This is Cooperative Program Month and Baptist Press is busy with a collection of stories on our august although somewhat beleagured giving plan. The articles emphasize the historical, (In '25, CP was the 'beginning of a new day') or the latest CP increase program (1% Challenge: Pastor already was on board), and all feature testimonials from people like Johnny Hunt and others.
But what the Baptist Press story collection on the CP will likely not include this month is the table found below:
Cooperative Program Receipts as a Percentage of Undesignated Church Offerings
The CP as a percentage of church offering plate dollars has declined precipitously over the last two generations from over 11% to under 6%. There is nothing about the Cooperative Program that is more important that this trend.
I would expect that any SBC pastor under the age of 50 would be astonished that there was a time when the average church gave way above 10% through the Cooperative Program. Alas, those days are long in the past and one might be safe in assuming that they will never return.
Why the steep, steady, relentless, depressing decline?
Is it the fault of SBC moderates and liberals who withdrew support once the conservatives were solidly in control?
Nope. If one presumes that moderate pastors and churches were more generous CP supporters, a reasonable presumption, and compares the rate of decline before and after the completion of the Conservative Resurgence (early 1990s) the rate of decline is actually greater after conservatives had complete control of the SBC (and most state convention) apparatus.
1. How low can it go? No one knows.
The Cooperative Program as a percent of undesignated church offerings is a statistic desperately looking for a floor. We are probably not there yet.
2. What can be done to arrest the decline? No one knows.
Frank Page, who probably thinks about the CP while pouring milk on his Cheerios each morning, said earlier this year that we can't keep doing what we've been doing. So far as CP promotion goes this year, we are doing exactly what we've been doing. Such continues not to work.
While it may be too early to judge the impact of the Great Commission Resurgence, it appears that the process ended with the conclusion that we had better start lumping all mission giving for churches into a new metric, Great Commission Giving, and hope that we can see that figure going up instead of down, although no one expressed it quite that bluntly.
3. Is there an inherent flaw in the Cooperative Program that is a major factor in its steady decline? I believe that there is and will explain how tomorrow.