/AA/CP and total giving, in comparable time periods. I just didn't have time to do it. Readers are welcome to challenge me on this.


Anonymous said...

I'm Missions Pastor of a church that still gives 10% of undesignated gifts to CP and over $50,000 to LM and over $25,000 to Annie. Thanks for lifting up SBC CP Missions. It has been and can continue to be a great vechicle for funding missions and missionaries.

However, it seems we are living in a time when the very people who are screaming to have for position and control of the SBC are giving less and less, while redirecting monies to their on endeavors.

Anywho ... thanks for sounding the alarm!

<><Ron Hale

William Thornton said...

Your church's percentage is exceptional for these days. No one I know believes we will ever return to an average anywhere near 10%. The downward trend in CP giving is long-running and entrenched.

I am simply making the point with this blog article that churches have been more protective of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong than they have of Cooperative Program giving.