Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cooperative Program Confusion

Our wonderful CP, an eminently sensible concept, is shrinking and churches have dropped from over ten percent to the CP to around six. One complaint about the CP is that state conventions keep too much of each CP dollar.

SBC Executive Committee statistics show that the percentage of CP dollars kept by the states is around 63% and in the last 50 years has ranged between roughly 61% and 67%. There seems to me to be a growing criticism that more of each CP dollar fails to get out of the states. Bryant Wright has pointedly said that states ought to cut their share in half.

But when I look at my state's explanation of the use of CP dollars, I see this graphic:

The caption to this reads "Georgia Baptists share every mission dollar equally with the Southern Baptist Convention" and what is meant to be conveyed is that the GBC's share is "really" only 40% of each CP dollar.

Huh? If we share every dollar equally, and if 40% is the GBC take, how is it that the GBC forwards to Nashville only 40 cents on the dollar?

It has to do with an accounting, actually a presentation, wrinkle. Not all state conventions do it this way but the GBC has a budget category called, "Shared Causes." The middle 20 cents in the dollar graphic above represents this.

If you could read the fine print on that dollar "Shared Causes" include CP promotion, WMU, Church-Minister Relations, The Christian Index, and Financial Services. Actually, that 20% includes the expense of not a few staff members, a total of $8.7 million, including a catch-all category of $3 million, most of which is the communications department and debt service. I haven't asked but I'm guessing that far more than 20% of GBC employees are charged to this "Shared Causes" category.

The explanation is that the state convention, by promoting and collecting money from churches for the mission boards, seminaries, etc, the SBC stuff, should be "compensated" for expenses in doing this. So, the GBC says one-third of what is kept in state out of a CP dollar is actually "shared causes" with the SBC.

Sorry, this is not a realistic and reasonable way to explain the CP budget here in GA. State convention executives recently met and agreed to limit to 10%, half of what the GBC is doing, these "shared expenses." Good for them.

I'd say to my GBC colleagues, folks whom I respect (our CEO, Robert White, is tops among all the states in my opinion), let's drop this stuff. Tell it like it is. Stop with the byzantine accounting. Move to a genuine 50/50 split, not an artifical one.

The amount of each CP dollar kept in the states is lower now than in previous years and is in line with what it has been for scores of years. But I perceive that part of why the CP lacks the appeal to churches is that they see more value in having a greater proportion of their CP dollar make it to Richmond and Alpharetta, to Nashville, and all the seminaries.

I commend the state executives for recognizing something is amiss and correcting it.


Anonymous said...

William - I am planning a meeting with our finance budget team and going to be asking some direct questions concerning the CP and their understanding of it. Most I have spoken to concerning this think it all goes to missions. I am finding it difficult to find a clear and concise presentation from the state or national convention as to how each dollar is spent and what each group that receives CP dollars does for the cause of missions.

It is possible that we will begin a 50 / 50 split in our giving. 50 % to the state and tell them to keep it all. 50% to the national and tell them to use it all there. Not sure if this is feasible but worth the discussion.

Jon Estes

William Thornton said...

Jon, 'missions' is our SBC money word. I have blogged about its being used too liberally. Most laypeople don't understand that their church's CP dollar is mostly for in-state stuff.

In a way I hate to see churches start directing their CP dollars. My approach has been to give greater emphasis to the two mission offerings. We would like to give more to CP but the financial difficulty this year is significant.

Anonymous said...

"In a way I hate to see churches start directing their CP dollars. "

I think the states are counting on that mindset.

Jon Estes

David Montoya said...

If the BGCT went 50/50 they would be be bankrupt financially as well as morally!