COLUMBIA, Md. (BP) – In 2023, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD) will increase by 11 percentage points the portion of Cooperative Program receipts retained for local ministries.
A total of 63 percent of Cooperative Program receipts will remain in the two states, while 37 percent will support national and international Southern Baptist ministries and causes – a change voted on by messengers at the 2022 BCMD Annual Meeting. The new split compares to the 52 percent retained in the states and 48 percent forwarded to national Southern Baptist ministries in 2022.
BCMD Executive Director Michael Crawford equated the change with sound budgetary management.
“It’s a vision change but it’s also very practical. The reality of it is that in our convention, we were consistently having to draw from reserves to meet budget,” Crawford told Baptist Press. “That’s not a long-term thing that you want to have happen, is that you’re consistently having to withdraw from reserves. If it were a church or a home, a financial adviser would say, well let’s look at your expenses.
The BCMD General Mission Board approved the changes in September in advance of the BCMD Annual Meeting Nov. 6-7.
“Simultaneously, as we looked at this,” Crawford said of the change, “we saw that not only were we having to withdraw from reserves, but also we were not actively contributing to the things that our churches have deemed important, like church planting, international missions and engaging their communities.
“We did not have a line item for church planting that came out of our budget prior to these changes,” Crawford said, “and yet our mission was to strengthen and start churches. So our mission is to start churches, but if you look in our budget, we had no money to do it.”
The 2023 budget anticipates the BCMD will send $1.2 million in Cooperative Program receipts to the SBC Executive Committee for distribution to national and international ministry, while just over $2 million will remain in the states to support the approximately 500 churches there. None of the money retained in the states will be used for personnel costs, Crawford said.
“We as a convention want to be able to support our churches and partner with Send Network and partner with IMB (the International Mission Board), but we don’t have any money in our budget,” Crawford said. “Also, we want to be able to resource our churches so they can engage their communities.”
Despite the change, the BCMD remains a generous contributor to Southern Baptist national and international ministries.
“Our convention has been very generous,” Crawford said. “If you look at the conventions that are especially in the northeast, their giving percentages, 48 percent was at the super high end. 37 percent is not the lowest. We’re still doing good by sending over $1 million a year to national.
“In the future, our hope is the more money comes in, the more we can partner strategically with our national partners,” he said. “I would certainly hope that we’d be able to raise those percentages again.”
Church planting, local association support, pastoral support and care, disabilities ministry, children’s ministry, disaster relief, sexual abuse prevention and an African American churches initiative are among local causes the BCMD hopes to support with the retained funds.
“That’s our vision, to mobilize churches for mission,” Crawford said. “Churches need resources, churches want to plant churches, churches want to send missionaries, churches want to engage their communities, churches want to engage people with disabilities. Churches want to do all these things, and associations want to help mobilize churches for mission, and that’s what I hope happens.
“I believe the most effective way for us to accomplish the mission of Christ is to do it collaboratively. And as we look at the Bible, all mission in the New Testament was done collaboratively.”
Crawford posted a video explaining the change at bcmd.org in advance of the BCMD annual meeting.