A Southern Baptist Convention task force has released a report calling for greater Cooperative Program support from leaders throughout the denomination.
A Southern Baptist Convention task force has
released a report calling for greater Cooperative Program support from
leaders throughout the denomination.
The report recently was released by the eight-member
Task Force on Cooperation. It includes 13 recommendations with the goal
of boosting Cooperative Program giving and improving cooperation
between the national and state conventions. Chief among the
recommendations is one calling on elected convention leaders to come
from strong Cooperative Program churches and to be “well-known
advocates” of the Cooperative Program.
“Never before has the leadership of the Southern
Baptist Convention – from entity heads down to every Sunday School
teacher and pastor – needed to sound the call for evangelism and the
Cooperative Program,” SBC President Bobby Welch said.
“Everybody can appreciate the heartfelt and clear message of the task
force – that leadership should lead the way, in both going and giving.”
Southern Baptists widely have been praised for their
involvement in the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief. But what many
Southern Baptists fail to recognize is that Cooperative Program dollars
has provided the infrastructure that allowed Southern Baptist disaster
relief teams to be on the ground immediately after the storm, Welch
said. Because of the funding stability provided by the Cooperative
Program, Southern Baptists can respond quickly in times of disaster and
not undercut ongoing ministries.
The task force’s report could not be more timely,
Welch said. “We’re at one of our greatest points of destiny and have
before us the greatest opportunity,” he said. “However, everything
hinges on unity of purpose. … We must now accelerate not only the
going but the giving.”
Founded in 1925, the Cooperative Program is Southern
Baptists’ method of supporting missions and ministry efforts around the
world. Under the plan, portions of gifts given at the local church
level are forwarded to use for efforts throughout one’s state, the
nation and the world.
In recent years, Cooperative Program giving
has struggled to keep up with inflation. In 2003, Southern
Baptist mission boards were forced to cut their budgets, preventing new
missionaries from being assigned.
The task force’s report says the problem is
multi-fold. One problem is the portion that churches are forwarding
through the Cooperative Program. In 1984, churches forwarded an average
of 10.6 percent of offerings. Since then, the number has declined to
A lack of leadership also is partly to blame for the drop in support from churches, the report maintains.
“Too many top Southern Baptist Convention leaders
and officials for too many years gave scant attention or support to the
Cooperative Program as they discharged their responsibilities,” the
“It is well known that a number of our leaders in
the past generation hardly ever spoke about the Cooperative Program or
promoted it in one way or another,” the recently-released document
adds. “For the most part, their churches were poor models of
Cooperative Program support. As a result, it has been projected that
thousands of pastors and churches reduced their Cooperative Program
percentage of undesignated monies as they followed the example of those
who led them.”
The task force report included more than a dozen recommendations, urging that:
• People elected to Southern Baptist Convention
positions of leadership should come from strong Cooperative Program
churches and should be well-known advocates themselves of Cooperative
• Every elected national and state convention leader
should promote the Cooperative Program with “vigor and intentionality
on a consistent basis.”
• The Cooperative Program should be placed at the
top of every agenda during annual national and state convention. The
Cooperative Program also should be a top priority for “various state
and national entities that receive Cooperative Program funds,” the
• The convention’s international and North American
mission boards should promote the Cooperative Program “as vigorously”
as their own missions offering.
• “Every effort” must be made to “incorporate a
renewed call to biblical stewardship and the Cooperative Program (as a)
vital link in support of the invitation of Jesus to live out his
• The state conventions and the SBC Executive
Committee must join together to provide leadership for Cooperative
Program promotions and expansion.
• Southern Baptists should be taught to practice the biblical standard of tithing.
• Southern Baptist churches should send at least a
tithe of undesignated receipts to mission causes through the
• Every avenue be explored to educate Southern
Baptists – particularly those 40 and younger – about the Cooperative
• National and state convention leaders must agree
upon a single-focused, simple to understand strategy for Cooperative
Program advancement. “That strategy must be built on identifying the
strengths of the Cooperative Program and adding to those strengths
while not giving so much time and attention to what is wrong with the
Cooperative Program,” the report notes.
• Southern Baptist Convention entities not pursue
financial mission support in a societal approach – that is, by seeking
donations directly from churches outside of the Cooperative Program
framework. “This practice … will mean the death of Southern Baptists
as we have existed, especially since 1925,” the report warns.
• As giving increases in churches, state conventions
must be challenged to move toward a 50/50 distribution of Cooperative
Program funds – keeping 50 percent of funds while forwarding 50 percent
to the national body.
• Southern Baptist leaders must help states
“encourage the churches, especially high profile churches, to give
greater support (to the Cooperative Program).” (BP)