Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is 60+% of each CP dollar enough for state conventions?




Our wonderful Cooperative Program has done well in funding the panoply of state and SBC missions, seminaries, and entities over the last 87 years. It is not a perfect stewardship vehicle but is has been and is our main channel for cooperation. SBC life as we know it is unimaginable without it.

As it stands now, the state conventions keep, on average, about 62% of each CP dollar for their own use, a figure well within the 60 to 65 percent range that is the historic average. 

Question: How much of each undesignated Cooperative Program dollar should be enough for the state conventions?


[I am asking mainly about the legacy state conventions of the south, the ones with thousands of churches and millions of members, not of the state conventions outside of the south.]

After the Great Commission Resurgence there was a move to give more of the CP dollar to missions and, concomitantly, for states to keep less. A 50/50 split was the declared goal of many state conventions including the Florida Baptist Convention.

As I suspected/predicted almost two years ago when the FBC voted overwhelmingly for a 50/50 split, it is one thing to designate a 50/50 goal but quite another thing altogether to actually do what is necessary financially to get there.

It looks like the FBC, with predictable regrets, may abandon the goal of a 50/50 split. It hasn't happened yet but the groundwork is being laid by convention leadership and the matter is being discussed. I suspect that a rollback from the 50/50 goal is as sure an outcome as is the rising of the sun over the Atlantic rather than the Gulf of Mexico.

Baptist Press reported the other day about how 'Liquidity challenges' may loom for Fla. convention. 'Liquidity challenges' is a fancy way to say that the FBC cannot meet its current financial obligations. The story condensed opposing viewpoints of two Florida Baptist leaders (I do not think that the two opinion pieces in the Florida Baptist Witness are available online just yet). One view was that FBC spending must be cut to continue on the track to a 50/50 split while the other view implied that it was more important to keep CP dollars in Florida.

One FBC executive board member said,
 "... I don't want to see the Florida Baptist Convention come to a point where we can no longer do viable ministry here in Florida for the sake of sending monies somewhere else."
The proposed 2013 FBC budget keeps 58.5%, over $18 million, in the Sunshine State for  "viable ministry." in Florida where there are about 3000 churches and missions and a million members? That is better than many state conventions. 

No doubt the speaker supports international missions but differs on the funding proportion, implying that to do "viable ministry" in Florida requires the FBC to keep much more than half of every CP dollar.


One must acknowledge that state conventions have suffered far more in the last few years than other SBC entities. The FBC executive director claims that his state convention has suffered more than any other in this regard. Budgets have been slashed and then slashed again. Jobs have been cut. 

The question is whether or not churches value the work of the state conventions such that they are willing to continue allot over sixty percent of every CP dollar to in-state ministries or if this legacy allocation formula needs to be updated for the 21st Century. 


Since the Florida Baptist Convention is on a defined track to keep less in-state and give more of that CP dollar to SBC entities, mainly the mission boards, the question for churches is this: Do we believe that it is proper to cut international and north American missions funding to continue the same funding level for ministry expenses in our state?

Reading Baptist tea leaves is difficult but my sense about these funding decisions is that state conventions will do what is necessary to continue the historic funding proportions and we will never see anything close to a 50/50 split. As a result partly of that, churches will continue to give less to the Cooperative Program.

But to go back to my highlighted question above, just how much of each CP dollar should state conventions keep?




36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Much easier to address the question if one could see budgets at a very detailed level and also see the funding agreements between states and national entities. One is not likely to see either and all arguments to the rationality of such a disclosure will be dismissed as being harmful to the entities (i.e., not rational). And yes, enough people will buy it given it will further be couched as a God thing entrusted to his faithful servants.

Bart Barber said...

My state convention is in Texas. We forward 55% and keep only 45%. Even following this formula, we run budget surpluses every year and have given additional funding out of those surpluses (we've given some large checks to the IMB).

How can we do this? We have a constitutional limit that no more than 15% of our budget can go to institutions like universities or children's homes or other such things.

Frankly speaking, evaluated as a gospel enterprise these institutions are generally horrifically ineffective in terms of dollars spent per person converted, church planted, etc. One has to wonder whether the widow giving her tithe in the Sunday morning offering plate is giving sacrificially in order to make sure that another high school science teacher can graduate from East Texas Baptist University. I think she's more likely thinking about a missionary presenting the gospel in India.

The worst thing about our percentages at state convention levels is the fact that they represent a bait-and-switch with regard to the Cooperative Program. Is 60+% of the marketing of the Cooperative Program done with reference to wealthy universities that would really fare no differently at all if their CP allotments went away? Or do we primarily promote the CP by telling the stories of domestic church planters and international missionaries?

State conventions are needed. They are vitally important. They need to be strengthening churches and facilitating new work. If old-line state conventions will address their institutional support problems, 50% will be more than enough to carry their work forward.

John Wylie said...

Bart,

I really appreciate your comments. I personally think that the SBC should not be in the university business at all. How many times have Baptists subsidized some university to the tune of millions of dollars just to see it go apostate and sever ties with those who supported it? It's a losing proposition. True gospel missions should be receiving the lion's share of CP money.

Anonymous said...

"horrifically ineffective in terms of dollars spent per person converted"

Horrifically? Not that I can agree or disagree based on its vagueness, but what benchmarks exist to determine, apart from obvious misuse of funds, a proper amount of funding? If no reaping, is sowing to be devalued?

William Thornton said...

I appreciate the comments.

No one doubts that state conventions are staffed by good people who do good work and I have no doubt that every state convention can build a good case for their expenditures.

My question is one of efficiency and effectiveness: How much of each CP dollar should the states keep?

Are we in a time when the legacy percentages should be evaluated and changed, or should the IMB and NAMB learn to live with the 28 cents they receive out of each CP dollar because this is how we have divided it for scores of years?

Anonymous said...

"should"

There is no should, and as such the question cannot be answered; yet the question is bounded by the interplay of strategy, belief, power, and rationality.

Pragmatically, if the conversation begins with the budget, you will not likely get what you are asking for (given programming typically rises to the level of funding), but if you begin with, say, what are the things that we wish to accomplish (but see comment above), the question is a bit more accessible.

Anonymous said...

I have previously stated that each church should determine how their CP dollars given should be split. Let them send the check tot state convention but state clearly how much is to be forwarded to the national convention.

I am of the mindset that the state convention does not have to be nor should be the group which determines how the local church designates her dollars, once given.

This is simple but for some reason the way it is structured has made it difficult.

Jonathan said...

Bart describes a situation that is fairly unique. Compared to the conventions in the other Southern states (and the other one in his own state), his station convention is brand new. They didn't have all of the legacy costs and relationship (entanglements?) that the other state conventions have. While I say "Good on them!", I'd also suggest that it is asking the impossible for the other state conventions to take the dramatic steps required to meet some of the goals mentioned in just a few years time.

There's also the local church angle here. My church is one of the top mission giving churches in our area. At the same time, we're working to get our building paid off within the next ten years. This year, our building payment goal is equal to 10x our mission giving goal. I like our building (and it is modest by any standard for a church our size and in our previous situation) but we are now entangled in a situation where we're going to have see significant offering increases in order to continue to move in accordance with the vision of our leadership. If the offerings don't so increase, its not likely that we're going to decide default on the loan.

Churches through the SBC are in similar situations. Many state conventions, especially the older ones, are experiencing similar stresses.

Southern Baptists, at the local, state, and national level, are experiencing that awkward feeling when the power of rhetorical flourish runs into the wall of simple math.

Personally, I think that this will be a time of trial by fire and great learning.

Lee said...

The SBC is going through the transition of seeing people and money move from thousands of smaller churches, where the value of ministry cooperation through state conventions is high, to large churches that require large amounts of money to operate their internally focused ministries aimed at drawing people in, mostly through transfer growth. The larger churches don't see a state convention as a valued cooperative ministry, because it is a cost that doesn't have a direct impact on helping them draw people into their church.

One of the things I find really shocking is that there are at least two people here who have mentioned getting Southern Baptists out of the university business. Those universities, for the most part, were at the core of providing the churches with the trained ministry that they needed to engage in the kind of evangelism that caused the SBC to grow into one of the largest, and most evangelistic denominations in the US. But in the backward and provincial way that the SBC sometimes does business, universities became fiefs of influential alumni, who pushed the schools to build more buildings, incur more debt, to recruit more students to train in fields that were not directly related to denominational ministry. As a consequence, the influential alumni have dragged some of the schools away from their Biblical roots, leaving state conventions with waning influence, and wondering why they are spending precious donated dollars on what has become a fraction of the total cost of operating a private University. Not all of them are at that point, some are still valuable training centers for those who are going to the mission field or vocational ministry. Southern Baptist state conventions would do well to give this a harder look. Georgia has tightened up its control of Shorter University, and is moving it in this direction. It would be hard to do that if state conventions cut the amount of CP money they keep in state. It doesn't necessarily contribute to a heart-string pulling, emotional tug motivation to give to "missions" but it is, IMHO, an excellent and well justified expense for a state convention.

Tom Parker said...

Lee:

Are you saying that precious CP dollars are going to "liberal" Southern Baptist universities?

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous,

The standard for evaluation is given in that very sentence. How many dollars go to these institutions for each person that they lead to Christ through their operations or each church that is planted through their operations. I'm willing to calculate, with regard to educational institutions, the percentage of their student body that leads somebody to Christ or plants (or strengthens) a church.

Bart Barber said...

Jonathan,

There's nothing preventing any state convention from having a relationship structure just like ours. Universities have not been timid in the last two decades about dramatically altering their relationships with the state conventions. Does that road only run one way?

Bart Barber said...

Lee,

I've been a pastor for 20+ years now. We've sent students off to Baptist universities of various sizes, other private universities, and public state universities. I've watched the results carefully. And now, as I contemplate the education of my own children, I wouldn't make ANY effort at all to steer my children toward a Baptist university. I wouldn't prevent them from going to one, but I wouldn't encourage them in that direction at all, either.

I will, however, encourage them to attend somewhere where there is a strong, Bible-preaching church that they can attend. I have an Associate Pastor on my staff who grew up in our church and went away to the University of Oklahoma. At this public university, he attended a wonderful church. One of our Baptist schools got three solid, active members of our youth group. None of them were in church when they left there. One was a lesbian. One was disillusioned with the institutional church. The final one went off to find herself for a while. None of them connected with a church while they were in school, but they were all heavily involved in BCM.

So, I think state conventions should invest in university churches, not universities. There's nothing personal about this: I just think that's a better, more effective investment in terms of lives changed per dollar spent.

Anonymous said...

“One was a lesbian. One was disillusioned with the institutional church. The final one went off to find herself for a while. None of them connected with a church while they were in school, but they were all heavily involved in BCM.”

Therefore, let’s not support baptist universities.

Sloppy reasoning and anecdotal evidence at best. Let’s take them one at a time:

1) Lesbian. And Baptist churches are centers of hospitality to the LGBT community?

2) Disillusioned with the institutional church. For good reason and such is the source of income for many an evangelical writer.

3) To find herself. Which is very appropriate for one in this age group. To find her own religion rather than borrow that of another is typically encouraged.

That they were not involved in a local church is not uncommon or even necessarily unhealthy among college-age individuals, but let us not dismiss the fact they were involved in BCM, thus the religious conversation is or was ongoing. A good thing.

The argument Bart is making seemingly is that the college did not ground them well. But if Bart insists on this, he also needs to acknowledge the possibility that his church did not ground them well, either. I would not argue for either, however, but such is not out of the realm of possibility. The place I would make the argument is the integrity of the college and the processes that it engages, and when it comes to spiritual formation, not all develop at the same rate and rejection of some forms of religious programming is not rejection of religion.

That being said, it does seem that the day for denominational colleges is past. The support they typically receive from churches and conventions is insignificant to the overall financing they require; but not to deter some, some entity leaders still wish for control beyond their support. Some denominational colleges have lost their way and think the future is a return to more sectarianism. Quite the opposite is the likely case. It’s OK to allow for a particular heritage to be part of the general education curriculum, but it is important to allow space for other traditions. Build the curriculum around respect and religion will have its best chance to be dynamic, engaging, and meaningful. Can a fundamentalist embrace these goals?

Lee said...

Bart,
The research being done by Lifeway, Barna, and other sources is discovering that 80 to 85% of the high school students who are active in their youth groups during high school have pretty much left the church by the time they've completed college. I tend to think that is much more the result of 13+ years spent in the government owned and operated public school system, and that the independence that suddenly becomes part of their life when they go to college is the springboard for that to occur. I don't know that any research has been done to demonstrate that attending a Baptist related college would decrease the odds of them leaving or not, but I think that they're probably not going to bother looking for that great college church if the self-discipline and expectations of family aren't there. I've met a lot of people who graduated from ultra-conservative, or even fundamentalist universities and colleges who won't go near the entrance to a church anymore, and others, who went to some regular, run of the mill Baptist colleges who serve their church either as a layperson or vocationally. But I think a strong Baptist college, where the truth of scripture hasn't been compromised, is a deterrent to young people leaving, and can be a major contributor to both the vocational and voluntary leadership of a local congregation.

Bart Barber said...

Pretty ironic, anonymous, that I'm essentially advocating for Baptists to consider sending their children to ANY university, secular or private, religious or not, and you're wrapping up your comment by asking whether we narrow fundamentalists can broaden our minds to consider providing space for other traditions in education.

Bart Barber said...

Lee,

Maybe so. But I'll take the influence of a local church over the influence of a religiously affiliated university any day of the week. It costs less and accomplishes more, in my opinion.

I'm really not advancing the argument that Baptist universities are evil. Rather, I'm suggesting that as a MINISTRY, most of them cost too much and return too little.

For another example, the largest Baptist university in Texas is Texas A&M. I've lost count of the up-and-coming leaders in our state convention—bright minds and hot hearts—who are Aggies. No CP money goes to the administration of Texas A&M, but we're getting great leaders from there. Whatever extra benefit might be coming from a Baptist university, it has to compete with the zero-cost return coming from a state university like A&M.

Bart Barber said...

William,

It occurs to me that this might be my first time to comment on your blog. Forgive me for not taking the very first comment to thank you for hosting the conversation and for providing good content for the Internet. May God bless you.

William Thornton said...

Thanks Bart. I get your feed and read it also.

I share your view of Baptist colleges, three of which make up a good chunk of the Georgia Baptist Convention's budget. More on that later...

Anonymous said...

“Pretty ironic, anonymous, that I'm essentially advocating for Baptists to consider sending their children to ANY university, secular or private, religious or not, and you're wrapping up your comment by asking whether we narrow fundamentalists can broaden our minds to consider providing space for other traditions in education.”

But, of course, such is not what you have stated, Bart. Consider the following: “I wouldn't make ANY effort at all to steer my children toward a Baptist university.” What you don’t say is what schools you would suggest, but it pleases me that you may find value in schools beyond those controlled by baptists. The larger argument is about financing baptist schools and comments have been that they are, seemingly, not faithful with their heritage; therefore, it appears, let’s not expect religious formation and knowledge to take place in these institutions; rather, let’s stress university churches, instead, for these outcomes, and finance them, instead. OK, but I doubt the range of religious thought and norms of respect for such will be found in said churches receiving CP funds. One need only read comments about religious pluralism at sites such as SBC Voices to know such would be met with strong disapproval. So the question remains, “will a fundamentalist support environments where religious pluralism is the norm and is encouraged?” This is the world in which we live and the one we would do well to understand and operate more effectively.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymouse,

The answer to your question is no. Why would those who believe in the truth labor to fund the dissemination of lies? Permit others to disseminate the lies? Yes. I'm a firm believer in religious liberty. But that includes my liberty to fund the truth.

Anonymous said...

And to use your religious liberty with such distinction to address one as 'Anonymouse.' They lie but you are gracious.

John Wylie said...

Anonymous,

I suspect that you wouldn't want to financially support a fundamental baptist school with your personal funds would you? Why in the world would baptists want to support religious pluralism with theirs? Education is not an end unto itself, the goal of baptist education is to disseminate the gospel of Christ. Somewhere down the line we forgot that and we pumped millions of baptist dollars into schools that went apostate.

Anonymous said...

John, fundamentalists are part of the world just as liberals are, and it is better that each interact with the other than ignore that the other exists. Education in which a multiplicity of religious viewpoints is present and respectfully interacting is more likely in a baptist college than in a baptist church.

John Wylie said...

Anonymous,

But would you personally want to financially support a baptist fundamental institution? And you're right it is more likely in a baptist college than a baptist church, that's why I don't want the SBC in the university business. Churches are not mandated by the NT to promote or propagate religious pluralism or secular education but to proclaim the Gospel. The answer is not in education.

Tom Parker said...

John:

Approximately how many universities does the SBC financially support?

Anonymous said...

John, I answered your question, but I will try again. Every check I write to the church goes to SBC and CBF. That is, every check provides support for colleges and universities associated with each. I do not designate.

You have no traction with me on this particular issue given I am for engagement and respect for the other having a difference. While there is 'whack' out there, what counts for such we will likely disagree if apostate status for current baptist colleges is the standard. Some in SBC have denounced ministers like Terry Jones, only to repeat his attitude.

Again, baptist colleges would do well to have an emphasis on their tradition, but if they wish to thrive, they would do well to allow for difference. But will Baptist leaders allow for such, thinking instead that doing so would be unfaithful. Many will affirm the latter and as they do, they will continually see the demise of these institution AND the influence that their tradition might have on SMART people.

William said...

None, although the SBC funds through the CP six seminaries. There are undergrad programs at many (all?) of them.

State conventions fund most of the Baptist universities and colleges. Here in GA the GBC funds one pretty strong one, one on life support, and a third that is in turmoil. The three eat up about 10% of the GBC budget which is more than NAMB gets through the budget.

I am with Bart Barber on the value of Baptist colleges but it is tough to fight established constituencies.

Anonymous said...

What attributes, which seem to be missing, are needed for an evaluation of 'value' for a baptist college?

William Thornton said...

I am not dissatisfied with public colleges and universities. Others can make the case for a Baptist college. $4m per year is serious money.

Anonymous said...

This is not a helpful reply. If it is tough to fight against SBC schools, assuming, then, you will not, why not speak to what is needed to make them of 'value?'

On average, I think public colleges and universities do a better job than baptist colleges, but given changes to higher ed, under the right leadership, they could be a more and very attractive alternative than currently perceived.

But if they are not going to be funded for not being mentioned in scripture, or the souls to cost benefit is too low (Bart's argument), then SBC will need to defund other things it does, too. If it is something that is beyond the ability of the conventions to fund, then it can make good sense to spend its money elsewhere and if souls to cost is the measure, then be consistent. If they are going to be defunded, have a responsible, consistent argument.

John Wylie said...

Tom,

When I use the term SBC I'm referring to all of its affiliates as well, like state conventions.

Anon,

I want you to know that I'm not trying have any traction with you, just trying to state my opinion. I just can't imagine using baptist dollars to promote religious pluralism. I certainly cannot see one principle in scripture that leads me to believe that Christ would have us be a party to such things. Just my opinion just like you have stated your opinion.

Anonymous said...

As a congregation, your celebrations are more constrained as would be normative for educational institutions with a liberal arts mission. It's too bad that some Baptist schools are shrinking from engagement, thus lowering their appeal and influence. I see nothing in scripture about becoming irrelevant.

John Wylie said...

The Gospel has always been irelevant insofar as this world's philosophy is concerned. The Gospel is only relevant to those who will recieve it. I see quite a few scriptures that tell us to have nothing to do with that which is false.

Anonymous said...

That he or she does not perceive the relevance of scripture does not render such as irrelevant, but it does to the perceiver; but for one to remove oneself from the perceiver due to his or her 'falseness' is to increase the likelihood that one will become irrelevant to him or her and the religion that the one holds even more so given it is thought by him or her to have had little or no impact on the one. Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket? When we seek to protect the faith rather than let it glow, we have chosen irrelevance for it, but where it is allowed to glow it reveals us and the other to each other in a manner that the only response that has integrity is to act with humility. I know; it is very difficult, but it is very possible. Yet if the one cannot find it within oneself to do so, independent of one's religious assertions to the contrary, one has chosen irrelevance for self and scripture.

Jonathan said...

Bart: "There's nothing preventing any state convention from having a relationship structure just like ours. Universities have not been timid in the last two decades about dramatically altering their relationships with the state conventions. Does that road only run one way?"

Bart, its all a matter of self interest. The universities did what they've done because it was in their own self interest to move away from the (control of the) state conventions.

The much older state conventions are chock full of many more constituencies (compared to yours), each of which have self interest that competes within a state. For the older states to move toward the streamlined giving plan that your state convention uses, they would have eliminate a great deal of the work that they are currently doing. Folks don't like turning loose of jobs and funding.

Like it or not, the burden is not on the states to make the church. The burden is on the SBC and her various entities to convince the states to make the change. So far, the "convincing" has consisted largely of arbitrary and unilateral moves.

The era of "We're from the SBC and we know best" has been over for some time.