South Carolina Baptists were $1.14 million shy of funding the state convention budget in 2013, marking the fourth budget shortfall in the last five years.
Budget receipts from churches totaled $27,458,991, about 4 percent below the $28.6 million targeted in the SCBC spending plan. The state convention budget, which is supported primarily through Cooperative Program gifts from churches, runs Jan. 1-Dec. 31.
“We would certainly like to see us making budget,” said SCBC executive director-treasurer Jim Austin. “We like to think that’s what we could count on; [other entities] dependent on that budget giving would like it as well.”
Austin said giving is down across the Southern Baptist Convention. “South Carolina kind of follows the national trend, but we wish we could see it reversed,” he said.
“We know that through the recession many churches had to cut spending, and many pastors and staff did not receive raises and still have not received raises,” he said. “Deferred-maintenance issues were left deferred, so once the money does come in, it’s understandable that you would patch the roof or hire a part-time youth pastor, things that you wanted to do but couldn’t due to the recession.”
“Sometimes Cooperative Program giving is not first on the priority list,” he said. “We’re sympathetic to that.”
But Austin said he would “like to have a conversation” to explain that supporting the state convention’s budget is to help fund missionaries, institutions, Baptist Campus Ministries, state missionaries, and church-planting and church-revitalization efforts.
“We certainly respect the autonomy of the local church to make the decisions that they make,” he said, “but we keep emphasizing we’re better together, and one way we demonstrate that is through our cooperative giving.”
Austin credited the convention staff for “pinching pennies” in 2013 in order to absorb the $1.14 million shortfall. “I commend our folks for being frugal and being good stewards,” he said. “We’re making it. We’re finishing in the black. We’re grateful for that.”
Austin noted that gifts from churches to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions increased by nearly the same amount as SCBC budget giving fell short.
“Only time will tell if [the increase in the Lottie Moon offering] is going to be a sustainable trend,” Austin said. “However, we did, from our churches, give significantly extra funds to missions, but we did it through Lottie Moon as opposed to the Cooperative Program.”
South Carolina Baptists gave nearly $8.5 million to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering in 2013.
Because the SCBC failed to meet its budget in 2013, South Carolina Baptists will not be sending a supplementary check to the International Mission Board in 2014 as they did in 2013 — at least not from budgeted funds, Austin said. He noted that the SCBC Executive Board, which will meet again in April, has the prerogative to “act on anything” involving the convention’s reserve funds. “That would be a board decision,” he said.
Last April, a $414,724 supplemental gift was sent to the International Mission Board after South Carolina Baptist churches fully funded the 2012 SCBC budget. The supplemental funding for IMB, contingent upon the SCBC meeting its operating budget, was called for in the 2011 Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report.