Tuesday, May 8, 2012

State conventions in steep decline

The latest state convention downsizing news comes from the Kentucky Baptist Convention where the Louisville Courier Journal story, Kentucky Baptists losing 27 staff, says,
The Kentucky Baptist Convention will lose nearly one-third of its full-time staff through early retirements and other departures in the second wave of cuts in less than a year at the state’s largest religious body.
The cuts leave the KBC with about fifty full time staff for a convention of 750,000 members and 2,400 churches.

The cuts follow the convention's vote to send more of their Cooperative Program receipts to SBC causes, mostly the two mission boards and six seminaries. The current KBC executive director also names the economic downturn and decline in churches giving as causes for the steep cuts.

KBC churches were giving an average of 9.2 percent of their offerings to the Cooperative Program in 2000. This had declined to 6.75 percent in 2011. That is a drop of almost 27% in a decade.

A few thoughts:

  • The KBC is to be commended for pulling the trigger on the staff reductions rather than backtracking on their commitment to keep less of the churches contributions in their heavily churched state.
  •  Those who want to point the finger at the Great Commission Resurgence recommendations will have to explain away the steep and steady decline of CP percentages that has been happening in Kentucky (and every other state) for decades. The fault here isn't the Great Commission Giving metric put into the Annual Church Profile recently.
  • Our current SBC president Bryant Wright notably said that state conventions will have to learn to live with much less than they have. They are being forced to do so without any drastic, formal change in financial allocations. Churches are simply giving less. 
  •  Some state conventions may roll back their commitments to keep less CP money in state, using the steep decline in giving as the rationale for doing so. This will not sell well with churches and pastors.
  • State conventions have had their glory years of increasing budgets, additional staffing, new programs, and larger buildings. Those days are gone. I see nothing being said or done that will cause churches to increase their CP percentages from the SBC average of under six percent to anywhere near the 10-11 percent it was years ago.
The KBC leader, Paul Chitwood, said,
“It was time to re-evaluate our services to Kentucky Baptists, and to adjust our priorities to match current resources,” 
While the staff levels and budgets of many state conventions are in steep decline, there is no reason for them not to be successful in serving their churches and helping them reach North America and the world for Christ. It is absolutely the right strategy for the states to keep less of the churches dollars at home and devote more to national and international missions.


Tim Dahl said...

"It is absolutely the right strategy for the states to keep less of the churches dollars at home and devote more to national and international missions."

I don't know if it is "absolutely" right or not. I could be wrong, but I thought some state conventions predated the SBC. It isn't like we are some "top/down" model of denominationalism that requires sending large chunks cash up the pipeline.

If we think the national agencies, seminaries, etc are doing a good job; then we increase the giving. If we think they aren't, then we don't give.

For instance, SWBTS trying to take land away from our local association doesn't engender feeling inclining people to give more to the CP. Southern, emphasizing calvinistic theology, doesn't engender feelings of support in some people either.

It may turn into a less efficient system, but the days of the CP may be limited to my lifetime, and/or the lifetime of my children.


William Thornton said...

I think it is a matter of relative priorities, Tim. The states may do an excellent job but most of the lost people lie far beyond their borders.

I don't think the CP could be described as an efficient system. It is a convenient system but in some ways it encourages inefficiencies.

Jonathan said...

"The states may do an excellent job but most of the lost people lie far beyond their borders."

Agreed. It is also true that most lost people lie outside the scope of every SBC agency except the IMB. Yet, we're not arguing for moving significant funds away from all SBC agencies toward the IMB.

The GCR clarified that work done at the SBC level trumps the work done at the state level. Church members are trumping both by giving less.