Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A little more light for the Cooperative Program

The Cooperative Program is now in its tenth decade of existence. For most Southern Baptists, their memory of it does not include any time when it was a thriving, increasing measure of Southern Baptist denominational health. The general narrative concerning it has been negative in that churches have for decades slowly dropped their CP percentages.

Here are a couple of things that offer a counterpoint to that negative narrative:

First, there has been a sub-narrative that megachurches are not helpful to the Cooperative Program and do not support it with the same dedication that smaller churches do. True enough if one looks at percentages. I do not know of many megachurches that make CP gifts above the 5.4% average percentage of undesignated gifts. I know many, many smaller churches that do so.

So, check the news on the SBC's most prominent megachurch pastor, and current SBC president, Ronnie Floyd. His Cross church is giving one million to the Cooperative Program this year. Very few churches have ever reached seven figures in CP gifts for a single year. Floyd has asked hard questions about the CP, yet continues to lead his church to give very generously to it.

We can stop, or at least slow down, the criticism of megachurches and their pastors for not being CP supporters. When churches make autonomous decisions to give generously to the CP, they should all be commended. Fact is, 4% of SBC churches give 50% of all CP gifts. Any state convention CEO, seminary president, or either of our mission board leaders will rejoice when a small church gives 20% or when a large church gives $1 million, even if there is some spread between their giving percentages.

Second, the latest Executive Committee report on CP giving shows receipts slightly above budgeted allocations. If this month and next are good months perhaps there will be a small surplus at the end of the fiscal year.

Many of the state conventions, the hardest hit SBC entities of the past decade, deserve credit for taking steps to slightly reduce the portion of the CP that is kept in-state. Leaders like Ronnie Floyd deserve credit for making significant increases in their CP support.

While no one sees churches as a group returning to anywhere near the 10% of undesignated offerings that was the standard of 35 years ago, we might see the CP level off at 5 to 6 percent.


Tony Boes said...

Thanks for this post. I wasn't raised in the SBC, so figuring out how Southern Baptists cooperate for missions has taken me a while. As I learned about CP, I thought it sounded much better than the constant independent missions fund raising that I was used to.

Negatively, I read a lot of articles where blame for CPs shortcomings was pointed from one group to the next. Churches are the problem, state conventions are the problem, national agencies are the problem, etc. It's refreshing to read an article asking us to encourage every part of the SBC where improvements are being made.

Anonymous said...

Well said Tony and Robert.

JT Sims