Churches with WMU strong SBC supporters
    December 4 2008 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southern Baptist churches that have Woman's Missionary Union (WMU) organizations support the denomination's missions programs at significantly higher levels than congregations without WMU, according to an analysis of reported church giving.

    Tensions over several issues surfaced in recent years between some Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders and leaders of the independently governed auxiliary group, founded in 1888 to promote SBC missions. They included WMU's refusal to submit to direct oversight by the denomination and the group's decision to remain part of the Baptist World Alliance women's department after the SBC severed ties with the global Baptist group in 2004.

    Despite those differences, a new breakdown of giving patterns suggests missions education by WMU continues to play an important role in inspiring local churches to give more money to SBC home and foreign missions.

    A review of annual statistics collected by LifeWay Christian Resources found that churches that have age-level WMU organizations like Girls in Action and Women on Mission support the SBC's unified budget and two annual special missions offerings at higher per-capita levels than those without ongoing missions education.

    The study, conducted jointly by WMU and the SBC North American Mission Board (NAMB), found that churches with missions-education programs supported by one or both of the organizations gave $43.28 per member to the Cooperative Program. That compared to $23.65 per capita by churches without such programs.

    Giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions was $3.29 per capita from churches without missions education, compared to $9.05 from those with missions education. Per-member giving for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for home missions was $5.34 for churches with missions education, compared to $1.54 for those without.

    Wanda Lee, WMU's executive director, acknowledged to a group of Baptist state convention executive directors and editors that "there have been some rocky times" with recent years' leadership transitions at WMU and the SBC's two mission boards, "but we are learning how to work together for missions."

    Lee, meeting with Baptist leaders at a Dec. 2-3 briefing at WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., said that communication between the auxiliary and the SBC agencies has improved in the last year.

    "Do we always agree about everything?" she asked. "No, but we seek to have healthy communication." She reported on both recent visits and planned future visits from NAMB President Geoff Hammond and Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC's International Mission Board.

    WMU recently appointed a full-time liaison to coordinate communication with the two mission boards. WMU staffer Steve Heartsill said he received 7,000 e-mails from IMB personnel in the past year and a comparable number from NAMB workers.

    The briefing was scheduled midway through WMU's Nov. 30-Dec. 7 Week of Prayer for International Missions. The national goal for this year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $170 million.

    Over 120 years, WMU has helped raise more than $3 billion for international missions by promoting the Lottie Moon offering and $1.1 billion for home missions through the Annie Armstrong offering.

    This year WMU produced nearly 4.2 million Christmas prayer guides in six languages, distributed by state WMU organizations to churches in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. About 174,000 Week of Prayer posters were sent to churches, and 4.8 million Lottie Moon Christmas Offering envelopes were placed in pews in Southern Baptist churches.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)

    12/4/2008 7:54:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 4 comments
    Filed under: Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, SBC, WMU

Brent Hobbs
Norman said, "For any movement to be successful, whether in the church or outside the church, it needs a cheerleader."

That's certainly true and the WMU has done a wonderful job of this in the past and continues to in many places where it still exists. For those churches that do not have an active WMU, its important to find new ways to promote missions involvement. My point is that the absence of a WMU does not NECESSARILY mean a lack of missions support. But if the statistics do show that's often the case, then those of us without WMU need to find out how we can do better.
12/10/2008 12:55:03 PM

I was at WMU in Birmingham last week and the study in question was done in conjuction with NAMB and IMB. Geoff Hammond, NAMB leader, encouraged Wanda Lee, the WMU leader nationally, to publicize the findings of their study, according to Mrs. Lee. For any movment to be successful, whether in the church or outside the church, it needs a cheerleader. WMU has been leading the cheers for missions among Baptists for 120 years, even before they were allowed to speak publicly at SBC annual meetings. Proving the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity, WMU-NC reports more than 100 new units starting in churches in the past quarter alone.
12/8/2008 4:44:46 PM

This article demonstrates what I have long believed, that WMU members are the most denominationally loyal members of our churches. They are the ones who lobby within the local church for the support of denominational entities through the Cooperative Program.

And this is why it has never made sense to me that the BSC leadership saw fit to escalate its struggle with WMU-NC to the point of expelling WMU from state convention life.

At two critical points, the BSC leadership could have declared a truce and set about working with an autonomous WMU.

When the WMU staff resigned their positions, and WMU set up its own payroll and personnel system, (ending confusion about who the staff worked for and who could hire/fire them), the BSC leadership could have negotiated a rental agreement with the WMU for office space and support services. But the BSC leadership chose instead to up the ante, and insist that WMU leave the building.

Then, when the WMU left the building and found its own office space, the BSC leadership could have kept WMU in the NCMO, just as it does with associations. But, again, it chose not to. Instead, the leadership deleted the WMU from the offering, and "authorized" the WMU to take up their own offering, (for one year only, as we learned at this year's convention).

I don't get it. For folks who are so dead-set opposed to the very existence of CBF, to gift-wrap the WMU, with all its tradition and heritage, and simply hand it over to CBF, just boggles the mind.

Everyone is talking about the little check-off box on the new giving form. Deleting that box, while symbolically devastating, was practically meaningless. Churches can write two checks, as many have suggested.

The WMU issue is different. It drills all the way down to the local church, to groups of ordinary church members meeting weekly and monthly, doing what they can to advance the cause of Christ in their own communities and around the world.

The expulsion of WMU from state convention life insults and alienates the BSC's most natural allies when it comes to the funding decisions of the local church. It increases the odds that some churches will continue to write one check. It just won't be to the Baptist State Convention.

We're going to regret this.

12/5/2008 11:50:56 PM

Brent Hobbs
There's no doubt an emphasis on missions will likely lead to higher support levels. However, these numbers don't pass the smell test. Something else must be going on with the statistics. $43 versus $23? With that kind of discrepancy, it seems like some other factors must be coming into play, maybe church size. From what I understand, large churches often give large sums while the per capita giving may be low. Some churches don't report missions giving and the ACP.

Our church does not currently have the WMU programs described here, and last year we received a certificate from the IMB saying we were in the top 15% of per capita giving for the Lottie Moon Offering. That said, it is important for churches without WMU to find ways to make missions a visible priority.
12/5/2008 11:34:04 PM

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