SBC Life Articles

Despite Challenges, State Conventions Take CP Lead


Left: Aerial view showing the Enterprise Bridge over Lake Oroville in California with full water in 2011.
Right: Aerial view from 2013 showing the Enterprise Bridge over Lake Oroville in California after a period of drought. The channel is clearly operational, but the water flow is greatly diminished.
Photos by Paul Hames | Courtesy of California Department of Water Resources

Twenty-three state Baptist conventions have increased the portion of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries in moving toward the goal of a 50/50 allocation between state convention causes and SBC causes, continuing an upward trend spanning several years.

At the forefront this year: Messengers in Iowa and Nevada adopted Cooperative Program budgets projected to generate a combined $1.4 million in additional support for the SBC’s International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, six seminaries, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and SBC operating budget administered by the Executive Committee.

Adopting a 50/50 CP Split

With the Baptist Convention of Iowa to mark its twentieth year in 2015, Executive Director Tim Lubinus justified increasing the SBC portion of the state’s Cooperative Program budget from 20 to 50 percent, stating, “A sign of this maturing of our convention isn’t measured by our independence of our national mission [entities], but by the strength of our support for them.”

The Nevada Baptist Convention, founded in 1979, raised its allotment to SBC causes from 35 to 50 percent of CP gifts from the state’s churches. A major reorganization begun four years ago envisioned a “lean and visionary” strategy to make Nevada Baptists “more self-sufficient financially and less dependent on ‘outside’ funding sources,” according to a plan approved by messengers.

Iowa and Nevada join the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as the only state conventions that forward half or more of CP receipts from local churches to the SBC without a “shared ministries” calculation. The SBTC, formed in 1998 with a 50/50 division from the start, moved to allocating 55 percent of undesignated receipts to the SBC in 2008.

The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, while in the process of phasing out its shared ministries category, currently allocates 51 percent of the resulting balance for SBC ministries and missions and 49 percent for Virginia ministries.

SBC Portion of CP Increases

State Baptist conventions whose messengers voted to increase by more than 1 percent the percentage of their budgets sent beyond their borders to SBC missions and ministries include: Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, Dakota Baptist Convention, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE), and South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Messengers to fifteen state Baptist conventions approved increasing the SBC portion of their CP contributions in amounts ranging from .02 to 1 percent.

These include: Alabama Baptist State Convention, Alaska Baptist Convention (ABC), Arkansas Baptist State Convention, California Southern Baptist Convention, State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, Kansas-Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, Missouri Baptist Convention, Montana Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Northwest Baptist Convention, Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Tennessee Baptist Convention, West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, and Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention (WSBC).

Shared Ministry Designations

Only fifteen of the forty-two state Baptist conventions that cooperate with the SBC classify any budget portion as “shared ministries” and nearly a third of those made reductions in the portion they consider shared, including Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (formerly the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware), BCNE (35.77 to 8 percent), Baptist Convention of New Mexico (22.97 to 2.52 percent), WSBC (18.75 to 13.7 percent) and ABC (11.28 to 9.21 percent).

Joining the twenty-four other state conventions that do not designate any items as dually beneficial to the state and national convention, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) this fall removed the designation of shared ministries, a category which accounted for 13.21 percent of the BGCO budget last year.

Two state conventions—the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) and the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV)—let churches customize what they label Cooperative Program giving. BGCT’s preferred giving plan retains 79 percent of undesignated receipts from affiliated churches for in-state use and 21 percent for one of three worldwide partners—the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, or BGCT Worldwide. Churches may customize further by specifying the portions for in-state and out-of-state allocations. BGAV has pre-set giving tracks that a church can customize to fund causes of the SBC and/or CBF.

The District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC) is affiliated with three Baptist denominations and relates to other Baptist groups in the capital city. Each year the convention, through its Board of Directors, sets a cooperative budget, although the majority of the churches often give their mission support exclusively to one Baptist group or another, a practice which grew greatly after 2001. The DCBC has no shared ministry category.

Shrinking Reservoir of Gifts to Churches Impacts CP Gifts from Churches

While most state conventions are increasing the percentage of their budgets for missions and ministry around the world, only a fourth are projected to actually contribute more dollars to SBC causes in the coming year.

The dollar amount of a state convention’s allocation fluctuates annually depending on how well cooperating churches in the state are able to fund their own respective budgets and then forward their CP contributions to the state.

“Despite claims or concerns that the CP system is broken, an equally significant issue is that the total receipts flowing into the churches’ reservoirs has decreased,” said Roger S. Oldham, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations. “The giving channels are still operational; it’s the amount available to flow through the CP pipeline that has diminished.

“When the reservoirs are running low, it’s time to pray for rain,” he said.

Helping offset that impact are churches that adopt the “1% CP Challenge” to increase the Cooperative Program portion of their undesignated receipts through their state conventions.

Analysis of financial data is based on information supplied by Baptist Press and state convention reports, with projections for 2015 calculated or in some cases estimated by SBC Executive Committee staff.


Editor's note: The fourth paragraph was corrected from an earlier version on March 10, 2015. The thirteenth paragraph was revised from the print edition.

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    About the Author

  • Tammi Ledbetter