The Executive Committee has promoted a “1% Cooperative Program Challenge” over the past few years in which churches were challenged to increase their CP contributions by a percentage point (percentage of undesignated church offerings). A recent Baptist Press article reported that about ten percent of SBC churches had done so over the past two years.
The SBC reported 46,499 churches for the latest statistical year, 2014, and 4,422 churches had met or exceeded the challenge of raising their CP percentage by at least one point. The 4,422 make up 9.5% of all SBC churches.
The 1% Challenge undoubtedly played a part in stabilizing the CP percentage given by the churches at about 5.5%. The problem is that churches may find it hard to increase by a percentage point but easy to decrease by several points. This percentage is the most critical of all giving measures. We will see where it goes in the next few years.
Frank Page and the Executive Committee convey a positive attitude towards our venerable Cooperative Program while being realistic. The CP may not be what it used to be in numbers, but it is still our flagship funding program without which the SBC and state conventions would be unrecognizable.
There is nothing new about the CP and nothing much new about promoting the CP. The Executive Committee’s “1% CP Challenge” merely asked churches to give more.
The promotional program that will be the successor to the “1% CP Challenge” is the “Great Commission Advance” which “will provide pastors and churches with ongoing encouragement “to look at the wisdom of supporting missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. We’re always seeking ways to improve it, to review it. However, its underlying principles, we believe, are sound” as Frank Page and the BP story put it a couple of weeks ago.
One might note that the latest CP promotion does not include “Cooperative Program” in its name, although it unmistakably is about asking churches to give more to the Cooperative Program, sort of a rebranding by substituting “Great Commission” for “Cooperative Program.” No problem with that. The promo material reads “Great Commission Advance…fueled by the Cooperative Program.”
The reality of any CP promotion is this: state conventions will suck up most of the revenues. This is seen as a problem by many pastors and other observers. The latest figures show that state conventions collectively keep 62.20% of the CP receipts they receive from their churches. That figure has actually increased very slightly, fractions of a percentage point.
The Great Commission, as we fondly apply metaphorically, has the familiar trinity of Jerusalem, Judea, uttermost or our state, nation, and world. One might ponder the financial propriety whereby the CP dollar given at a local SBC church is divided: 62 cents spent in our equivalent of Jerusalem, 19 cents in our Judea, and 19 cents are left for the uttermost.
There is nothing new about all that.
I expect that as some of the major state conventions lower their share and voluntarily forward more of their CP receipts to the Executive Committee, the 62.20% kept by the states will be lowered to under 60% something that has occurred only twice in the history of the CP, the last time being 64 years ago.
Whatever lies ahead for the CP, I appreciate how the Executive Committee handles their part in promoting it. They asked churches to go up by at least 1% and about 10% of churches did just that.