Fourth Report of the SBC Funding Study Committee
by Funding Study Committee
March 21, 2006

Fourth Report of the SBC Funding Study Committee
To the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
February 20, 2006

INTRODUCTION and BACKGROUND

The SBC Funding Study Committee (FSC) is an ad hoc committee of the Executive Committee, having been charged by action of the full Executive Committee in February of 2002 with the task of studying Southern Baptist Convention funding issues.  The study was begun against a backdrop of recognition that the SBC seminaries faced financial challenges, although funding issues relating to all our entities are within the committee’s scope of discussion and review.

The process the Executive Committee adopted in 2002 for composing the committee was by appointment of its chairman.  Committee membership is not limited to current members of the Executive Committee, although all original appointees were Executive Committee members when appointed.  The membership of the FSC has been augmented since inception to accomplish a continued organizational memory while maintaining representation of current Executive Committee members.

PRESENT FSC MEMBERS and STAFF LIAISONS

The present members of the SBC Funding Study Committee and the staff liaisons to the committee are listed below:

Name     E.C. Term      State        Occupation
Bill Anderson, chair   1997 – 2005  TX Christian School Headmaster, Former Pastor
Jim Butler    1999 – 2004 OK Pastor
Frank Cox       1997 – 2006  GA Pastor
James Hales     1997 – 2005    KY Bank President, retired
Gerald Harris    1998 – 2004  GA Editor, Georgia Christian Index, Former Pastor
Marty Odom 1997 – 2004  OK Realtor
Gary Smith 1997 – 2005  TX Pastor
Rob Zinn  1998 – 2006  CA Pastor
David Hankins  Staff 1997-2004  LA State Convention Executive
Sing Oldham   2002 – 2006 TN Pastor, College Professor
Roy Sparkman  1998 – 2007 TX State District Judge
Staff Liaisons:  Morris Chapman, Bob Rodgers, and August Boto

REPORT

To address the change over time in committee membership, and to more fully inform the newest members of the Executive Committee, this report has retrospective elements, including a brief history of the creation, an explanation of its purpose, and a description of the goals of the committee. Both the parent body (the Executive Committee) and its specially appointed subset (the Funding Study Committee) have experienced change in their membership ranks over the last four years, with the most significant changes occurring in the Executive Committee.  Approximately 48 of the 83 members of the Executive Committee serving when the FSC was originally commissioned have since rotated out of service.  As a result, over half of the Executive Committee membership has had a limited opportunity to track the work and progress of the FSC.  The newest Executive Committee members perhaps do not even know of its existence or its assignment.   This report, then, seeks to ensure that all Executive Committee members are fully apprised about this committee’s purpose and charge. 

Accordingly, to better inform those Executive Committee members who are in the early years of their service, the FSC has asked Dr. Chapman to direct the staff to append to this report its three earlier reports.  Those reports were issued on September 17, 2002, February 17, 2003, and September 23, 2003.

The Committee’s Genesis and Purpose

The committee’s origin is rooted in the expressed financial needs of the Convention’s six seminaries. Its broader purpose is Convention-wide. It has sought to assess pertinent data in two broad categories: maximizing “revenue resources” and identifying “efficiencies in spending,” making appropriate recommendations to accomplish both to the extent possible within the limits of Convention polity and sound biblical doctrine.

Its Scope

As mentioned in its prior reports (attached) the committee has considered a broad spectrum of information.  It has collected and reviewed, and will continue to collect and review, data relating to income and expenditures for all SBC entities and its Executive Committee, and to analyze the methods, procedures, and practices employed in the collection and distribution of assets.  Interviews with entity executives have been conducted, and may be repeated.  Information about how churches promote giving, and collect and forward contributions, is also being sought and received.  Not only are present practices being assessed, but past practices, historical studies, and economic factors affecting society in general have been reviewed.  For instance, health care benefits costs have escalated at a more rapid pace than annual inflation rates, straining most institutional budgets. Additionally, the 1990s stock market bubble burst at the turn of the century, adversely affecting income previously generated from endowment and other investment funds.

Completion Date

No completion date has been set or forecast, nor, in the committee’s view, should one be stated.  The committee has a keen sense that there must be balance between meeting present needs and crafting long-term solutions.  This report includes some conclusions and recommendations the FSC feels are well-founded and productive.  Additional recommendations or adjustments of an “interim” or “tune-up” character may be made later after the fashion of those included in the committee’s third report (attached).  More sweeping recommendations, such as policies to be recommended for inclusion in the Business and Financial Plan, or some material alteration in Cooperative Program allocation percentages, would certainly draw discussion among Southern Baptists, requiring periods of greater length to allow for explanation, discussion, and adoption by the broader constituency.  While no such changes are now being contemplated by the committee, neither are they outside the realm of possibility.

The committee feels that it should concentrate upon productive progress more than it should completion.  At the point at which significant improvement is accomplished and generally thought to be sustainable, that fact will be self-evident, and the work of the committee may then be brought to a natural close.

Committee Maintenance and Approval

The committee is cognizant that it has no legislative or enacting powers.  It serves as an advisory body to the Executive Committee as a whole, and any recommendations or reports, such as those contained in this report and in the other reports it has made, must be rendered to, received, and voted on by the entire Executive Committee. This process of approval has already been practiced in this committee’s work. (See the FSC’s last [third] report, attached, and particularly the recommendations contained therein, as well as the minutes of the Executive Committee’s September 2003, meeting.)

Appropriateness of Ad Hoc Committees

Traditionally, ad hoc committees have been utilized by the Executive Committee for studies that require extensive research and deliberation over a lengthy period of time and are anticipated to result in written reports with conclusions that may or may not introduce recommendations for new or revised Convention operations.  In short, it is fully appropriate and in keeping with previously approved practices that the Funding Study Committee has been given the responsibility it has been given.  Its assignment has been approved by the full Executive Committee.  (See the committee’s first report [attached] and the minutes of the February 2002, Executive Committee meeting.)  This committee believes its work will prove to be significantly beneficial and substantially productive.

Past Accomplishments

The collection of data, some of which has not previously been compiled, compared, or assessed, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Some of the work done is evident from the findings published by this committee in its last (third) report (attached).  When the committee publishes more of its findings at some future date, its data collection may become more obvious if it is referred to as the foundation for any conclusions reached.

The most tangible accomplishment of the committee is its recommendation that a Cooperative Program course be instituted at each of our six Southern Baptist seminaries.  (See this committee’s second report, attached.)  All the seminaries are now implementing that course. The course is expected to improve the

training of seminary graduates in understanding or communicating the ministry nature of the CP. Since many graduates do not show a measurable appreciation for the strategic role of the CP in funding Acts 1:8 initiatives, it appears the genius of CP has not been transferred from one generation to the next.

The text for this course, One Sacred Effort, was written by Dr. David E. Hankins, a member of this committee and previous Vice President of Cooperative Program for the Executive Committee, and Dr. Chad Owen Brand, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies for Boyce College.  The committee commends this book to every Southern Baptist, and especially to our pastors, as a thorough presentation of the history of the Cooperative Program, as well as of its effectiveness and supremacy over and against every other missions funding vehicle utilized in modern days.

The committee expects that the use of such materials in intentional and comprehensive Cooperative Program instruction will reap a harvest of more thorough and widespread Southern Baptist church and church member loyalty to and use of the Cooperative Program similar to that experienced in earlier eras.  Conversely, if the young pastors now being instructed fail to embrace and impart this all-important training to their future local churches, and the average Southern Baptist’s Cooperative Program knowledge and loyalty continues to decline from the minimal levels now evident, the Southern Baptist Convention’s ministries will become ineffectual to the point of extinction.

The Root Cause of the Funding Dilemma

The committee is convinced by overwhelming evidence of a widespread (though not by any means universal) lack of biblical stewardship in the area of giving.  While there will always be room for improvement in managing cost, dealing with the spending or application side of stewardship in an environment in which total giving is roughly one-fourth of the biblical mandate is not the most productive application of our collective energy.

To be specific, the recent report, The State of Church Giving through 2003, published in October 2005, by empty tomb, Inc., shows that the average church member in America gave just 2.6% of income to their church. The Southern Baptist Annual Report for 2005 states that Southern Baptists gave $7.47 billion of undesignated offerings from a Sunday School membership of approximately 8.2 million, amounting to a per capita giving of less than $1,000 per annum. Therefore the most productive application of our collective energy should be devoted toward improving giving and moving toward biblical stewardship.

Complicating Factors

The Funding Study Committee examined a number of possible improvements which could be made to increase funding which, at first blush, appear to offer immediate relief.  After thorough study, the committee believes these alternative options have latent defects or even destructive capacities.  A representative list of such “attractive distractions” the committee has extensively discussed is below:

  • Additional Special Offerings – Although this committee made its recommendation against having any further annual special offerings clear in its last report, which the Executive Committee forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention (see 2004 SBC Annual, page 130), its thoughts bear repeating here, both for review and for emphasis.  The committee understands the appeal of special offerings.  The immediate influx of capital, the exclusive use of all the funds contributed, and the ability to promote giving among special interest supporters all work together to make special offerings appealing. Special offerings, however, increase the number of financial appeals being made to the supportive constituency.  Special offerings could also promote unhealthy comparison and competition by and between entities, undermining unity and our coherent CP strategy.  More importantly, an increase in the number of special offerings is a move toward societal funding – an approach that has proved in the past to be ineffective and even harmful to ministry. 
  • Lifting limits on direct appeals to churches – A second option considered was to remove the prohibition against direct entity appeal to the churches, found in Article VI D of the SBC’s Business and Financial Plan. But removal would allow any entity to appeal to the churches at anytimefor any purposeopening the door for even more appeals while retaining all of the negative characteristics of societal funding.
  • Approval of new funding pathways – This is a third option following the theme of adjusting the “ways” to give.  Promoting alternative ways to contribute to SBC ministries, or approving the bypass of certain ministries as an option, is not seen by the committee as a real solution. Southern Baptists are already free to contribute in widely differing ways, and providing even more alternatives in a veritable sea of alternatives solves little.  Encouraging Southern Baptists to give biblically, give liberally, and to give efficiently is the key.  The Cooperative Program meets all of these goals.  Instead of providing new pathways, we should energetically embrace the tried and true one.

The Convention’s governing documents confirm that both direct giving (giving around the Cooperative Program) and designated giving have both long had a place in the overall scheme of biblical stewardship.  (See, for instance, the promise to treat designated gifts as a sacred trust in Articles VII and VIII of the SBC’s Business and Financial Plan.) Be that as it may, the committee finds the present trend of some donors and churches following their gifts to an intended ultimate destination (many times under the justification that doing so is “good stewardship”) runs at cross purposes to biblical giving at many points, especially as direct or designated giving increases at the expense of the tithe.  All motivations to earmark, “negatively designate,” or otherwise pick and choose “worthy recipients” from among the usual Cooperative Program participants should be closely inspected to ferret out whether good stewardship is at play or our sinful human nature is operating to undermine the unified budget process.

  • Reapportionment – Adjustment of the Cooperative Program allocation percentages sometimes occurs to adapt to a change in ministry assignment, entity structure and function, or other social factors. But an alteration now would completely fail to address the core issue at hand and mislead many to believe the committee had missed the point.  Cooperative Program allocation is a “zero-sum” proposition.  While this committee was created principally (though not exclusively) to address expressed funding needs of the six seminaries, ALL of the SBC entities could well use additional funding because the size of the task is growing.  It is not the size of each piece of the CP pie that is creating the problem.  The problem is that the entire pie is too small. Therefore the committee sees no need to change the Cooperative Program allocation percentages at this time, since any such change would fall far short of solving funding problems. 
  • Entity restructure – The SBC reorganization in the 1990s and the successive changes in entity names have all occurred so recently that further downsizing, coalescing, or otherwise adjusting the infrastructure as a means of better directing funds would be premature.  There is no question that the reorganization was tremendously beneficial financially.  Any changes which could now be made, however, fall under the heading of “routine business,” which each entity’s trustees and administrators are assigned to handle.  Concern by some over whether the Funding Study Committee would recommend a seminary chancellorship, closure, restructure, or combination of seminaries, combination of mission boards, and the like was to be expected and is purely natural. All of these ideas and more were discussed by the committee and deemed to have little value at this time.  Someday Southern Baptists may wish to explore such possibilities further.  But at this juncture this committee wants Southern Baptists to know it has concluded that the current organizational structure seems to be fulfilling the Convention’s mission.  The value each entity adds to their Cooperative Program allocation must be known by Southern Baptists to justify the increased giving they will be called to make.  Measuring this value is a matter further discussed below.
  • Efficiency studies / Stricter controls –Our entities have qualified boards and administrators fully capable of crafting economizing measures tailored to each entity’s needs. But, as noted above, in an environment where percentages of Cooperative Program giving are declining, efficiency studies and spending controls are not nearly as productive as biblical stewardship. Said another way, it does not help to be more efficient if necessary raw materials are not supplied.  The committee understands full well that Convention ministry is not merely the result of our human time, talents, money, and energy.  Certainly the Lord multiplies hugely our best efforts, and makes up for our shortcomings, bringing about victories even when we have failed to do our part.  He makes the impossible possible.  He is in the rescuing business.  But He will not bless disobedience (Malachi 3:8-12).

To further extend the list of available options that have been considered, the committee should also mention its consideration of the growing interest our Southern Baptist Convention seminaries have taken in baccalaureate education in recent years, and commends them for having adjusted their particular programs to maximize the viability, solvency, and effectiveness of their institutions in ways permitted by their ministry assignments.  The committee has reviewed the marketability, popularity, and resultant profitability of the baccalaureate component in seminary education and believes continuing to include baccalaureate education among the other theological education ministry assignments is important in continuing to provide sufficient flexibility to each seminary to meet its own particular needs.

The committee also recognizes, though, that the very same evidence showing success in offering baccalaureate degrees supports a concern that its popularity and profitability may someday drive the agenda for one or more of our seminaries, resulting in a subordination of the present priority upon producing quality ministers to serve on the mission field and in Southern Baptist churches.  Choosing how best to guard against the same sort of drift in emphasis that turned Harvard and Yale away from theological emphasis is in the purview of each seminary’s board. But it isn’t just the Harvard and Yale syndrome that concerns us. Some of our own SBC colleges and universities that were Southern Baptist Christian centers of education also drifted away, and their original purpose was lost in a quest for increased profitability.

The present level of baccalaureate education interest and delivery by our seminaries appears healthy. But the committee believes it would be helpful to determine at what point the growth of the seminaries’ pre-baccalaureate and baccalaureate programs would become alarming. While the committee notes that such issues were considered in The Colorado Concord (November 1993) and a formal response to questions from the Executive Committee in August of 1999, the committee feels it, or the Executive Committee, and the Council of Seminary Presidents should again jointly examine whether or not the expansion and effect of these programs is being properly monitored and controlled. This examination should also determine whether compelling reasons still exist to allocate Cooperative Program dollars on all of the various bases included in the Seminary Funding Formula.

The Seminary Funding Formula has now remained materially unchanged for the last thirty years, but over that same time span, as the reports mentioned in the foregoing paragraph have shown, the landscape of higher education has significantly evolved.  Therefore, the committee believes the Seminary Funding Formula must be reexamined soon in a collaborative effort with the seminary presidents.  Beginning that endeavor this year would be early enough to allow planning and budgeting by having any new provisions or replacement distributive schemes in place well before the 2010-2011 school year the end of the period of stasis now in effect.

Another aspect of seminary funding which may need adjustment relates to application of Cooperative Program funds by the seminaries.  The committee is aware that a significant number of churches have contacted the Executive Committee offices asking for instructions as to how to contribute various token amounts and “get credit” for having done so, stating explicitly that their desire is to access SBC seminary discounts.  When this has occurred, the Executive Committee staff has routinely responded that the intent is to extend the discounts to churches with a record of significant and consistent Cooperative Program support or some other indication of whole-hearted loyalty to and friendly cooperation with the Convention.  Nevertheless, evidence exists that leads the committee to believe that making token contributions to access the benefits intended for bona fide Southern Baptist churches is a theme that is waxing rather than waning.  For instance, several calls in recent months have been received from church leaders whose churches have never formally expressed, by vote or otherwise, the intention of affiliating with the Southern Baptist Convention, but still seek to make contribution to it to “get the discount.”  Furthermore, receipt of $25 contributions to “The Cooperative Program” or to one of the SBC entities has been noticed, and follow-up inquiries have corroborated the suspicion that the sending church or individual had only the motivation described.  The committee is looking forward to working with the seminary presidents to find ways of tracking and better preventing the further spread of this very disappointing practice.

RECOMMENDATION 1:  That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, that the Southern Baptist Convention request that the Executive Committee post the Organization Manual on the SBC.net website, and print it in the Southern Baptist Convention’s Book of Reports and Annual each year, to make as many Southern Baptists as possible aware of each entity’s assignment, and to provide a backdrop against which entity reports of progress and accomplishment can be made.

The committee believes that any expectations Southern Baptists might have of their entities must be tied to specifics, and that when reports are delivered by the entities at each year’s annual meeting to the messengers in attendance, those reports should respond and relate to the very assignments the Convention has meted out.  During the course of the committee’s investigation and discussion, it became evident that very basic matters perhaps once known by most Southern Baptists have fallen into an increasing obscurity.  An example, unfortunately, is the Cooperative Program’s history, process, and record of performance.   Another is the existence and function of the Organization Manual and its ministry, mission, and relationship statements. 

The Organization Manual is one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s five governing documents, the others being its Charter, its Constitution, its Bylaws, and its Business and Financial Plan.  Of the five, the only one not readily accessible by Southern Baptists is the Organization Manual, since all of the others are printed twice every year – once in the spring in the Book of Reports, and once each fall in the Annual.  Without possessing the Organization Manual’s clear iteration of assignments, Southern Baptists have no standard against which to set expectation or satisfaction levels.  Similarly, the SBC entity reports each year vary in response to general perceptions.  To assure that all participants are on the same page, that “page” should be produced. 

RECOMMENDATION 2:  That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, that the Southern Baptist Convention request that the Executive Committee take the initiative in collaborating with each entity to develop appropriate metrics which can be reported consistently each year in the Ministry Reports and SBC Annual beginning no later than 2008, and which measure the value each entity adds to their Cooperative Program allocation in their respective areas of ministry assignment, all with the goal of engendering increased awareness of and trust in the Cooperative Program, and increased contribution through it.

The committee believes that every Convention entity and the Executive Committee, and every affiliated Southern Baptist organization, adds value to the funds they receive.  If the SBC entities, in their collection and application of Cooperative Program receipts for the highest and best purposes – Kingdom purposes –make the value they add more noticeable and measurable to everyday Southern Baptists, doing so will beget further trust and increased giving.  This could be accomplished if entity reports were 1) more uniform from year to year, reporting the same sort of information, and 2) more specific, to allow for a quantification that could be graphed over time, which could then result in better assessment and course correction, making it much easier for average Southern Baptists to understand and support the work of the Convention, its Executive Committee, and its entities.

Examples of things Southern Baptists might be interested in knowing include such things as the numbers of graduates produced at each level of education, the number of past graduates (five or ten years prior) still in Southern Baptist ministry, the percentage of Cooperative Program given by the average Southern Baptist church, and the year’s increase or decrease in that figure, similar numbers for baptism rates, the number of ministers in the Adopt an Annuitant program, the amount distributed under that program, the number of SBC affiliated churches using LifeWay Sunday School material, the percentage of our churches that number represents, the number of new church plants for the year, the number of church plants reported in past years (five or ten years prior) that are still functioning churches, and other such meaningful statistics.  Obviously, the foregoing list is illustrative only, but all of such things are called “metrics” (things to be measured).  Accordingly, the committee makes Recommendation #2 to facilitate future “assessment of efficiencies” (a topic this committee was originally authorized to review).

RECOMMENDATION 3:  That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, that the Southern Baptist Convention request that the Executive Committee and all SBC entities take every opportunity to explicitly remind all Southern Baptists and appropriate others of the Cooperative Program’s benefits by including motivating references to it noticeably and continually on all regularly issued printed materials, characterizing it as a most efficient way of funding worldwide missions and ministry, and directing readers to the Cooperative Program website to learn more about it.

The committee has discussed several times over the course of its deliberations the gross disparity between the levels of knowledge and understanding about the Cooperative Program the older generation has as compared to that of the younger.  A complete loss of comprehension of the Cooperative Program can be achieved simply by assuming that being born to Southern Baptists is all that is required.  Any pastor can prove to himself the dismal levels of understanding about the Cooperative Program by asking a few simple questions to ten randomly selected people in his congregation on a Sunday morning.  With LifeWay as the world’s largest religious publisher, and our other entities also regularly printing a raft of materials, the committee is assured that by using the cooperative coordination skills we as Southern Baptists surely possess, much can be done to bring greater awareness of the Cooperative Program to the forefront.

The committee envisions more than the proliferation of a logo or catch phrases such as “A Cooperative Program Ministry,” although saying just that may be helpful.  What the committee has in mind is the insertion of the CP logo accompanied by short explanations of how the Cooperative Program operates or how it assists the ministry to which the publication relates. Placing such statements in as many available spaces as possible will raise the consciousness of the strategic role the Cooperative Program plays. For example, report cards and invoices sent to seminary students would be an appropriate medium in which to convey such information, such as is shown in the following example:

Sample Transcript   
Classical Greek  A
Homiletics 
Eschatology B+ 
To date, $9,0000.00 of your seminary
education costs were paid for by the
Cooperative Program of the Southern
Baptist Convention
 
Sample Student Invoice  
Total Semester Cost     $5,500.00
Amt. Paid by the SBC CP   $2,350.00
Net Amt. Due     $3,150.00

Other venues would include such things as invoices for products and services, periodicals, mass mailings, videos, audios, automated phone answering or messaging programs, television specials, books, booklets pamphlets, letterheads, radio shows and public addresses. One of our state conventions is already exemplary of such a practice, in that it adds the phrase “The Cooperative Program enables me to partner with you in making Christ known” at the end of every email from any employee in the state office. If embraced in the fullest sense possible, Recommendation # 3, interpreted in light of these examples, would be tremendously helpful in increasing Cooperative Program awareness.

The Key to Overall Success - Confidence in the Cooperative Program

FINALLY, the committee can say in complete and unanimous agreement that its appreciation of the Cooperative Program as a missions funding mechanism remains unchanged.  No alternative we can envision even comes close to it in any measurable aspect.  Not in productivity.  Not in reliability.  Not in adaptability.  Not in understandability.  Not in inclusivity.  Not in sustainability.  Not in any way that we know of.  It is the paragon of missions funding models, and recognized as such by many outside our Convention.

The Cooperative Program has not failed us since its inception, but we have certainly failed to properly maintain it.  In our last report and in this report (above) we have emphasized the need for the continuing, intentional training of our people regarding stewardship and the Cooperative Program.  Obviously these aspects have little to do with discovery of a new vehicle, and everything to do with rediscovery of an old and proven one – sacrificial giving . . . and through the Cooperative Program first and foremost.

As stated above, every member of this committee firmly believes and cannot emphasize enough that whatever it may recommend in the future to address funding needs, and even if all of our other adjustive recommendations are fully embraced, NOTHING fiscally positive and lasting will be accomplished if stewardship training and Cooperative Program commitment continue to languish.

The Funding Study Committee is intent upon promoting ways to hardwire into the very DNA of all Southern Baptists an understanding of and devotion to such a stewardship.  Therefore, and for all of the foregoing reasons, the Funding Study Committee heartily endorses the transfer of the responsibility for the Stewardship Ministry from LifeWay Christian Resources to the Executive Committee which it understands will be presented to the Executive Committee under a separate recommendation to be considered during the February, 2006 Executive Committee meeting.

Please pray for us as we continue to serve and strive to think through and recommend ways to improve funding streams for our entities so they can accomplish all that the Lord has laid before them to accomplish in His name and for His kingdom.

Respectfully submitted,

The SBC Funding Study Committee of the Executive Committee (members listed above)
William E. (Bill) Anderson, chair

 

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