Sunday, August 24, 2014

UPDATED: Great Commission Giving vs Cooperative Program Giving, how's that working out?

We now have three years of the reporting of our new SBC giving metric, Great Commission Giving. GCG is an aggregate figure that is intended to report on our beloved Annual Church Profile (my state calls it the Annual Church Report, not sure if this is SBC-wide change or not) all giving to SBC and state convention causes including Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, any direct gifts to one's local association, to the seminaries or other SBC entities, and any direct gifts to any state convention entities such as children's homes, etc. All giving to Southern Baptist causes should be included in a church's GCG figure.

(I note here that there are a couple of caveats to whatever GCG statistics one uses, (a) it is a self-reported figure by churches not independently verified by a state convention or other entity. If a church chooses to toss into their GCG money given to Samaritan's Purse, the Gideons or whatever, no one can ferret that out, and (b) some states don't ask the same questions on their ACP. Generally though, figures reported as GCG are valid for comparison purposes.)

So, how's our mission giving looking in the SBC with our new measure?

Depends on ones point of view. Those who have a higher reverence for the Cooperative Program will not be happy Baptist campers these days because they believe that the very fact that churches are asked to report GCG undermines the CP. I think this is mixed up thinking. Those who think that all money given by a Southern Baptist church that goes to any SBC, associational, or state convention entity is good, healthy, and should be celebrated will be pleased.

Cooperative Program Giving

2010-2011    $488m
2011-2012      481m
2012-2013      482m

Great Commission Giving

2010-2011     $696m
2011-2012       744m
2012-2013       777m

Notice any trends?

Cooperative Program giving has declined by 1.2% over this period while Great Commission Giving has increased by 11.6%.

Since GCG includes CP gifts the trend is even more marked if one extracts out CP and just measures the non-CP Great Commission Giving. In the above period the increase was an astounding 41.8%

But let's not get too excited. Southern Baptist churches are just beginning to report these numbers. Throw a curve ball at pastors and church secretarys and many will likely swing and miss a couple of times before they hit it. I don't think that GCG has grown nearly as aggressively as these figures show but rather churches are beginning to report more accurately their actual giving. One should probably throw out the 2011 figures for GCG altogether.

With all these caveats, provisos, and addenda can we begin to draw any conclusions about Southern Baptist giving trends?

I think so. There's not a lot new here. For some time it has been crystal clear that these trends are present:

1. Churches are giving less to the Cooperative Program. Duh. Plodder states the obvious. The tiny increase in giving of 2013 over 2012 is in my view just a temporary tick upward in the decades long trend of decline. The Executive Committee's fiscal year ends in a few weeks. I predict that the CP will show another decrease.

2. Churches are giving slightly more to the two major mission offerings - Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. Our churches have always held strong commitments to international missions and the LMCO has had some modest increases the past few years. After some years of turmoil and dysfunction, our North American Mission Board has stable leadership and a program, Send North America, that is appealing to many Southern Baptist pastors and churches. The AAEO has seen some very healthy inreases as a result.

3. Churches are showing a slight increase in other designated, direct funding of SBC, state convention, and, associational causes. The portion of GCG that is not Cooperative Program or the two mission offerings makes up only about 10% of the total GCG but it is a growing component.

So what do we make of all this?

Some Cooperative Program supporters believe that the very act of reporting GCG motivates churches to give less to the CP. I think not.

My conclusion is that GCG merely reflects the same trends shown by the choices of churches in their mission giving - less to the Cooperative Program, more to Annie and Lottie, more directly to some SBC entities and causes.

Can anything be done to change the trends?

I think not much. No one is putting forth a compelling plan for any Cooperative Program increase. Since most CP dollars stay with the states, do you see anyone raising the battle cry that state conventions need more funding? I don't. The best we can expect is that the CP will reach a floor as a percentage of church receipts. It's a bit above 5% now.

Some major SBC leaders are talking of finding ways to do more with less from the CP and at the same time find a way to get even more funding to missions. One can translate this to conclude that the CP is seen as a valuable asset but more of a legacy brand whose limitations are known, whose consistent downward trajectory should be managed and minimized. Correspondingly, those core mission entities such as the seminaries, IMB, and NAMB are casting about for alternative funding sources that might yield more revenues. The end result is that the CP, while still a giving powerhouse for our ministries, simply isn't what it used to be nor will it ever ascend to earlier heights.

It seems that it is a fait accompli that the CP will decrease and other giving methods will increase.

I would be happy to be persuaded otherwise. Someone put forth a workable plan.

Update: David Platt, our new IMB leader, is a good example of the trends above. His church gave a little to the CP, direct gifts to the SBC Executive Committee, large Lottie Moon offerings, and large direct gifts to the IMB for particular partnership projects. He is one who clearly has concluded that the Cooperative Program as currently structured, while valuable to us, is insufficient for the needs of our time in regard to The Great Commission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a bunch of bookkeeping tricks. The bottom line is that the SBC is dying a slow and agonizing death and noone seems to know what to do.