SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

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SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Mon Mar 24, 2014 9:53 am

http://sbcplodder.blogspot.com/2014/03/ ... ogram.html

William and I don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, mostly political. But when it comes to all things SBC, his evaluations and observations are usually right on target, and they are honest when it comes to problems and issues. I thought this was a particularly good post related to the CP.

Denominations have done an excellent job of building in business models to their operations systems. When it comes to handling money and organizing a budget, that can be a good thing, though practical business considerations are not always the desired "product" of an organization that works with churches that have functions related to worship, discipleship, evangelism and missions, ministry and Christian fellowship.

Churches seem to be slow to accept the reality of paradigm shifts that affect their function, and slow to accept the kind of change that needs to occur within in order to adjust the scope of their ministry to deal with it. There are some realities that have had an effect on the Cooperative Program giving in recent years. The drops in giving are alarming, since growth and increases were the pattern for a period of more than 50 years. On the denominational level, there are people who have seen this coming, and have issued warnings about it (Ed Stetzer, for example, Thom Rainer for another). But the response from the churches has been slow, because they don't have the same level of awareness. Basically, I see three main reasons behind the decline in CP giving:

1. The SBC's overall statistics are still predominantly affected by what happens in the South, where the bulk of its churches are located. I have referred to it as "Dixieland plus Oklahoma" which made some of my seminary buddies from Mississippi, Alabama and Jawjuh give me dirty looks. Most of the churches in this part of the country have celebrated 75 or more anniversaries, are established, traditional, and as a result, are aging and declining. The 15-20% of younger members who stay with the church past college are mostly collecting in mega churches, where 90% of the congregation consumes the church's resources. These churches still do things pretty much the way they always have, and are not equipped to handle the philosophical battle that is being waged which pulls people in a different direction. The generation that is part of the 80% who give most of the church's money (which supports a large number of full time staff members who do the church's work) is now in its 60's, 70's and 80's, and in 20 years, most of the big money will be gone.

2. The mega churches are a contributing factor to the problem. Most of them consume financial resources like a brush fire. Facilities that have theatrical quality stages, acoustics, lighting, and sound systems, praise bands and musicians who work at union rates, and all the bells and whistles that go with the "look and feel" of a weekly worship experience consume vast quantities of cash, which goes to a "come and sit and listen" approach, instead of to missions and evangelism. When we got into the realm of undisclosed pastor and staff salaries, the cash amounts required to pay church professionals skyrocketed. Exotic vacations that masquerade as mission trips consume fortunes. And the debt load on 2,500 and 5,000+ seat auditoriums is staggering, along with the health and fitness clubs that are called "family life centers." The end result is that the mega churches do not support the CP at a gift-per-member capita that has been the norm for most churches in the past. William's argument, that percentages don't pay bills, dollars do, is no longer applicable when a congregation of 500 gives more actual dollars, at 8% of their undesignated giving, than a church of 2,500 which gives 1%, or less. Churches see that the prominent, well known church gives 1%, and they imitate that.

3. Missions education in SBC churches has almost disappeared. I learned all about the Cooperative Program, mission boards, seminaries, commissions and state convention institutions from Sunbeams, RA's, and Pioneers, and then from a co-ed missions workshop in my home church when we combined the Acteens and Pioneers group. That has stayed with me all of my life, and even though I am a member of a church of a different denomination, which I support with my tithe, my extra giving still goes to CP related ministries, as does a big chunk of my volunteer time. I don't see that in younger generations, they don't even know what the CP is.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Mon Mar 24, 2014 7:30 pm

I appreciate the link, Sandy. Here is part of what I wrote:

If the Cooperative Program is to be considered a beloved legacy brand for Southern Baptists then let's get people who know how to best manage a declining brand and let them handle it while all the entities who receive CP funding plan for the years ahead with the expectation of continued declines in CP funding.

If the Cooperative Program is to be considered a vibrant, vital funding mechanism, then let's get people who have fresh ideas, bold ideas, and let them have a go at it. Their success rate cannot be any less than what we have had for the past several decades.

The CP is approaching the century mark. Next year will be its 90th birthday. It may be that it's halcyon days were in the 20th century and it is not just past its prime but is past its applicability and appropriateness for the Southern Baptist Convention of the 21st century.


I see nothing that will cause churches overall to up their CP giving.

Here's a statistic: The Executive Committee now receives money from the state conventions that has been given by designated means (mainly Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings) than the amount they receive through the Cooperative Program.

On Sandy's comment on mega churches and their giving. Megachurches, especially, have little need for state conventions and many church show a decided lack of interest in what state conventions are doing; yet, state conventions still get that golden 50% (about 60% on average, actually) of every CP dollar. No one will do much complaining. They will just give directly to the mission boards and other causes they have enthusiasm for.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Ed Pettibone » Fri Mar 28, 2014 7:52 pm

Ed; And William, did you ever see any thing that caused churches to contribute to the CP and in many cases increase those contributions a number of times? You have dissed the CP From almost the beginning of your tenure on these boards, back in the first incarnation of the BL.C site.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:03 pm

Ed Pettibone wrote:Ed; And William, did you ever see any thing that caused churches to contribute to the CP and in many cases increase those contributions a number of times? You have dissed the CP From almost the beginning of your tenure on these boards, back in the first incarnation of the BL.C site.


Ed, I have 92 blog articles in which the CP is featured. Many of these are quite positive. Read a few.

It is our main funding mechanism which has enabled the SBC to experience great growth and I support it.

I can summarize my realistic rather than reverent view and include the following criticisms some of which have contributed to the decades long decline in church percentage giving.

1. The CP is rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change.
2. That 60+% of CP monies stays in state.
3. It is unfriendly to global missions in that only 20% makes it to where most Gospel needs are.
4. State conventions often use somewhat misleading practices in promoting the CP.
5. The CP inherently fuels inefficiencies.
6. By its design, it necessarily separates churches and members from recipients.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:06 pm

And ed, I do see things that cause churches to give and increase giving to the CP. Unfortunately, the CP loses most church evaluations of opportunity costs; hence, the long slow, slog downward.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Fri Mar 28, 2014 10:13 pm

William Thornton wrote:
Ed Pettibone wrote:Ed; And William, did you ever see any thing that caused churches to contribute to the CP and in many cases increase those contributions a number of times? You have dissed the CP From almost the beginning of your tenure on these boards, back in the first incarnation of the BL.C site.


Ed, I have 92 blog articles in which the CP is featured. Many of these are quite positive. Read a few.

It is our main funding mechanism which has enabled the SBC to experience great growth and I support it.

I can summarize my realistic rather than reverent view and include the following criticisms some of which have contributed to the decades long decline in church percentage giving.

1. The CP is rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change.
2. That 60+% of CP monies stays in state.
3. It is unfriendly to global missions in that only 20% makes it to where most Gospel needs are.
4. State conventions often use somewhat misleading practices in promoting the CP.
5. The CP inherently fuels inefficiencies.
6. By its design, it necessarily separates churches and members from recipients.


I completely agree that #1 and #2 are most definitely factors that contribute to the decline. With regard to #3, are you equating "where most gospel needs are" with international missions only? The last three are on target.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:51 am

Sandy wrote:
William Thornton wrote:
Ed Pettibone wrote:Ed; And William, did you ever see any thing that caused churches to contribute to the CP and in many cases increase those contributions a number of times? You have dissed the CP From almost the beginning of your tenure on these boards, back in the first incarnation of the BL.C site.


Ed, I have 92 blog articles in which the CP is featured. Many of these are quite positive. Read a few.

It is our main funding mechanism which has enabled the SBC to experience great growth and I support it.

I can summarize my realistic rather than reverent view and include the following criticisms some of which have contributed to the decades long decline in church percentage giving.

1. The CP is rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change.
2. That 60+% of CP monies stays in state.
3. It is unfriendly to global missions in that only 20% makes it to where most Gospel needs are.
4. State conventions often use somewhat misleading practices in promoting the CP.
5. The CP inherently fuels inefficiencies.
6. By its design, it necessarily separates churches and members from recipients.


I completely agree that #1 and #2 are most definitely factors that contribute to the decline. With regard to #3, are you equating "where most gospel needs are" with international missions only? The last three are on target.


Ed: None of the 6 say any thing definitively. Thus they are useless.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:06 am

Ed Pettibone wrote:Ed: None of the 6 say any thing definitively. Thus they are useless.


I have written extensively on these, ed. I'm not reproducing all that for your remedial reading but if you would like to pick one item in the list, I will expand on it:

1. The CP is rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change.
2. That 60+% of CP monies stays in state.
3. It is unfriendly to global missions in that only 20% makes it to where most Gospel needs are.
4. State conventions often use somewhat misleading practices in promoting the CP.
5. The CP inherently fuels inefficiencies.
6. By its design, it necessarily separates churches and members from recipients.

#2 is a statistical figure that needs no explanation.
#3 is my opinion based on a discrete statistic.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:03 pm

Ed Pettibone wrote: None of the 6 say any thing definitively. Thus they are useless.


I think they are very definitive.

1. The CP is rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change.This is quite definitive. It is experiencing decline because, it is not able to make the kind of change it needs to keep communicating its message to churches.
2. That 60+% of CP monies stays in state.This is simply a statistic. If your church gives an undesignated percentage of its offerings to the Cooperative Program, 6 ot of 10 dollars that you give will stay in the state convention, and a lot of that will be paying bureaucratic expenses instead of being used for missions.
3. It is unfriendly to global missions in that only 20% makes it to where most Gospel needs are.That is also statistical, and means that only two out of ten dollars given by your church to the CP goes to missions.
4. State conventions often use somewhat misleading practices in promoting the CP.The CP is bulled as a missions support ministry program. When church members are sitting in business sessions determining what their church will give, they think their money is going to missions. State conventions, which collect the undesignated gifts from the churches, don't say a lot about the cost of getting those dollars to the mission field, or the other things it supports, in many cases having nothing to do with missons.
5. The CP inherently fuels inefficiencies.There are a lot of jobs and offices that are funded which are not necessary to the overall mission and purpose of the program, especially if someone's brother in law, is occupying it and you are on the trustee board that sets the budget for it. Old habits die hard.
6. By its design, it necessarily separates churches and members from recipients.
The agencies and institutions report only to the state convention or to the SBC in annual session, not directly to the churches.

What's not definitive about that?
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:56 pm

Ed, I am unaware of many people writing candidly about the CP. perhaps Sandy can point me to some.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:13 pm

Ed Stetzer is usually pretty candid, when he puts something on his blog about the CP. http://edstetzer.com You can usually get something honest from Dave Miller, when he blogs at SBC Voices. And of course, I would recommend Istoria Ministries blog, by Wade Burleson, http://wadeburleson.org .
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Ed Pettibone » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:10 pm

William Thornton wrote:Ed, I am unaware of many people writing candidly about the CP. perhaps Sandy can point me to some.


Ed: So William in you frame of reference what does "rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change" really mean?

When you say that "60+% of CP monies stays in state. " Is that true of each State convention?

And you have avoided Sandy's suggestion that you are taking a very narrow view of Mission.

Ed: In 38 = years attending So. Baptist churches I never experienced having the CP Bullied exclusively as a mission support program. Is that how you as a pastor promoted it? When you talk about monies spent for things other than missions, how about some examples.

And how doe the CP fuel inefficiencies ? And if indeed "There are a lot of jobs and offices that are funded which are not necessary to the overall mission and purpose of the program,,,," name a few job and offices and individual involved. Short of naming them what have you ever done about the situation other than non specific accusations as you have offer here and maybe your blog.

In Truth by design every church gets a copy of the reports if they send messengers or not. Churches have the only votes. Most do not send messengers and those who do seldom send their full compliment.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Sun Mar 30, 2014 7:56 pm

Ed Pettibone wrote: When you talk about monies spent for things other than missions, how about some examples.


1. Higher education and theological education. While there are missionaries who attend those schools on scholarship, those things are not missions.
2. Children's homes, hospitals, retirement homes. Baptists are pretty much out of the hospital business, though a few state conventions still own one or two. But the retirement home business is big, and most conventions have children's homes which contract with states to care for children in the welfare system.
3. Church ministry "consultants." Most state conventions have an office of "Church-Minister relations" that does a variety of things, including distributing resumes for churches looking for pastors and staff. They provide individuals who consult with churches for training volunteers, conducting VBS, and similar type of ministry.
4. Consultants on annuities, insurance, investments and similar business matters are handled by state conventions.
5. Many state conventions have a "Christian Life Commission" or some type of legislative lobby organization on the state level.
6. Most states have an executive committee and an executive director's office. I know that in at least two of the states where I've served, the expenses were "couched" in the budget as a percentage.
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby William Thornton » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:26 pm

Ed: d: So William in you frame of reference what does "rigid and inflexible and extremely resistant to change" really mean?

The allocation formula for the SBC level entities is extremely rigid. We went through the Great Commission Resurgence and changed virtually nothing about that. All of the entities preserved their percentages except for the XComm which voluntarily gave up 0.5% to the IMB. There is nothing on the horizon that makes me believe any change is possible at this level, which leaves any change up to state conventions. The state conventions believe they have a perpetual right to a floor level of 50% of every CP dollar plus an additional percentage for promoting the CP. Even when state convention constituencies vote for a greater proportion of their state's cp dollars to be sent to the Xcomm for distribution the movement is extremely minor and tedious.

Ed: When you say that "60+% of CP monies stays in state. " Is that true of each State convention?

No, many keep more than that. Only a couple keep less.

Ed: And you have avoided Sandy's suggestion that you are taking a very narrow view of Mission.

My meaning was that most of the population that has little or no gospel witness is overseas, not to mention most of the human needs.

Ed: In 38 = years attending So. Baptist churches I never experienced having the CP Bullied exclusively as a mission support program. Is that how you as a pastor promoted it? When you talk about monies spent for things other than missions, how about some examples.

State conventions use the money word in SBC life, "missions", to cover all of their activities. A state conv. staffer who does senior adult ministries in state is a "missionary." We have a new building in GA that costs over $10k per month in debt service. This is not missions. Sandy gave several examples.

Ed: And how doe the CP fuel inefficiencies ? And if indeed "There are a lot of jobs and offices that are funded which are not necessary to the overall mission and purpose of the program,,,," name a few job and offices and individual involved. Short of naming them what have you ever done about the situation other than non specific accusations as you have offer here and maybe your blog.

With a guaranteed income stream, state conventions have no incentive to shrink staff and expenses. They typically will only do that if churches give less and the CP funnels fewer dollars to them. Then they are forced to reduce. If the CP grows, state conventions keep the additional funds and create new positions or fund new programs, rather than reduce the percentages they keep.

Ed: In Truth by design every church gets a copy of the reports if they send messengers or not. Churches have the only votes. Most do not send messengers and those who do seldom send their full compliment.

I daresay that very few laypeople and many pastors would not understand that about 20 cents of their CP dollars makes it to the IMB and a dime to NAMB. What churches have done in many states is push for lessening the percentage kept in state, State conventions make incremental changes in this direction but unless churches continually push it, they will revert back to funding in-state needs. No one wants to cut their budget.

All that said, I don't know of a better general funding mechanism and I support it. I also support direct giving to the mission boards. Are you aware that some state conventions budget money to be sent directly to the IMB, bypassing the XComm and the allocation formula?
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Re: SBC Plodder: Rebranding the Cooperative Program

Postby Sandy » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:39 pm

I hadn't even thought about the expenses involved in maintenance and upkeep of executive office buildings. It seems that's every new executive director's ambition, to leave a "legacy" of his term in office by relocating to the burbs, and building a new office complex. The BGCT built a massive facility a number of years ago, claiming that it was a zero cost item because they built it on property the state convention already owned, adjacent to the A. Webb Roberts Hospital at Baylor Medical School in Dallas, and they used interest off their reserve capital fund. Now, with the downsizing they've experienced, it is my understanding that they rent a lot of the office space.
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