NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Cooperative Program giving reached another record level in the 2002-03 fiscal year, but increased by only 0.48 percent.
Founded in 1925, the Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministry efforts of state and regional conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention.
For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, receipts to the Cooperative Program totaled 183,201,694.14 — an increase of $878,583.94 over the 2001-02 amount of $182,323,110.20. For the month, CP receipts of $14,152,483.18 were 1.59 percent, or $228,744.49, below the $14,381,227.67 received in September 2002.
The end-of-the-fiscal-year data was released Oct. 2, just one week after the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee adopted a report warning of a future financial “crisis” unless giving increases.
The report warned against “celebrating incremental gains in income when real giving is dropping.” It said that being content with incremental gains “fails to properly challenge Southern Baptists to do what is required of stewards.”
The report disclosed a decades-old trend showing a gradual decline in giving as a percentage of ability — by individuals to churches and by churches to the Cooperative Program.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, said that while giving as a percentage of ability has declined, he is “thankful for those numbers of churches and individuals who continue to give sacrificially to support Southern Baptist missions, ministries and theological education in order to reach the world.”
“I firmly believe that the Cooperative Program is the most effective voluntary funding program in the history of Christendom,” Chapman added. “God has charged Southern Baptists with this enormous stewardship responsibility and we need to respond positively to His call that we be faithful with our resources … and I believe we will.”
Cooperative Program giving has reached record levels in recent years, but has not kept pace with inflation or needs — leading last year to delays in the deployment of missionaries, a layoff of employees at both missions boards and an increase in seminary tuition, the report said.
David Hankins, vice president for Cooperative Program, said Southern Baptists must view the “good news” of an increase in CP giving “realistically.”
“Although we achieved a small increase over last year, the trend in giving as a percentage of ability continues to decline,” he said. “But we are giving serious attention to a long-term strategy that we feel — with God’s blessing – will turn the declining trends around.
“We ask all Southern Baptists to join us in prayer about the spiritual challenge we face in the stewardship of our resources.”
For the fiscal year 2002-03, designated giving of $165,985,966.57 was 2.41 percent, or $4,106,155.89, below gifts of $170,092,122.46 received in 2001-02. The $3,119,044.63 in designated gifts received last month was $5,375.15 above the $3,113,669.48 of September 2002, a 0.17 percent increase.
Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and other special gifts.
Combined, Cooperative Program giving and designated gifts of $349,187,660.71 for the year were down $3,227,571.95, or .92 percent, below the combined $352,415,232.66 received in 2001-02.
For the SBC CP Allocation Budget, receipts of $183,201,694.14 were 103.53 percent of $176,962,402.00 budgeted, or $6,239,292.14 more to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America.
The Cooperative Program total includes receipts from individuals, churches, state conventions and fellowships for distribution according to the 2002-03 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to Southern Baptist national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.