Monday, June 20, 2016

Great Commission Giving: The metric that can't get any respect in the SBC

One would think that giving by SBC churches to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon offering, Annie Armstrong offering, state mission offering, associational offering, their local association, state convention, mission boards, seminaries, children's homes, Baptist colleges, ministries for the aging, hospitals, recovery programs, disaster relief programs, direct partnership projects with our International and North American Mission Boards, and a range of other Southern Baptist national, state convention, or associational causes would be something to be praised and commended. We would all be for such giving, right? No one would object to celebrating such giving, right?

Not quite right. All of the above giving is what makes up Great Commission Giving, the giving metric that just can't seem to get any respect among us.

Here's what the The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Final Report said about Great Commission Giving:

We will recognize the total of all monies channeled through the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention, the state conventions, and associations as Great Commission Giving.
We call upon all Southern Baptists to celebrate every dollar given by faithful Southern Baptists as part of Great Commission Giving, including designated gifts given to any Baptist association, state convention, and to the causes of the Southern Baptist Convention.
We affirm that designated gifts to special causes are to be given as a supplement to the Cooperative Program and not as a substitute for Cooperative Program giving. 
 ...we will call upon Southern Baptists to give as never before, to support the Cooperative Program as never before, and to celebrate every church’s eager and sacrificial support of Great Commission Giving at every level.
Here are the totals for Great Commission Giving since the giving category's inception, in millions of dollars:

2011        696
2012        744
2013        777
2014        638
2015        613

Aha! GCG has been dropping for the past couple of years, right?


From the get-go, people complained that GCG would divert money from the Cooperative Program; thus, some churches and state conventions have refused to report GCG. In the most recent statistical report for the SBC, five state conventions do not ask for a number for GCG and LifeWay gives an orphan chart for "Other 2015 Items - Not Asked By All State Conventions" that duly footnotes the five state conventions that do not ask their churches for a figure for GCG.

Maybe the thinking is that if I don't like GCG, I can ignore it altogether and maybe it will go away.

Add to state convention recalcitrance the utter confusion among pastors and churches about exactly what is meant by Great Commission Giving and you've got a recipe for a generally worthless statistic. I regularly read pastors talking about GCG who convey an understanding that GCG is one category of giving and CP is another. GCG includes both. 

Well, no one tells Southern Baptist pastors, churches, or state conventions what to do, what to ask, or how to count. 

We don't have the means to determine an accurate, convention-wide figure for Great Commission Giving. Even if every state convention clearly defined what it is and asked for it in their Annual Church Profile report, it's a certainly that pastors and churches would respond with their own definitions of GCG. Some would include CP in the figure, some would not. 

But I doubt that the most strident critic of the statistic would argue that GCG is not growing. We have a record Lottie Moon offering for 2015. The Annie Armstrong offering is close to the record. SBC churches collected $406 million more in 2015 than the previous year. Since GCG is mostly CP + LM + AA, and those three total to more than the $613 million reported as GCG for 2015, GCG is increasing. It looks like many in the SBC just don't want anyone to know it. If that constitutes a Cooperative Program growth strategy it is a pretty pathetic one.

Frankly, it doesn't really matter if LifeWay cannot collect an accurate figure for GCG. Southern Baptist churches are trending towards designated giving while keeping the Cooperative Program about the same, perhaps with a tiny fractional increase. That's the way it is. That's the way it has been for a generation and a half now.

Pity the poor GCG. Although it is growing, it just cannot get any respect. But at least it gets talked about. 

Whatever happened to Great Commission Baptists anyway?

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