Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CP Math: 50/50 = 55/45 or 60/40

I blogged earlier in Cooperative Program Confusion about how state conventions, by utilizing accounting presentation techniques that are perfectly reasonable and understandable to them, probably confuse average Southern Baptists about the distribution of Cooperative Program gifts from the churches.

An average of about 63% of all monies given in churches through the Cooperative Program is retained by respective state conventions. Many would like to see this move to a 50/50 split. That’s clear enough, right?

Well, no.

Read the following paragraph, a report in SBC Life on the recent meeting of state convention executives:

[State convention executives] agreed to begin moving toward a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program receipts, after shared ministry expenses have been subtracted, between the respective state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
There you have it: 50/50 - half to the state conventions, half to be distributed to the SBC mission boards, seminaries and the rest.



Note the phrase after shared ministry expenses have been subtracted. These shared ministry expenses are monies that stay with the state convention, every single penny so labeled. There is nothing nefarious about this. The explanation is that if states are going to collect for SBC entities, let them deduct their expenses.

Reasonable enough.

But then, if God is in the Cooperative Program concept, the devil is in the details. Some states allot as much as 20% of their entire budget to these “shared ministry expenses.” So...

Presto! 50/50 becomes 60/40. Only 40 cents on a CP dollar gets out of the state and on to seminaries and mission boards, yet state conventions may accurately say that this is a 50/50 split.

State executives have sensibly recognized the value of limiting this soft accounting practice and recently agreed among themselves to limit shared ministry expenses to 10%. Good. Now…

Voila! 50/50 only becomes 55/45.

What SBCers can expect out of this 50/50 talk is that state conventions will make a good faith effort to move from keeping 63 cents of every CP dollar to keeping only 55 cents on that dollar. Good. To take about a 13% cut in revenues is a move in the right direction and is not an insignificant development. But neither does it convey much clarity.

I'd bet that the average SBC pastor or layperson if they are told there is a 50/50 split, thinks that 50/50 is 50/50, not 55/45.

Nope. 50/50 is actually 55/45.

But whaddoIknow, I'm just a plodder in this business.


Anonymous said...

Brother Plodder, the devil is indeed in the details as you so correctly surmised! Keep in mind that there is a huge "Baptist"elephant in the room! We have way too many seminaries in the SBC orbit sucking up way too many Cooperative Program dollars! We have 4 out of our 6 seminaries with "Bible" colleges on their campuses (in states where there are already many Baptist colleges!) consuming unfairly more Cooperative Program dollars! If the truth be known this is basically an under-handed attempt to increase their piece of the CP pie with the reporting of false numbers for full-time students in their respective seminaries. Adding insult to injury you have one SBC seminary president that has added another 8,000 square ft. to his already oversized mansion . . . and he's also building a 3000 seat chapel that he couldn't fill nowwith his present enrollment because of overall enrollment decrease! Bro. Prod, more and more churches are beginning to take notice of this kind of stuff --- the CP as we know it is out of date and needs a drastic overall! I'm just giving one man's opinion!

William Thornton said...

Seminaries get about eight cents on that CP dollar in a church offering plate. The big money stays with the states.

One of my outrageous suggestions for the CP is to close a seminary - snowball's chance in hades.

Bricks and mortar are of declining importance in education, seems to me.


Anonymous said...

This wink-wink nudge-nudge creative accounting is only going to hurt the CP. If we say we're giving 50 cents on the dollar then by golly we ought to be doing it. Anything else, no matter how you small print it, is just plain lying.

Although that plan might actually help our local budget. If we take personnel, utilities, music, youth.... out of the CP calculation then we could increase our CP % too.... maybe to 50 % or 60% or if we take enough off then we might even be able to go as much as 100%! Wow! This is starting to look pretty good... as long as we don't care about the CP.

Let's see... of our $500k budget surely $400k is "shared". So we only need to figure CP on the $100k instead of the $500k. Hummm, sounding pretty good :) In that case we could "rightly" claim we're giving 60% to the CP but still give less $$ than we are now.

Oh, now I understand. It's all about LOOKING good.