Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Cooperative Program: How Southern Baptists Fund Missions

Often I am asked by those outside of or new to Southern Baptist life about how our church goes about supporting missions. Sometimes, those who have been long-time members of Southern Baptist Churches have heard about the "Cooperative Program" but don't really understand what it is or how it works. So, in an attempt to answer some of these questions, without providing a history of the Cooperative Program and its predecessors, I will seek herein to describe what the Cooperative Program is and how it has enabled Southern Baptists to support a wide array of mission activities since its inception in 1925.

Ideally, each Southern Baptist Church determines a percentage of its undesignated offerings to be given to the Cooperative Program. This money is sent to the Baptist State Convention (in the case of our church, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention). The State Convention keeps a percentage of the money which it distributes to its own ministries and mission efforts, and then sends the rest to the Southern Baptist Convention where it is distributed to the various SBC causes.

In the case of North Carolina Baptists, a typical Cooperative Program gift (that has not been allocated to an "alternate giving plan" or negatively excluded in any way, as the State allows), is divided with 66 percent remaining in the hands of the Baptist State Convention, while 34 percent is forwarded to the SBC.

The State Convention allocates funds based on the following percentages (based on the 2009 NC CP Budget allocations):
12.5% for Higher Education (institutional and scholarship funding for Wingate, Campbell, Chowan, Gardner-Webb Universities, and Mars Hill College)
9.66% for Christian Social Services (Baptist Children's Homes, Ministry for Aging Adults, and NC Baptist Hospital's School of Pastoral Care)
1.07% for the Biblical Recorder, the news outlet for NC Baptists
0.28% for the NC Baptist Foundation
8.91% for the Convention and General Board Operations
1.16% for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute
4.86% for Administration and Convention Relations
2.51% for Public Relations and Resource Development
4.00% for Business Services
4.86% for Mission Growth and Evangelism
3.65% for Church Planting
6.78% for Congregational Services
5.76% for Special Reserves for NC Baptist Ministers (Ministers Emergency Reserve and Supplemental Annuity Contributions)
34% to the Southern Baptist Convention

The percentage that is forwarded to Southern Baptists is then divided up as follows:
50% to the International Mission Board
22.79% to the North American Mission Board (serving the USA and Canada)
21.92% to the six SBC Seminaries (Southern Baptist [KY], Southeastern [NC], Southwestern [TX], Golden Gate [CA], Midwestern [MO], New Orleans [LA])
0.24% to the SBC Library and Historical Archives
1.65% to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission
3.4% for Convention Operating Expenses

If a church's budget is $225,000 and designates 6% to the Cooperative Program ($13,500), here is how that church's money will be allocated over a year:
$8,910 will be retained by the State Convention
$4,590 will be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention

Of the money kept by the State Convention, it will be allocated on this example as follows:
$1687.50 for Higher Education
$1304.10 for Christian Social Services
$144.45 for the Biblical Recorder
$37.80 for the NC Baptist Foundation
$1201.85 for the Convention and General Board Operations
$156.60 for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute
$656.10 for Convention and General Board Operations
$338.85 for Public Relations and Resource Development
$540 for Business Services
$656.10 for Mission Growth and Evangelism
$492.75 for Church Planting
$915.30 for Congregational Services
$777.60 for Special Reserves for NC Baptist Ministers (Ministers Emergency Reserve and Supplemental Annuity Contributions)

Of the funds sent to the Southern Baptist Convention, they will be disbursed as follows:
$2295 for the International Mission Board
$1046.06 to the North American Mission Board
$1006.13 to the six SBC Seminaries
$11.02 to the SBC Library and Historical Archives
$75.74 to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission
$156.06 for Convention Operating Expenses

To bring it down to an individual level, consider a church member who gives $5,000 annually to his church, which then gives 6% to the CP as stated above. $300 of that member's gifts will be sent to the Cooperative Program. It will then be distributed as follows:

$198 would remain in the State Convention, while $102 would be forwarded to the SBC.

That member's money kept in State would be allocated as follows:

$37.50 for Higher Education (institutional and scholarship funding for Wingate, Campbell, Chowan, Gardner-Webb Universities, and Mars Hill College)
$28.98 for Christian Social Services (Baptist Children's Homes, Ministry for Aging Adults, and NC Baptist Hospital's School of Pastoral Care)
$3.21 for the Biblical Recorder, the news outlet for NC Baptists
$0.84 for the NC Baptist Foundation
$26.73 for the Convention and General Board Operations
$3.48 for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute
$14.58 for Administration and Convention Relations
$7.53 for Public Relations and Resource Development
$12 for Business Services
$14.58 for Mission Growth and Evangelism
$10.95 for Church Planting
$20.34 for Congregational Services
$17.28 for Special Reserves for NC Baptist Ministers

That member's SBC portion would be distributed in the following way:
$51 to the International Mission Board
$23.25 to the North American Mission Board
$22.36 to the six SBC Seminaries
$0.24 to the SBC Library and Historical Archives
$1.68 to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission
$3.47 for Convention Operating Expenses

My hope in setting this information forth is three-fold. First, by seeing how money is distributed, I would hope that church members would be encouraged to see their wide and diverse investment in Kingdom work that is carried out simply by making undesignated contributions to his or her local church. Perhaps, seeing this information may even challenge church members to consider giving more, seeing that their money is being used to fund such significant ministries and mission activities. Second, by examining these figures, perhaps individual churches would be encouraged at the efficiency and effectiveness of the Cooperative Program and consider increasing the allocated percentage of their budgets for Cooperative Program giving. An increase of even one percent can make a large difference in the funding that reaches the ends of the earth through CP giving. Finally, by seeing how these funds are allocated within State Conventions and the SBC, I would hope that messengers to the State Convention meetings would be emboldened to ask their Convention leadership to give away as much or more money as they keep in-State. The unreached peoples of the world and the future of our churches here in the USA depend on more money reaching our mission boards and seminaries.

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