Monday, February 28, 2011

Cooperative Program Promotion: Deck Chairs Successfully Rearranged

The Cooperative Program is our titanic funding mechanism. Nah, not "Titanic" but "titanic." The CP will be with us always even though the grand old funding ship is riding a little lower in the water year-by-year.

The longest of long-term CP trends is this: churches give less and less of their offering plate dollars to the Cooperative Program. We might talk about a ‘tithe’ to the CP but the reality is that we're under 5% and are going south from there (though there are different ways to figure the percentage and some are higher).

As a part of the Great Commission Resurgence process, the Executive Committee was to drop CP promotion and let the states handle it. So, what’s the new plan?

The new plan is outlined here. The Stewardship Development Association (SDA), a consortium of state convention stewardship specialists, will do the heavy CP lifting.

SDA will be our preferred provider for production of stewardship and Cooperative Program materials," Page told the gathering in Nashville, Tenn. "You are much better at some things than we are. We can't keep doing what we've been doing."

SDA President Stan Smith said the partnership signals "a new day in the Executive Committee's commitment to partnering with state conventions."

I'm open to looking at this in a different way but is this new deck chair arrangement? More importantly, exactly how will the product be renewed? No one knows but further explanation of the new promotional package includes this:
The group also discussed rebranding the image and identity of the Cooperative Program with Kerry Bural, principle of The Resonate Group, a communication consulting agency based in Nashville. Bural and Page agreed that rebranding needs to be more than a slick marketing campaign. "It's not just about getting CP better known, but showing that it works," Page said.
OK, the new deal is a consortium of state convention employees with an Executive Committee staffer working with a consultant. The consultant "claims that his best work happens in java-infused creative sessions, when he’s divinely disturbed in the middle of the night or when he’s “in the zone” clearing some serious technical obstacles in the woods on his mountain bike."

Mix caffeine, cycling, and the Cooperative Program and you get...? Dunno. Take these comments as gentle and tongue-in-cheek, but our past forays into CP promotion have generally been by white headed, long-in-the-tooth former pastors. Can comparative youth, facial fuzz, and funky hair do what they could not? Again, dunno. His credentials are out there and impressive. We will see.

The CP is a great plan that has a couple of problems that are inherent and perhaps intractable. First, the flow chart is a bowl of spaghetti that few laypeople and a surprising number of pastors understand. Second, and this may be anecdotal just to me, by appending the term "missions" to "Cooperative Program" we devalue the former term. As long as two-thirds of CP money put in church plates is kept by states, you cannot call it missions. Check your state to see what is funded by the CP and is unashamedly called "missions."

If this consortium comes up with new bells and whistles, slick graphics, clever promotional materials yet ends up saying what every other CP study group has said in the past: "You churches just send us more money." You've lost.

I await the latest plan, brand, and image. I admit that whatever the high-powered consultant and weighty consortium come up with is better than my plan.

I don't suppose it would be fair to ask what all this is going to cost? Nah, guess not.

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