Churches sharing less of their pies
April 11 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Churches sharing less of their pies | Friday, April 11, 2003

Friday, April 11, 2003

Churches sharing less of their pies

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many churches are choosing to keep more of their money for local projects and contributing less to cooperative missions through the Baptist State Convention (BSC).

The lack of surprise doesn't make me like it any better.

A trademark of the Baptist genius through the years has been our willingness to pool resources in cooperative fashion to support mission enterprises that individual churches could not accomplish alone.

I learned as a child that some of my gifts to the church were sent on to the state convention for missions and church development in my home state, and a portion of those funds went to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to support missions around the world.

I knew that the few dollars I gave as a child could do little alone, but they contributed to a larger pile of money that could do wonders. I knew that I had a part in helping children who needed care, in supporting student work on our college campuses, in sending missionaries to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Promoting the Cooperative Program was easier then, when denominational and theological conflict was minimal, and it seemed that everyone felt good about the SBC.

As those "golden" years have dissolved into a period of increasing distrust and division, maintaining excitement about cooperative giving has become more of a challenge.

Some state conventions, like the BSC, have sought to preserve the proven value of cooperation while offering different options for how the money is spent, so Baptists can continue to feel good about cooperating.

But when the giving plans themselves become the subject of bickering and appear to be threatened, the excitement quotient for cooperative giving suffers another blow.

These factors, added to the general decline in institutional loyalty that pervades contemporary society, have certainly contributed to the decline in giving.

Even so, I believe churches should not so easily succumb to the temptation of becoming more isolationist and less cooperative.

There are still hundreds of children in North Carolina who would have no safe place to sleep and grow up if not for Baptist Children's Homes. If giving continues at the present rate, the children will get $232,553 less in support from N.C. Baptist churches this year.

The Retirement Homes would get $141,191 less to help care for some of our choicest saints. The School of Pastoral Care at Baptist Hospital would get $107,438 less to help provide needed counseling services.

And, there are thousands of young adults enrolled in our Baptist colleges, relying on their fellow N.C. Baptists to help them gain a good education in a Christian setting. At the current rate of giving, our colleges will suffer a loss of $746,062 by the end of the year.

The BSC's two agencies are also feeling the pain. The N.C. Baptist Foundation, which helps to facilitate the kind of endowment giving that ensures the future of many N.C. Baptist institutions, stands to lose $16,330. And the Biblical Recorder, the primary source of communication and news among N.C. Baptists, will have to find ways to cope with a loss of $62,480.

The above numbers reflect a drop in income of 14.2 percent rather than 11.3 percent, because a growing share of the BSC's income comes from Plan D, which allots only 50 percent to the BSC's operating budget, rather than 68 percent, as in the other plans. At nearly 16 percent of cooperative giving, with 18 cents less per dollar going to the BSC's operating budget, Plan D impacts the budget by another 2.9 percent.

The BSC budget, however, is still based on the assumption that the BSC will retain 68 percent of cooperative missions gifts.

In addition to support for the institutions and agencies, the BSC's operating budget funds the services provided directly to the churches by our General Board staff, who have been told to reduce all spending not directly related to fixed costs or contracts by 15 percent. That's 15 percent less money for programming that supports Sunday School work, pre-school and children's education, literacy training and language missions. That's less money for programs that support the family, less money for evangelism, less for student work, less for chaplaincy ministries. And, it means less money for convention communications, administration and fund-raising efforts.

BSC leaders are gearing up to assist churches with a new coaching emphasis called Pursuing Vital Ministry, but they have 15 percent less money to pursue it with.

Churches, like individuals, have a right to choose how generous they will be with their resources. All of us are called to make choices that are prayerful and wise.

Let's be sure that our choices are also informed.

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4/11/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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