Despite declines in attendance and baptisms within Southern Baptist Convention churches, giving continues to increase for its major offering campaigns. The Baptist Press reports that donations to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which supports international missions, exceeded the budgeted goal by $2.2 million. And donations to the SBC’s Cooperative Program, which supports national and international ministries, exceeded the budgeted goal by $2.7 million.
Why Are These Offerings So Important?
For the 2018-2019 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, SBC members gave $156.6 million, the third-highest amount in the offering’s history. This money supports 3,700 full-time SBC missionaries throughout the world and makes up almost three-fourths of the overseas budget of the SBC’s International Missions Board (IMB).
IMB President Paul Chitwood says, “In the slums and cities, in the jungles and on the plains, in the provinces and on the plateaus, [these] gifts make it possible for Southern Baptists to take the Gospel to the areas where billions are waiting to be reached.”
The Cooperative Program, the SBC’s main giving channel, received $196.7 million in 2018-2019, marking five consecutive years of donations exceeding the target. Money comes from individual members, SBC congregations, and state conventions.
“Cooperating together to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation is exactly what the Cooperative Program is all about,” says Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee. “Reaching the world with the Gospel is the only reason this network of churches called Southern Baptists exists.”
For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the SBC’s budget was $194 million, with just more than half of that going toward international missions. The denomination’s new fiscal year began October 1, with an adopted budget of $196.5 million.
Year-over-year giving decreased slightly, down $313,124, or 0.16 percent, from last year. Floyd attributes that to “multiple transitions of leadership along with other major challenges” during the past 12 to 18 months. The denomination has faced a sexual abuse scandal and is trying to shore up safety—and its reputation.
Falling Attendance Hasn’t Affected Main Offerings
Increased giving to the SBC’s major offerings is happening while SBC membership is at its lowest in 30 years.
Overall U.S. church membership has declined 20 percent in the past 20 years. Most notably for the SBC, the Bible Belt is “disappearing fast.”
“Nones,” or people without religious affiliation, now comprise 20 percent of the population and 30 percent of people age 30 and under.
Mohler says the SBC can’t compromise its convictions or minimize its challenges, which will likely increase. Seminary enrollment remains promising, he points out, so he’s “unconvinced that we have lost an entire generation.”