Monday, July 15, 2013

What's wrong with this Cooperative Program picture?

The photo above is from the Executive Committee's publication, SBCLife. It is found leading the story, North Carolina Pastors Lead in 1% CP Challenge.

This is a very distinguished looking quintet of outstanding NC pastors who have led their churches to accept Frank Page's Cooperative Program increase plan called the "1% CP Challenge." The plan asks churches to increase their CP percentage of undesignated giving by one percent, i.e., if a church is giving the average of about 5% then increase that by 1 to 6%.

The plan is typical of past CP increase efforts in that it merely asks for more giving. While I wish the Executive Committee would be more creative, "give us more money" being limited in its cachet, I understand that their options are limited.

So, what is wrong with the photo of the five nattily attired reverends who are "leading" North Carolina Baptist pastors and whose churches are increasing their CP percentages?

What's wrong, and perhaps I should say rather, what is missing, is that these are all men of a certain age. I'd guess that the youngest is in his sixth decade.

Nothing wrong with that, it's just that if the Cooperative Program is to have a sunny future, if the CP is to stop its decades long, lugubrious slide downward, then some younger pastors must be found and persuaded to increase their giving. We who are long in the tooth are looking at retirement drawing a lot closer and will not be in position to influence CP giving any longer.

The present Executive Committee staff is relatively open and transparent about CP giving, posting revenues each month, by state, and publicizing the same. In spite of growing church receipts, increasing Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings, decreasing unemployment, and a modestly recovering econonmy, the CP continues to languish. This is cause for concern.

I appreciate the vision of the five notable pastors shown above by which they inform and lead their congregations in increasing giving to our main denominational support plan, but the solution to CP woes is found among those with less gray hair. Touting the CP to the over 50 crowd is like preaching to the choir. They are already on board but 'Amens' are nice wherever one find them.

The Cooperative Program has a problem with younger pastors and SBCers. Recent research shows a clear differential in attitudes of younger pastors relative to their older counterparts. No surprise here.

The question is what can be done about it and I'm not seeing any new ideas, any in-depth research about younger pastor's attitudes, any focus groups, any thirtysomething advisory panels, or any potential ideas floated or tested to see if they can be made to work.


Anonymous said...

I would advocate for the one percentage point change over the one percent change, but the latter is more likely than the former to be the result if a positive result occurs. But I hope for the former.

Here is where the "dollars not percentages" philosophy has hurt SBC efforts; that is, several decades of smaller church neglect and a focus on absolute dollars has resulted in low socialization toward CP among churches that would have otherwise perceived themselves to be valued contributing members of the convention. The "dollars not percentages" attitude has, instead, left them asking of the SBC, "where's the love?" These churches are the ones that ministers serve after seminary, where pre-minted and newly-minted pastors are still forming their attitudes toward ministry and the SBC.

Fewer white hairs (due to previous socialization effects) than preferred will attempt the one percentage point increase, and far fewer than preferred younger pastors (due to current socialization effects) will try. On one Baptist blog it was stated that perhaps with the SBC showing smaller numbers than it is accustomed to that it is actually becoming stronger and pure. Perhaps it is having problems because of leadership, broadly defined. Then again, if pure is the goal, SBC is going in the right direction; a pure church is one in which there are no congregants ... and no need for CP, for either a one percentage point or one percent change.

William said...

I may have been unclear here. The CP increase program aims at an attitional 1% of undesignated church giving. That additional percentage point for the average SBC church would be about an 18% increase in that church's total CP giving, in dollars.

The dollars vs percentages is a false and unfruitful tack to pursue on this, IMO. I will do a separate post at another time and would appreciate your contribution.

Anonymous said...

I linked "dollars not percentages" to socialization effects, thus showing a connection to your point that younger pastor support is needed (and my point on why such will not likely result as desired). On what do you base false and unfruitful?

To get at creative approaches for generating and sustaining greater CP involvement, thus doing more than "give us more money", as you suggest, the institution needs, in addition to adding something new, to also "not do somethings old."

TOM PARKER said...


I do not understand why the younger ministers in the SBC are not involved in the major decision making such as those involving the CP?

Do you have an opinion as to why they are not?

William Thornton said...

They are involved at the level it counts the most - their own local church. I'll say more later but the CP is frozen at the SBC level and responsive at the state level only when money is a problem.

Justin said...

As a young Pastor I would input that I have led both churches i've pastored to increase CP giving. Both churches were in decline long before I arrived and the first thing they cut was CP giving. The problem is not the lack of concern for the CP by younger pastors, but rather the lack of faith among established church members to continue giving. When 75%+of our churches are in decline then it is only logical that CP giving will follow that trend.

Anonymous said...

“The problem is not the lack of concern for the CP by younger pastors, but rather the lack of faith among established church members to continue giving.”

This is an important comment. Two explicit comments and one seemingly implicit comment:

1) Problem is not younger pastor support,

2) Problem is lack of faith among those in the congregation, and

3) Institutional practice has no influence on giving patterns.

Thus, the problem is neither 1 or 3 but 2. Does this adequately provide a way forward?

Lee said...

I've watched this develop over a long period of time. The SBC, when it comes to pastors, has been a "monkey see, monkey do" organization for a long, long time. Everyone has their megachurch pastor that they admire. So when you get those churches to stop tipping the CP, and actually make the kind of sacrificial gift that smaller churches are asked, and expected to give, the contributions will increase. I understand the "dollars vs. percentages" argument, but when the dollars from a church like Second Baptist Houston, or Prestonwood in Dallas, or FBC Jacksonville, or Bellevue in Memphis, or FBC Atlanta, do not match those given by a mid-sized First Baptist Church somewhere in Mississippi, it is going to be hard to convince others to give more. Until the SBC holds its mega church pastors and congregations, especially those from which the leadership is drawn, accountable for a responsible level of giving, the CP will continue to languish and decrease.