Saturday, June 6, 2015

Cooperative Program and the new CEO of the Florida Baptist state convention

The only thing I invest in Florida is an occasional chunk of tourist money. The only thing I bring out of Florida is sunburn and a few fish. But I do think events concerning the Florida Baptist Convention are interesting, since it is one of the largest of the state conventions and one of the heaviest contributors to the Cooperative Program on the national level.

In 2014 FBC churches, through their state convention, sent almost $30 million to the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville to be allocated mainly to the mission boards and seminaries. In 2014 the FBC kept 58.63 percent of every CP dollar it received from FBC churches.

In the way most states present their accounting, they use certain traditional techniques to explain how a CP dollar is divided (often called the "split") between their state convention and the national CP allocation budget. The accounting always makes the split appear not to be as unfavorable to the mission boards and seminaries as it looks. I've always considered this accounting to be confusing if not mildly, though not nefariously, deceptive.

Florida has said that a 50/50 split is in the works. I have doubted it would ever arrive because of the accounting system, not that my doubts have any meaning south of the St. Mary's River.

But now Florida has a new Executive who is about a generation younger that their long-serving one who just retired. The new guy, J. Thomas Green, will present a budget this year to the FBC in session which, in his words, "will have a budget that gives away 51 percent and keeps 49 percent."

Goodbye, 59/50; sayonara, 50/50. So long, funny accounting. Hello, 49/51.

This reminds me of similar action taken by the new CEO in Iowa, a much, much smaller state convention. Their split was moved by a new CEO from 85/15 to a "true" 50/50" in one fell swoop. No more funny accounting there either.

Why the sudden shift? Why not slow and steady?

Green, who is 57, about two decades younger than his predecessor, said that the goal was in part to "get the 30-somethings and 40-something-year-olds back into the mix." He commented that the convention had been working towards a 50/50 split for five years and that "we need to do it immediately." He adds that the change is the right thing to do even if this doesn't accomplish what he expects or desires.

I would like the thinking of my new state CEO were I in Florida.

Here's a new executive who will start by having to cut funding in order to give Cooperative Program money away (not just toss it in the air but see that it gets outside the state and to the mission boards and seminaries) and do so in part because he thinks this will demonstrate serious change in thinking about the CP to younger FBC pastors who are not CP enthusiasts.

My anecdotal reading of attitudes is that younger pastors are general not engaged or enthused by the Cooperative Program and, when they find out how the accounting disguises the actual distribution of the funds, they move from mild apathy to cynicism and conclude that their mission dollars are better spent elsewhere. Perhaps others read the attitudes differently. I doubt that there are many who wouldn't recognize that the attitudes of younger pastors towards the CP do not bode well for its future.

Tommy Green, the new FBC CEO, may not have solved the problem but he has done something that will get the attention of his younger colleagues.

How much difference will it make?

No one knows but if I were a pastor in Florida, I'd like what I see.


Interview of the new CEO in the Florida Baptist Witness: Tommy Green talks about everything...

Baptist21, younger dude Southern Baptist site interview: Beyond Fifty Percent: B21interview with Tommy Green

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