Council approves 2024 CP formula, hears financial update

By Elizabeth Young | May 17, 2023

The Convention Council of the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists approved a Cooperative Program distribution formula for 2024, received a financial update and heard a report from Executive Director David Johnson during a meeting held via Zoom May 9.

After nine consecutive years of increasing the percentage of Arizona Southern Baptists’ giving to the Southern Baptist Convention through the Cooperative Program, the 2024 distribution formula will continue the percentages in the 2023 budget: Arizona Mission Network, 46.9%; SBC national and international missions and ministries, 40%; Arizona Baptist Children’s Services, 7%; and

Arizona Campus of Gateway Seminary, 6.1%. (When the value of campus expenses covered by the AZMN is included, Gateway receives 7%.)

Arizona Southern Baptists’ Centennial Vision goal is to give 50% of Cooperative Program receipts to SBC missions and ministries outside the state by 2028.

In his written report to the Convention Council and in oral comments, David Johnson, AZMN executive director, celebrated the steps taken toward this goal and noted the current reality.
“It is not known whether continued increases to the percentage going outside of Arizona will be possible as we face challenges with our economy and questions about the SBC,” he wrote. “It has also been suggested that we are already beyond a 50/50 split when our giving to Gateway Seminary and Arizona Baptist Children’s Services are considered. Nevertheless, the giving of Arizona Southern Baptists to the Cooperative Program has been a great strength and highlight of the past ten years.”

The Cooperative Program distribution formula, which was recommended to the Convention Council by the Executive Team, will be presented with the 2024 budget for approval at the annual meeting in November.

Financial report

For the first quarter of 2023, Cooperative Program giving by Arizona Southern Baptist churches was down $56,858 compared to the previous year and was $5,137 below budget, Johnson reported.
“Early indications are that Cooperative Program receipts will also be down about $25,000 for the month of April,” he said, with an estimate that Cooperative Program giving will be down about $70,000 for the year.

However, the AZMN is still “in a good position financially,” Johnson said, with income exceeding expenses by about $73,000 at the end of the first quarter.
A study of churches’ Cooperative Program giving shows that more than half of the top-25-giving churches and more than half of the top-50-giving churches have given less so far this year than at the same point last year, Johnson said.

“As I’ve talked with pastors, what I’m discovering is that … the churches are also experiencing a downturn in giving,” he said.

Statistical analysis

Johnson, who will celebrate his 10th anniversary as executive director June 1, reported on a statistical analysis of Arizona Southern Baptists’ last 10 years. The analysis highlighted bright spots regarding church planting, Cooperative Program giving and giving to churches but also noted areas of decline in membership, baptisms and Bible study. (See separate story)

The statistical analysis was part of a 10-year self-evaluation Johnson submitted to the Executive Team. The evaluation included a proposal for a six-week sabbatical “for further reflection and personal renewal,” which was approved by the team. Johnson will be on sabbatical June 15 through the end of July.

Guidestone Mission:Dignity

Mission:Dignity recipients living in Arizona will receive additional funds — a 13th and 14th check — this year, Johnson reported. A ministry of Guidestone, Mission:Dignity assists retirement-age ministers, workers and widows struggling to meet basic needs.

Guidestone is partnering with state conventions to provide a 13th check. The AZMN Executive Team approved sending about $5,000 to Guidestone for a 13th check for the 13 Mission:Dignity recipients living in Arizona. In addition, the team approved “an additional check for their monthly support as a one-time gift from Arizona Southern Baptists in recognition of their service,” Johnson wrote in his report.

The funds will come from an endowed fund and will not affect the budget, he said.

Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Implementation Team

Three people have agreed to serve on the Sexual Abuse Prevention and Response Implementation Team, Johnson said.

They will work on three action items: “providing recommended policy and procedure resources for churches, establishing a relationship with a reporting and referral agency for churches in our network, and planning an in-person training event and resource team for churches in our state,” he said.

The people serving on the team with Johnson and AZMN President Fernando Amaro are Bob Van Horn, lead pastor of Real Life Church in Yuma; Teresa Zeledon, a Convention Council member and member of Iglesia Bautista Central in Phoenix; and Mike Hattabaugh, a counselor with New Life Counseling, a ministry of Arizona Baptist Children’s Services.

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