The Cooperative Program is the SBC’s primary giving plan, described by the Great Commission Task Force Final Report as “the central and preferred conduit of Great
Commission funding.” It may still be described as “central” although for a number of years designated gifts to the Executive Committee have been greater than Cooperative Program giving. It is still the “preferred conduit” although slightly less preferred on average by local churches than last year.
A few things relative to the Cooperative Program from the Annual Meeting:
1. The benchmark figure for assessing Cooperative Program giving from cooperating SBC churches is the average percentage of undesignated offerings. The average of all SBC churches is calculated by the Executive Committee at 5.16%, down slightly from 5.18% last year. This percentage was over 10% when I started in ministry 35 or so years ago and has steadily declined. Three years ago it was 5.5%. Fred Luter and Frank Page have been the only two SBC presidents in the recent past whose churches gave above the average CP percentage. Let’s be positive here: there isn’t a denomination in the country that wouldn’t swap percentages of voluntary contributions from their churches with the SBC.
2. The six seminaries received $42.8 million in Cooperative Program revenues. Southern Seminary received the largest amount, about $9.6 million and Gateway Seminary the least, about $4.1 million. The funds are distributed by a formula generally based on some version of a student head count. Looking at Cooperative Program income as a percent of total seminary total income, the seminaries ranged between 20% (Southwestern) and 35% (Midwestern).
3. For the first time since 1950-1951 the state conventions retained less than 60% of the Cooperative Program dollars collected in church offering plates. This is a big deal to the state conventions, though it doesn’t impact the bottom line of the mission boards and seminaries greatly.
4. Tommy Green head of the Florida Baptist Convention presented a Cooperative Program gift of $3,136,500 to the Southern Baptist Convention during the annual meeting. The money came from the sale of the Florida convention’s former building. The two states where I have served as pastor both have valuable, and underutilized, headquarters buildings. It would be a one-time CP infusion but if Georgia and South Carolina did what Florida did, you would see CP revenues jump up significantly for the first time in years.
5. The Cooperative Program allocation budget for 2017-2018 is conservative at $192 million.
6. It’s old news but the only two major state conventions that sent less CP revenues to the Executive Committee in the most recent fiscal year were Louisiana and Arkansas.
7. The Executive Committee has a partnership now with Dave Ramsey that focuses on individual stewardship. I attended their free breakfast. The program costs money. A free short program (It’s a New Day) is available from the Executive Committee. Both are aimed in part at increasing individual giving to churches and CP giving indirectly through that. My impression of the thinking of denominational leaders and the CP decline is that they see it as a function of declining personal giving to a church.
8. There are limited options in CP promotion but what I’m seeing the last few years is a positive development.