The BGCT reports its year to date Cooperative Program receipts each month at the bottom of its website, http://www.bgct.org. Since last year’s staff layoffs, I have been paying more attention to the figures there, and I am disturbed by what I see. In spite of Dr. Everett’s announcement that the convention would operate at 90% of the approved budget, giving year to date is still more than 10% less than anticipated revenue, and it is more than 2% below the same time last year.
Other than the initial announcement that the convention would be reducing spending, very little has been said about either how that is working out, or about the continued drop in Cooperative Program support. This has been a pattern for almost a decade, and over the past five years, our income has declined by more than 10%. Part of that is certainly due to the fact that churches have options, and denominational financial support is facing a paradigm shift that is not unique to Baptist conventions. But I think part of it, too, is due to a perceived lack of communication. It is difficult for leaders to address the situation directly. It’s like the elephant in the room, everyone knows it is there, few know how to make it go away, and no one wants to talk about it.
I’ve heard almost nothing about the budget plans for next year. Obviously, the continued decline in Cooperative Program support is causing concern. Appealing to the churches to increase their giving is a tired, old, exhausted method that will not work this time. I do see a solution.
Present a budget that contains items most churches would not object to supporting. There are things in the BGCT budget that some churches would prefer were options, not default giving. Our basic ministries, including the universities and other educational institutions, and the efforts to plant and support new churches, should be at the top of the list. Everything else should be subjected to close scrutiny. At some point, the impact of the budget will require some things to be eliminated. Organizations which are not directly related to the BGCT, but which receive some financial support should be warned that funds may no longer be available. We must be good stewards with our money, and our convention-related entities come first. Leaving out controversial contributions would likely generate a little more income from the churches.
It seems that it is time to start hearing from the BGCT regarding their budget planning process. Most Texas Baptists, at least, the ones interested in convention matters, are concerned that there be no more staff lay offs, and they are concerned about the ministries and spiritual interests they have supported in recent years. It would be nice to prepare our messengers prior to the convention.
The key here is simplicity. The budget needs to be as simple as possible, as understandable as possible, and directed at those things which we, as Texas Baptists, consider priorities for our state convention ministries. There might be many causes we would like to support, but our convention entities and their employees come first.