States budget more for Great Commission

Tammi Reed Ledbetter/Baptist Press

NASHVILLE (BP) – Trending among Baptist state convention meetings this year was the decision to send more money to the mission field – a challenge set forth by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at its 2010 annual meeting in Orlando.

This year more than half of the cooperating state Baptist conventions increased the portion of undesignated Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from local churches sent to the Southern Baptist Convention. Those funds support the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, the convention’s six seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and SBC operations by the Executive Committee.

The Dakota and Nevada conventions led the way by increasing the CP portion of their respective budgets by 4 percent. Both conventions made deep cuts to their budgets in recent years to deal with declining income. In both the Dakotas and Nevada, reorganizations took into consideration some of the priorities stemming from the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) recommendations.

SBC president

SBC President Fred Luter expressed support for the Cooperative Program in every state convention meeting he attended. State conventions need to be steadfast in their efforts to share with churches the importance of giving to the Cooperative Program, he told Baptist Press.

“Each state must talk about the benefits of giving,” Luter said, citing church planting, strengthening existing churches and “supporting our missionaries to share the gospel not only in America but all over the world.”

While ministry beyond the state was the emphasis of the GCRTF recommendations, Luter said local churches also should be mindful of the impact they can have on ministry within their states when they prioritize the CP within their budgets.

“In all the state conventions I had the honor of preaching at, there was an appeal given to the messengers about supporting CP giving,” Luter said. “I thought each video or media presentation was well-received by the messengers.”

Luter voiced confidence that Southern Baptists will continue to value the Cooperative Program as they see the vital role it plays in every level of ministry each year.

“I truly believe effective communication about how important CP giving is to our local, state and national convention ministry will eliminate any concern that messengers may have” about the viability of the Cooperative Program. Luter recommended churches consider the resources available from state conventions and the SBC to keep their members aware of the role of the Cooperative Program, and he suggested that they enlist people who have benefited from CP support to share their testimonies.

Luter also applauded the 1 Percent CP Challenge issued by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page.

“The benefits of this challenge [are] truly rewarding” when each church and each state convention does its part, the two-term SBC president said.

50/50 split targeted

Following approval of the GCRTF recommendations in 2010, state conventions began a movement toward greater efficiency in response to support for Great Commission-related funding priorities among messengers to their respective annual meetings, even amid a downturn in receipts from local churches. By fall 2010, messengers in Florida, Kentucky, Nevada and Tennessee called for moving their state convention budgets toward a 50/50 distribution of CP funds so that ministry resources could be increased worldwide.

Kentucky made quick work of getting further down the road toward a 50/50 allocation, moving from 61.9 percent to state causes and 38.1 percent to SBC causes in 2011 to 55 percent/45 percent in 2013. This year 53.5 percent of undesignated CP gifts from churches will remain in state while 46.5 advances to SBC causes.

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which began with a 50/50 distribution when it was founded in 1998, currently forwards 55 percent to the SBC while retaining 45 percent for in-state missions and ministry.

Rounding out the top five in order of greatest portion sent beyond the state’s borders are the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (54 percent to state causes/46 percent to SBC causes), Alabama (56.7 percent to state causes/43.3 percent to SBC causes) and Maryland-Delaware (56.96 percent to state causes/43.05 percent to SBC causes).

Shared ministry expenses

Fewer states are utilizing the practice of “shared ministry” allocations for items they deem dually beneficial to the state and national convention before dividing the net between in-state and SBC use. In 2014, 16 state conventions will utilize this practice: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland-Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, New England, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and Wyoming.

Items identified as shared ministry expenses vary from state to state but often include Cooperative Program promotion; mission efforts previously funded or jointly funded by NAMB; retirement benefits provided for pastors and church staff members through GuideStone Financial Resources; and the expense of the state Baptist paper. A few conventions also include various personnel, property and technology expenses.

Some state conventions, in backing away from shared items, either reduced that percentage or ended the practice completely. This year, Georgia Baptists adopted a “straight allocation budget.” While previously categorizing nearly 20 percent of the $41.8 million budget as “shared ministry” items, the new model allocates 40 percent of CP gifts from Georgia churches to SBC missions and ministries, retains 48.97 percent for Georgia Baptist Convention ministries, and dedicates 11.03 percent for “Mission Extension Ministries” to fund various GBC institutions, including the three Baptist-affiliated colleges.

Kentucky reduced the portion dedicated to shared items from 10 to 7 percent and increased the SBC portion of CP funds from 45 to 46.5 percent. Budget changes in New England, Northwest, Ohio and Wyoming prompted slight increases in the items classified as shared ministry while Alabama Baptists increased the category from 1.64 to 10 percent.

Budget goals

Seventeen of the state Baptist conventions that participate in the SBC’s Cooperative Program approved increases for their 2014 budgets, continuing a rebound first noted last year across much of the SBC.

State conventions reporting budget increases are California, Colorado, Dakota, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New England, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Baptist General Association of Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Flat budgets were approved in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas/Nebraska, Kentucky, Maryland/Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

Conventions reducing their budgets were Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Northwest, Tennessee and the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Utah-Idaho.