How To Get $43.8M More to IMB in the Cooperative Program Allocations

There has been much discussion in the past year about the place of the Cooperative Program in the life of the local church and the recipient SBC institutions. Some want to do away with the CP and go to designated giving completely, others want to reduce the percentages received by state conventions, and others want to adjust the allocations of the Cooperative Program. All of this talk has been presnted as being in the interest of getting more money to IMB to fund more missionaries.

In all of the discussion about the Cooperative Program, it seems to me that one of the most obvious suggestions for adjusting CP and getting more money to IMB has been overlooked. The SBC has taken the position that its institutions that receive income from its customers will not receive supplemental funding from CP. This is the reason that Lifeway and Guidestone do not receive CP funding. They generate their own income. This makes a lot of sense to me and I think we ought to adjust our CP allocations to support those SBC entities that do not have the capability to become self-sustaining.

Currently, the CP allocations are as follows:

The entities that are part of the CP allocations that do not have the ability to be self-sustaining are the missions boards, the library and archives, ERLC, and the Executive Committee. In order for those to continue to exist, supplemental funding from CP will be necessary.

But what about our seminaries? Is it possible that they could be self-sustaining entities? They certainly receive income outside of CP through tuition, dorm rentals, book sales, alumni endowments, etc. Outside of our mission boards, seminaries take up the highest percentage of CP allocations (21.92%), which equates to $43,801,003 (2010-2011 budget).

How many IMB missionaries could be funded with $43.8M? Assuming it costs IMB $50K per missionary per year, then $43.8M would provide for 876 additonal IMB missionaries. With the reallocation of the seminaries funding to IMB, that would raise the percentage of IMB allocation from 50% to 71.92%. Then, our total CP allocations for missions would increase from 72.79% to 94.71%.

I don’t think we should remove the seminaries from the CP immediately. Perhaps a five-year time frame which reduces the CP percentages to the seminaries could be undertaken. That way they would have time to adjust their budgets and marketing strategies accordingly.

SBC seminaries have the capability to produce enough income to be self-sustaining entities like Lifeway and Guidestone. With the implementation of this proposal, the majority of CP funds will be going to SBC missions. What do you think?

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19 Responses to How To Get $43.8M More to IMB in the Cooperative Program Allocations

  1. What percentage of seminary income is from the CP? The only other way I see to replace that lost funding would be to increase tuition. I’ve heard that would greatly cut into enrollment, which would further exacerbate the loss of funding.

    I think any SBc seminary grad would have a tough time supporting such a change.

  2. lesliepuryear says:

    Bob,

    According to the 2010 Book of Reports, the percentage of total budgets from CP for seminaries varies per seminary from 25% to 40%.

    Just because a seminary grad would have a tough time supporting such a change is not a reason not to do it.

    Others seem to have no problem calling for a reduction in the budgets of non-income producing entities such as the Executive Committee and state conventions. Why would they have a problem when we call for eliminating support for income generating institutions such as seminaries?

    In North Carolina, our baptist colleges have opted out of receiving any funding from our state convention. If they can do it, then certainly our seminaries can figure out how to do it.

    Les

  3. Bill Mac says:

    I’ve said this in other places, but I’m willing to bet a great percentage of regular SBCers have no idea that they are underwriting seminaries and seminarians. I wonder what the response would be if they all did know?

    I think if we don’t want the CP to die, we have to convince Southern Baptists that their CP giving is going to missions.

  4. Andrew says:

    Les,

    We generally agree about most things SBC…but here we stand on opposite sides of the chasm!

    As a present (and soon-to-be past, praise the Lord!) seminary student, I can guarantee that should CP funding of the seminaries be reduced or eliminated (even with a multi-year process), the following sad consequences will result:
    1) Most seminarians (who are married with one or more children) will be unable to complete their degrees…already many must take classes part-time over several years to approach the semblance of progress to graduation.
    2) The smaller seminaries, which also happen to be in the pioneer regions of the West and the Midwest (so, yes, I am talking about Midwestern and Golden Gate) will close their doors for lack of students and thus lack of funds
    3) The two sisters of SBTS and SWBTS will increase their influence by attracting the remaining seminary attendees…which I fear may set off an unintended turf war over whose graduates control the convention entities, including IMB
    4) The progress toward an educated Southern Baptist constituency will decline and thsoe earnest young men seeking the pastorate will go to non-SBC sources for their education…and probably then remain outside the SBC in their careers.
    5) SBC churches, mainly the smaller ones, will be either led outside the Convention or forced to close down when “the sheep scatter for lack of a shepherd”
    6) The decline will bring to a whimpering close the work and influence of the SBC in North America and around the world.

    Think that I am waxing vitrolic? For the past three years, tuition at my seminary has increased for lack of CP funds…and many students have left or transferred to online degrees to make ends meet with their family/work situation.

    Les, for someone passionate about saving the small churches from the tyranny of the large, you seem oddly immune the tyranny of those who have over those who have not!

  5. lesliepuryear says:

    Bill,
    Good question. I would think, though I do not know, that the folks in my church know that a part of CP goes to support seminaries. I don’t know if they know that 20% of the CP the SBC receives goes to seminaries.

    Andrew,
    Congrats to you on your impending graduation. Having graduated from SWBTS, I know your feeling of accomplishment and relief.

    As to your issues, perhaps what you predict will happen may not be a bad thing. I think more and more seminary attendees will go the online route. It’s cheaper and more practical from a family support perspective. Also, if some seminaries cannot survive, then a combination of seminaries may be much more practical.

    I have heard and read several seminary personnel and students vigourously advocate the slashing of budgets of SBC entities which have no means of generating income. They advocate these changes as being in the best interest of reaching more people for Christ through redirecting funds to the IMB. I wonder if they would be so willing to sacrifice for missions if the reduction of funding affected the seminaries. It seems to me that the seminaries have means of generating income other than CP, which is more than the Executive Committee and the state conventions can do.

    And, no, I don’t think your post is vitrolic. You disagree most agreeably. 🙂

    Les

    • Andrew says:

      “I have heard and read several seminary personnel and students vigourously advocate the slashing of budgets of SBC entities which have no means of generating income. They advocate these changes as being in the best interest of reaching more people for Christ through redirecting funds to the IMB. I wonder if they would be so willing to sacrifice for missions if the reduction of funding affected the seminaries. ”

      A valid point…and one of either youthful exuberance or narrow-sightedness. And historically the seminaries (except for the two on the chpping block first) were founded as independently funded, but affiliated agencies. My perspective is that if we were to defund the seminaries, we would either have to revert to allowing them to petition the churches directly (it would seem that the states would not be able or willing to trim their budgets enough to fund a portion of the seminary costs.) or we would have to cut them loose in one way or another to enable them to find funding elsewhere.

      • lesliepuryear says:

        Andrew,

        Thank you for saying I have “youthful exuberance” at 59 years old. 🙂

        It seems to me that you are assuming the seminaries must continue to get funding from some outside entity to function. There are other options such as reduce expenses, increase price, and develop new alumni donor sources. They have the ability to function entrepreneurially much more so than do state conventions.

        Les

      • Andrew says:

        Les,

        Actually I was referring to the youthful exuberance or narrow-sightedness of the “several seminary personnel and students vigourously (who) advocate the slashing of budgets of SBC entities which have no means of generating income.”….I suppose, with this idea of removing the seminaries fromm the CP budget, you too could be exuberant!

        “They have the ability to function entrepreneurially much more so than do state conventions.”

        Should not the states have to endure such similar austerity? They have actually churches whom they serve…shouldn’t we make them cut the fat before the seminaries/IMB/NAMB/etc.?

      • lesliepuryear says:

        Andrew,

        Why should the states cut their budgets before the seminaries? Are the seminaries more important than the state conventions?

        Les

      • lesliepuryear says:

        Andrew,

        Sure the states should cut the fat. I have no problem with that. But should the seminaries be exempt from this fat-cutting? I don’t think so. 🙂

        Les

  6. Dan says:

    First, I agree with Andrew’s fourth point. Without the low tuition that CP makes available, SBC pastors would get their education elsewhere, and a large portion of them would leave the denomination as a result.

    More importantly, the theological integrity of the seminaries would disappear within a generation. Educational institutions always drift toward the left, and our seminaries are no exception. (This is obvious from our history.) That’s why it is absolutely essential that the seminaries remain accountable to our churches rather than to a doner base. Without CP, we would see them go the way of Belmont, Georgetown, Wake Forest, etc. This would have a trickle-down effect throughout the convention that would essentially undo the conservative resurgence. We could send out more missionaries, but far fewer of them would be preaching the gospel.

    • lesliepuryear says:

      Dan,

      Thanks for your comment. I believe that you have overstated your case. According to what you are saying, without CP funds, the seminaries will cease to be Southern Baptist seminaries. I submit that would be incorrect. The trustees of the seminary will still be elected by the SBC. Many SBC churches will contribute to the seminaries. Fundraising in the seminary will continue to focus on Southern Baptist sources.

      Also, do you think that our seminaries are the sole guardians of doctrine in the SBC?

      I wonder how many missionaries actually attend seminary. Is a seminary degree required for our missionaries? Perhaps someone who has been through the process can help us with that question.

      Good discussion.

      Les

      • Dan says:

        The seminaries are not guardians of doctrine; the churches are. But the seminaries are the primary indoctrinators of our pastors, missionaries, denominational workers, and other ministers. There is no shortage of ministers who’ve gotten seriously messed up by liberal seminaries.

        IMB missionaries are required to complete a certain number of seminary hours, although I couldn’t tell you the details.

        I understand how extreme my statements sound, but based on historical examples, I don’t think I’ve overstated my point. We have seen this happen in several Baptist universities. Georgetown College in Kentucky is a good example. Their trustees were from the KBC, but as the school solidified its liberalism, it fought to get non-Baptist trustees for the purpose of raising more money. Georgetown won that fight and is no longer affiliated with the KBC, nor is there any hope that it can be brought back to doctrinal integrity. If we cease to control the seminaries’ funding, we will eventually cease to control them at all, and they will be lost. This could take 50 years or more, but it would be inevitable.

      • Andrew says:

        Les,

        Missionary candidates are required to have a minimum of 15 hours of biblical, theological and missiological courses…and most do the heavy lifting of church planting and evangelism need a graduate seminary degree.

  7. Bill Mac says:

    Here’s the thing. I work in academia, and I know the lifestyle of university presidents. So 20% of the CP is not only going to help impoverished seminarians, but also helps provide a lavish lifestyle and salary for seminary presidents that is far beyond what all but a bare handful of SBC pastors would ever hope to realize. People are likely giving up top round so Seminary top brass can eat filet.

    • lesliepuryear says:

      Bill Mac,

      I have no doubt that the seminaries could find plenty of ways to cut costs. If we ask them to roll out a plan to become self-sustaining within five years then I predict they will find many ways to reduce expenses.

      Les

  8. Interesting series of comments. I served on the board at Southern for 10 years (1993-2003). Yes, seminaries could become self-sustaining- at least Southern and Southwestern. I doubt Golden Gate or Midwestern would survive without some sort of CP support. On the other hand, even though I wasn’t on the board during the recent financial meltdown I remember that the meltdown of 2001 hurt Southern’s endowment fund significantly forcing them to raise fees then. I’m sure their fees have gone up in the intervening years.
    I think the proposal desrves study- careful and deliberate. Also, there has been a ove afoot for several years to close Midwestern anyway…I’d sure hate to lose any of our six seminaries. Living in the West without a seminary would seriously cripple church planting efforts in the Northwest and it would hinder our efforts at recruiting adequate pastors to serve here. The Northwest used to be the boneyard of pastoring- if you couldn’t make it anywhere else you could come out here…that culture is finally changing- in part thanks to Golden Gate’s persistence at satellite locations.

  9. Keith Williams says:

    Les,
    I have maybe a different take on the funding of the seminaries. First, if we see the support of the students as training both home and foreign missionaries then our funding takes on just a slightly different perspective. I would say this would be especially true if the students worked directly with IMB, NAMB and State Conventions from the very start of their training and focused on church planting. (If students developed kindred relationships then multi-gifted teams could receive specialized training and be sent out in impact lostness in those cities that need them most. Most of our older existing churches could partner with the teams, if they were Great Commission oriented, for initial financial support once on the field.)

    Second, I attended SWBTS, but I pastored in California for 32 years, before moving to New Mexico to serve as a DOM. Golden Gate does not have the financial base that Southwestern or Southern has in terms of church or alumni support. Yet, it is strategically located where 1 out of every 10 people in the US live. Maybe we ought to shift our CP giving percentages to the seminaries with best opportunity to impact the greatest numbers of lostness and the greatest need not with the greatest enrollment.

    • lesliepuryear says:

      Keith,

      I love your suggestion in your last paragraph. GGBTS is one of only two seminaries that actually managed their resources where they came out with more income than expenses (NOBTS being the other). If we follow the line of thinking of the GCRTF, then your suggestion is right on. Let’s give more to the underserved seminaries than the big four. Good idea.

      Les

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