Can the Cooperative Program keep very high giving churches on board?

The average church percentage of undesignated gifts to the Cooperative Program is well under five percent, headed towards four and a half soon. Averages have limited value and don’t measure some important things, like the fact that a good number of churches give very high percentages, above ten, more than double the average. These churches, I think, are a dwindling number.

The old standard promo for the CP was that members should tithe to their church and the church should tithe to the SBC in CP percentage. Ten percent from your pocket to the church. Ten percent from the church to the Cooperative Program. We are way below that and have been for a generation and a half. But I know of a few churches that are still above ten percent to the CP.

One of these recently cut their CP giving by 20 percent. Deferred maintenance, staff salaries, and updating facilities all contributed to the decision. All that plus the general trends of older, high level givers passing away and younger, lower level givers making up a greater proportion of the church. There was not a whimper of protest about the move.

Churches may give what they wish, according to what they believe best expresses their mission priorities. When the CP has been the main mission giving vehicle and it is more than double the average, it’s not difficult in my view to make the argument that the church is better served by adequately paid staff and up-to-date facilities and programs. But, I commend whatever church is going way above the average. Just don’t punish your pastor in doing it. State and national convention entities keep salaries current and competitive. So should your church.

False choice, you say? It’s not necessary to posit a conflict between church staff salaries and facilities and Cooperative Program percentages? No, but anecdotally, that’s what I see in the high percentage CP giving churches. The pastor is underpaid or does without inflationary increases. Buildings are out-0f-date and not well maintained. Maybe I’m seeing all the wrong churches and not the ones that can give 12 or 15 percent to the CP and find 85-88 percent sufficient to do all this.

As an aside, the church that cut their CP by 20% could raise their Lottie Moon offering by a couple of thousand and end up with greater support of international missions than when their CP percentage was above ten percent. Simple math. Churches may not label it as such but all of us make opportunity cost decisions with available funds.

The CP has about six week until the end of the Executive Committee’s fiscal year. The SBC part of the CP is running about $900k behind last year. Chances are not great for an increase but we will see soon.

Ronnie Floyd is making a lot of changes in Executive Committee staff. When the time is right, I guess we will see what he has in mind for CP promotion. The CP is critical for the SBC but I think an average of five percent per church would be healthy.

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