Monday, July 23, 2012

Great Commission vs Cooperative Program Giving

When the SBC approved the new giving category, Great Commission Giving, an aggregate category that includes giving to the Cooperative Program, state convention, local association, plus any direct gifts to any SBC entity, great weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued in some quarters. Dire predictions of negative effects on the Cooperative Program were made.

2011 was the first reporting year for GCG but I don't know that much can be learned by it, since nothing can be viewed comparatively; nonetheless, here are some figures for the top giving churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention:

First Woodstock (Johnny Hunt's megachurch):
Total gifts   $1,194,200
Total CP            866,170
Total GCG      3,144,120   

Woodstock is the top Cooperative Program giving church in the GBC. Their CP gifts were 27.5% of their total Great Commission Giving meaning that they gave a lot more directly to SBC causes than to the CP.

Hebron, Dacula (formerly Larry Wynn's megachurch):
Total gifts    $902,640
Total CP         840,905
Total GCG      944,882

Only Woodstock gave more to the CP than Hebron last year. Hebron's CP gifts were 93.1% of their total Great Commission Giving indicating that their main channel for SBC giving was the CP.

Johnson Ferry (Bryant Wright's megachurch):
Total gifts     $566,079
Total CP          566,079
Total GCG       793,315

Johnson Ferry's CP gifts were 71.4% of their total Great Commission Giving.

Clearly, Woodstock and Hebron have different giving philosophies.

Local church autonomy at work.

I haven't asked but it looks like Johnson Ferry chooses to report differently than the other two. Fact is, the Great Commission Giving total for any church would be a voluntarily reported figure supplied by the church that is comprised of components that could not be easily checked. I'm not alleging anything here about JFBC, just saying that a simple comparison of GCG statistics may not be valid.

I first heard Adrian Rogers make the statement that "Dollars pay the bills, not percentages," an assertion made to counter the complaint of megachurches giving smaller percentages to the Cooperative Program than other churches. Of course he was right and that assertion is manifestly true.

Here in Georgia, Woodstock First is the top CP giving church in total gifts - $866,170. That amount is over six times larger than the aggregate Cooperative Program giving of the top five churches in the GBC in percentage Cooperative Program giving (and who average giving 39% of their total undesignated giving to the CP).

All deserve praise for their support of missions through the Cooperative Program. None deserve criticism.

My view has been that the new Great Commission Giving category will merely reflect the reality on the ground rather than generate any new giving trends. While it may be useful for comparison of candidates for SBC offices, it is beginning to look like it may be a fuzzier figure than originally thought.

But, for SBCers who are numbers junkies, here's something to chew on.


Rick Patrick said...

" is beginning to look like it may be a fuzzier figure than originally thought."

I agree with the Plodder on this.

As much as I admired Adrian Rogers, the "percentage versus dollars" discussion is a false distinction, since they are simply different units of measure for the same amount of giving, analogous to "Bottles don't feed the baby--milk does." (The amount of milk may be expressed in terms of the number of bottles.)

I still think the megachurches are responsible for proportional CP giving, for the simple reason that they have accepted a greater percentage of Southern Baptist financial contributors, as these members leave 10% giving neighborhood churches for 4% giving megachurches.

Let's not be mesmerized by that huge dollar amount. If you take those same Southern Baptist tithers and send them back to the neighborhood churches, the CP giving goes way, way, way UP!

William Thornton said...

I threw in the 'dollars/percentage' quote just for folks like you. :)

actually, churches of all sizes have long left the ten percent neighborhood.

Jonathan S. Jenkins said...

While I wholeheartedly understand the practical reality that dollars are spent, not percentages, but wasn't Jesus more concerned with the percentage of a person's devotion in the story of the widow's mite and many other passages?

I know that there is no obligation on any SBC church to make the CP it's main giving mechanism but don't churches end up short changing the less prominent but equally important entities of the SBC, specifically the seminaries, when bypassing CP and giving directly to Missions agencies?

If I am not mistaken this is one of tne major problems of the societal model that led to the formation of the CP to begin with.

Thannkful for your wworkin this and many other issues brother plodder just trying to grasp all of this to help lead my church to our best possible stewardship of the funds God has blessed us with.

William Thornton said...

Jonathan, take a look at FBC Woodstock's mission giving. It is hard for me to conclude that a reasonable person would not be pleased with it.

NAMB and the IMB receive only a tiny slice of their funding through direct gifts.

One might look at the CP, see that international missions receives only 20 cents on the dollar, and conclude that their church's priorities lead them to find ways to put more of their missions money outside of their Deep South state.

Just a small note on societal/cooperative giving. The CP did not end societal giving. We have always had both.

Anonymous said...

Dollars are true, even if incomplete, but it is likely manifestly true that the statement conveys “elect us as your leaders, but don’t hold us accountable for the things that we suggest you should do, not that we would assign it much merit.” It is a statement that conveys hierarchical, authoritarian attitudes and practices, which make the development and benefits of cooperation more difficult to achieve. And when one reads people bemoaning the fact that the organization is predominately led by and materials over proportionally produced for the megas and very large churches, one only has to consider “dollars are manifestly true” and the importance given to the sentiment, its underlying value, and the subsequent practice that is built upon it. Pogo is unavailable, but he approves this critique.

William Thornton said...

Good to hear from you.

Jonathan said...

The most appropriate response to the mega's "we spend dollars not percentages" is to say, "You are our leaders, we will follow your example".

There is simply no incentive for a small to medium sized church to continue giving at a percentage level multiple times the mega's.

Moral hazard delivered by Adrian Rogers' golden pipes.

William Thornton said...

To some extent the decline in CP percentages followed the example set by Rogers et al but that is only one component.

The SBC has shown very little hesitation in electing presidents whose CP percentages were below average.

I probably should have left the dollars/percentages issue off of this.

JL Carver said...

I have come to the conclusion that we could cut out our financial support of Baptist schools through the state conventions and direct it entirely toward foreign and home missions. State convention support of often represent a small percentage of their operating budgets, and donor support and student loans can more than make up the short fall. If we are not going to get more CP money to our internatonal and North American missions efforts, then I think the CP should be by-passed and those entities be supported directly.

William Thornton said...

Funds for education are confusing. Some state conventions have several colleges, some none. Seminaries now have a significant proportion of their enrollment of undergrads.

It's mixed up and tough to sort out which is why churches may choose to put greater emphasis on and greater sums toward the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings - simple and direct.

Joe McGee said...

I was right!