NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Cooperative Program giving in the 2003-04 fiscal year reached a record level, increasing more than 3.64 percent, compared to a 0.48 percent increase recorded in 2002-03.
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 $189,865,254.85, an increase of $6,663,560.71 over the 2002-03 amount of $183,201,694.14 and the largest increase since the 1999-2000 fiscal year. For the month, CP receipts of $13,395,514.98 were 5.35 percent, or $756,968.20, below the $14,152,483.18 received in September 2003.
The marked increase over the previous year is a significant development. Cooperative Program giving has reached record levels in recent years, but has not kept pace with inflation or needs.
Last year the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee adopted a report warning of a future financial “crisis” unless giving increased. 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 — and warned against “celebrating incremental gains in income when real giving is dropping.”
Earlier that year both mission boards reduced staffing and lamented the anemic growth in support that meant holding back missionaries who were willing and trained but could not go into the field because of shortfalls in giving.
Designated giving for fiscal year 2003-04 totaled $189,010,267.59, 13.87 percent, or $23,024,301.02, above gifts of $165,985,966.57 received for 2002-03. The $3,773,096.70 in designated gifts received last month is $654,052.07 above the $3,119,044.63 of September 2003, a 20.97 percent increase.
In releasing the end-of-year figures for 2003-04, Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, thanked Southern Baptists for the marked increase in giving to support to SBC causes.
“We are thankful for the increases in missions giving by Southern Baptists in this year both through the Cooperative Program and the special mission offerings.”
“The 19.65 percent growth in Lottie Moon receipts is especially noteworthy and, I believe, is an indication of our churches’ heart for missions. When they were made aware of the delay in deployment of some of our missionaries due to a financial shortfall, they responded enthusiastically. The 3.64 percent increase in CP is the highest in four years.”
Chapman also encouraged Southern Baptists to set challenging goals in their support of the Cooperative Program, which is the primary funding mechanism for all SBC causes here and abroad.
“We are grateful to the Lord and the churches and we pray this sets a new trend in CP giving. Because of the great need of sharing Christ around the world, much more must be done. We ask all Southern Baptists to pray earnestly that we will respond to the challenges before us with sacrificial and generous stewardship.”
Combined, Cooperative Program giving and designated gifts of $378,875,522.44 for the year were up $29,687,861.73, or 8.50 percent, above the combined $349,187,660.71 received in 2002-03.
For the SBC CP Allocation Budget, receipts of $189,865,254,85 were 104.14 percent of $182,323,110.00 budgeted, or $7,542,144.85 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 2003-04 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
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.
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.