...Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of FBC West Palm Beach for talking about the crisis in CP giving in terms of “opportunity cost.”
This is the first time I have heard any SBCer use a cold, hard economic phrase in relation to the CP. Scroggins did this on a B21 panel back at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
Opportunity cost is a simple, powerful concept. My church has a thousand dollars. We can spend it on new tires for our church van or we can send it to the Cooperative Program. Does my church perceive greater value in the former than the latter? If we choose the tires we clearly allot greater value to having four tires and a safer vehicle for local use than for the Georgia Baptist Convention to use $600 of it, the International Mission Board, $201, the North American Mission Board, $91, the seminaries, $89, and the other $19 to other causes.
The CP is the main source of SBC hand wringing over the past three decades, a stretch in which the percentage of offering plate dollars given to the CP has declined from over ten percent to under six percent, the most salient trend in our denominational life.
It is not getting any better.
Baptist Press reported on September 1st that giving to date this fiscal year for the CP is down 2.1%. The poor economy, churches under financial stress, and unemployment are the usual suspects that are rounded up to explain the CP decline. Perhaps we might see a more fundamental cause in opportunity cost.
The fact is that churches have been doing opportunity cost analysis of their giving for decades and allotting less and less value to what is gained by giving to the CP relative to giving to other things. This is a simple, indisputable fact.
So, why is the CP losing in these opportunity cost decisions by churches?
The B21 panel participants say a “massive communication problem” is the cause. This is essentially the message I have heard from denominational people over the decades. The thrust of the argument is that the CP is difficult to convey to the churches. True enough, but consider that we have done more study, have dedicated more personnel, and allotted more funds to communicate the CP than to about anything else in SBC life.
Yet, the churches keep giving less to the CP.
One of the panelists concludes that effective CP communication should be seen as part of the cause. His reasoning is summarized thusly: “…when they [church members] find out it goes to more than just international missions that can be helpful or harmful.”
Let’s put the two together – opportunity cost and CP communication. When church members find out that about twenty cents on their church’s CP dollar goes to the IMB, they perceive more value in giving elsewhere.
Aha! Opportunity cost is rearing its ugly, but completely rational, head.
Without putting it that term, the Great Commission Resurgence Report addresses CP opportunity cost by recommending that more CP dollars go to the IMB and NAMB; however, the changes can be measured in fractions of percentages, probably not enough to change the opportunity cost equation but a step in the right direction.
I commend people like Jimmy Scroggins for seeing and describing the reality of CP giving.