For the first time in Southern Baptist Convention history, dating back to 1929 when a unified national budget was first proposed, designated receipts topped Cooperative Program gifts distributed by the SBC Executive Committee.
Moreover, what was a historical precedent in 2013 was repeated in 2014, making it the second time for this phenomenon to occur since the Great Commission Resurgence reforms were approved in 2010.
Now, the SBC Executive Committee has released the final numbers for 2015, indicating a third straight year of upended giving, with Baptist Press reporting Oct. 2 that gifts through the Cooperative Program amounted to more than $189 million, but designated giving exceeded $195 million.
Although this apparent new norm has taken place since the GCR reforms were approved (including the creation of a new category for giving, “Great Commission Giving” to “celebrate every dollar given”), information published in the SBC Annual shows this phenomenon has been developing since 2004.
That year the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering leapt by more than $20 million and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering jumped by $5 million, with the combined increases bringing designated giving within $854,987 of overtaking the Cooperative Program as the preferred channel for funding Southern Baptists’ national causes.
2015 $189,160,231 $195,013,413
2014 $186,567,611 $194,678,166
2013 $188,001,276 $193,106,286
2012 $191,678,994 $190,744,940
2011 $191,878,645 $191,878,066
2010 $191,763,153 $191,324,526
2009 $199,822,090 $193,175,951
2008 $204,385,593 $203,016,164
2007 $205,716,834 $204,996,501
2006 $200,601,536 $191,428,618
2005 $195,948,423 $189,729,834
2004 $189,865,255 $189,010,268
2003 $183,201,694 $165,985,967
2002 $182,323,110 $170,092,122
2001 $176,962,402 $170,947,075
2000 $178,298,880 $163,269,485
But, there has been a dramatic shift since 2010 as well.
Unfortunately, looking at the 12-year transition year-by-year masks within the data the dramatic impact the move toward designated giving has had on Southern Baptists’ cooperative missions and ministries.
But, using 2010 contributions as a baseline and comparing each succeeding year to that benchmark reveals an obvious shift toward a preference for designated giving that has had a negative effect on funding for all national ministries that receive CP support.
However, this method also shows the two mission boards have been able to offset the loss in CP funds with gains in designated giving through their respective annual special offerings.
During this four-year span, the Cooperative Program experienced a cumulative loss of $8.9 million in gifts, while the two special offerings saw a combined $28.5 million windfall.
NOTE: 2015 data is not included in the calculations below because AAEO and LMCO information is not available.
2014 $186,567,611 – $5,195,542
2013 $188,001,276 – $3,761,877
2012 $191,678,994 – $84,159
2011 $191,878,645 + $115,492
2010 $191,763,153 —————
2014 $58,151,828 + $3,810,137
2013 $57,004,211 + $2,662,520
2012 $54,471,057 – $129,366
2011 $56,040,868 + $1,699,177
2010 $54,341,691 —————
2014 $153,002,394 + $7,339,469
2013 $154,057,852 + $8,394,927
2012 $149,276,304 + $3,613,379
2011 $146,828,116 + $1,165,191
2010 $145,662,925 —————
The IMB and NAMB receive large shares of the SBC Allocation Budget, 50.41 percent and 22.79 percent, respectively (more than 73 percent, combined) and both experienced significant CP losses from 2011-2014 relative to the baseline year of 2010—about $4.5 million (IMB) and $2 million (NAMB). But each receives 100 percent of their corresponding special offering. So during this timeframe, the IMB netted an extra $16 million and NAMB’s funding was boosted by $6 million, overall, when CP losses are balanced against the respective gains each saw in designated receipts.
LOTS OF MOVING PARTS
In looking at the overall picture, there are a number of factors in play:
— SBC churches are receiving fewer contributions to the extent that undesignated gifts to our 46,500 churches dropped from a little more than $8.91 billion in 2010 to less than $8.75 billion in 2014 (a loss of about $163 million in gifts).
— During this timeframe, these same congregations experienced a loss of 520,980 weekly attendees (6,195,449 worshippers in 2010, and 5,674,469 in 2014), and this has had a profound impact on giving to state and national causes.
— Meanwhile, the first of the Baby Boomers reached retirement age on January 1, 2011. Importantly, on that day, as well as each day since, 10,000 members of this generational cohort turned 65 years old (representing a jump of about 3,000 persons reaching that age per day). As pertaining to SBC giving, many Southern Baptists have transitioned from earning a salary to receiving social security payments and retirement disbursements, affecting what they are able to contribute.
Yet, despite these negative data points, on average, it appears Southern Baptists are giving more than they have before on an individual basis: about $103 more per person per year (nearly $1,541 in 2014 compared to $1,438 plus in 2010), or a per capita increase of 7.23 percent from 2010-2014.
Unfortunately, the extra $586 million given last year by Southern Baptists could not make up for the drastic drop in funding caused by the loss of 520,980 regular worshippers during this timeframe (an estimated $803 million lost in potential contributions for 2014).
Moreover, the drop in CP funding for national causes (from $191,763,153 in 2010 to $186,567,611 in 2014) came amid sacrificial cuts in staffing and ministry programs by many state conventions in order to give more to SBC causes:
—Baptist Press reported in March 2015 that 23 of 42 state conventions have responded to the 2010 GCR initiative by increasing the proportion of CP gifts they forward to national causes with the intention of moving toward a 50/50 split with the denomination.
–Furthermore, these good faith actions have come as state conventions are dealing with the phasing out of Cooperative Agreements with the North American Mission Board, affecting about $51 million in funding. In essence, these funds have been redirected from state conventions to NAMB. But, NAMB’s role for nurturing pioneer state conventions has been “left” for the larger state conventions to pick up.
SBC leaders at various levels within the denomination have identified a number of behaviors to explain the decline in Cooperative Program giving – alternately pointing the blame at (1) churches for giving less of a percentage of what they receive, (2) individuals for failing to tithe on what they earn, and (3) the denomination as a whole for selecting entity leaders who are godly men but poor examples themselves in supporting the Cooperative Program with their own churches’ budgets.
But lost in all this discussion about the decline in giving is the point that, now, there is another dimension – churches are designating more to national causes than what is being received for SBC missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program.
Part Two Coming Soon!