JACKSONVILLE (FBC)—Even with a nearly four percent drop in Cooperative Program income during the first six months of 2008 John Sullivan maintains, “Florida Baptists have stepped up to the plate to be faithful in their giving despite the state’s economic woes.”
“Our families are struggling to buy gas, groceries and household goods, yet they continue to support Southern Baptists’ worldwide missionary enterprise to fulfill the Great Commission,” said the executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention.
“I thank God for their commitment,” said Sullivan.
Across the state, Florida Baptist leaders are seeing economic troubles strain their churches and affect giving.
“Many of our smaller churches are having tough times,” said Michael Petty, director of missions for the Gulf Stream Baptist Association in metropolitan Fort Lauderdale. “I spoke to one pastor today whose church has a mortgage on a building under construction and rent to pay where the congregation worships. He and his wife are picking up some of the costs personally.”
“Many of our churches are giving faithfully to the association, but many are hurting. Some of those who base their giving on percentages have little money to share.”
Gifts to the Tampa Bay Baptist Association are ahead of budget at this point, but “we budget conservatively,” reported director of mission Tom Biles.
“The financial environment is one reason for Cooperative Program shortfalls,” Biles concluded.
“It is not the only reason. The lack of loyalty to the Cooperative Program is also an issue.”
In light of this, Biles has written an article to his churches asking them to reaffirm their support to the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist Convention. “This is the largest evangelical organization on planet earth,” he wrote. “Most of our churches would not exist without the cooperative work of the denomination.”
From January through June 2008, Florida Baptist churches gave $19,805,064 through the state’s Cooperative Program, which represents a 3.81 percent decrease—or nearly $800,000—from the $20,588,962 given for the same time period in 2007.
Forty percent of that $19.8 million will be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for worldwide mission causes.
The state convention has been dealing with declining receipts since February after a 2007 budget shortfall, the State Board of Mission revised the 2008 budget, trimming $1.5 million. Reductions were taken across the board for state missions causes, state agencies and institutions, and the SBC portion.
To offset the Florida Baptist Convention’s portion of the reduction, Sullivan instituted several cost-saving measures, including a hiring freeze and postponing other projected expenditures.
This month, Sullivan will recommend a 2009 Cooperative Program budget to the State Board’s Budget-Allocations Committee based on receipts from the past six months and the final six months of 2007. The proposed budget will hold the line on expenditures.
“We will make necessary adjustments to cut back in 2009,” Sullivan said, “continuing with our hiring freeze and consolidating staff assignments without reducing services to our local churches.”
Reiterating a pledge he made in January, Sullivan said, “We will not deficit spend.”
Reductions were reported in “Florida only” funds given by churches to remain within the state ($45,523 in 2008 from $88,353 in 2007) and designated funds given for special offerings and specific mission causes ($9,589,443 in 2008 from $11,252,684 in 2007).
Beginning on this page is a summary of 2008 and 2007 Cooperative Program and 2008 miscellaneous gifts from churches received in the state convention office from January through June. Gifts from “at large” churches are those affiliated with the state convention but not with a local association and are listed by church under the heading “Church at Large.”
Churches are encouraged to check the listing carefully and inform Steve Baumgardner, director of the Business Services Division, at 800-226-8584, ext. 3040 or [email protected], if corrections are needed. Each church and mission is urged to use the convention remittance form when sending gifts to the state convention office. Additional forms will be supplied upon request.
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