Monday, October 8, 2012

What Mission Offering Do SBCers Value More?

Southern Baptists value Annie and Lottie more than the Cooperative Program, a fact shown by their behavior over the last few years since the economic meltdown.

While revenues for our two major mission offerings, Annie Armstrong for our North American Mission Board and Lottie Moon for our International Mission Board, have declined significantly since 2007, their losses have been markedly less than that of the Cooperative Program.

The graph above shows Annie, Lottie, and the Cooperative Program receipts of the SBC Executive Committee for the years 2007-2011. The reporting for these offerings is on different schedules so the time periods represented are slightly different. Of the three offerings, only the Cooperative Program has shown no material increase in any of the past five years.

One can make their own judgments as to the reasons why, but it seems to be a statement of the obvious to conclude that Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches see more value in putting their mission dollars into the giving channels which focus on North American and international missions.

Sure, the CP does contribute significantly to the budgets of the two mission boards but when churches and individuals have to choose, they have chosen to maintain giving levels of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong as best they can in difficult times rather than the Cooperative Program.

Whenever there is a discussion of the Cooperative Program, some contributors will comment on their displeasure with the proportional division of the CP which puts less than twenty cents on the CP dollar in the IMB and less than a dime for NAMB. The understanding that Lottie and Annie bypass this reduction is an incentive for churches to put relatively more emphasis on the mission offerings than on the Cooperative Program.

Regardless, it will be good when we can go back to black ink on all three of them.


Rick Patrick said...

William, there does exist an alternative explanation for these results, which does not invest meaning into the DESTINATION of missions giving, whether it be primarily international (Lottie), national (Annie) or state (CP).

Instead, one can focus on the SOURCE of missions giving, which is to say that most giving toward Annie and Lottie comes through an annual LOVE OFFERING emphasis, whereas most giving through the Cooperative Program comes through the church BUDGET.

I propose that the recession has squeezed "budget funds" much more tightly than it has squeezed "designated funds." I realize that money is money, but my experience has been that one can often raise resources off budget when it would be nearly impossible to change a line item in a budget.

As we consider the relative weakness of CP giving compared with the missions offerings, we need to realize that these gifts are not only HEADED to different missions locations, but also ORIGINATED from different church funding locations.

Tim Dahl said...

I agree that the sources of the offerings make a big difference. In our little church, we cut CP giving along with salaries. However, no one wanted to touch the offerings. Back a few years ago someone mentioned the idea of taking up these special offerings to help the church instead of the MSO (mission sending organization). They were promptly chastised by a couple of elderly saints, and it was never brought up again.

I also think it is easier for people to cut a budget line item than it is a Love/Special/Missions Offering.

On a side note, we raised $100 over our stated goal for Annie this year! All this in the midst of some pretty hard financial times.


William Thornton said...

That is a reasonable point, Rick, and Tim has the obvious response. While churches have different ways they handle both budget and special offerings, I surmise that the reason CP has declined more than LM and AA offerings is that both churches and individuals thought it more important to maintain, as best they could, giving to the special offerings and that the reason for this is that they see greater Kingdom value in them than in the CP.

That is not to diminish the CP as being critical to our SBC work but does express what I hear often in these discussions, that we should be doing more proportionately for NAMB and IMB.

One figure I would like to see is how many churches budget for LM and AA. I do not think that this figure is collected at any SBC level but my sense is that more churches are doing this that previously.