Southern Baptists comprise a fellowship of nearly 16 million members in more than 45,000 churches in the United States and Canada. These churches work together through approximately 1,174 associations, 42 state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention to accomplish through voluntary cooperation far more than they could ever do alone. One of the ways they coordinate their efforts is through the Cooperative Program.
Here are five facts about one of evangelicalism’s most fruitful ventures:
1. To help cover the costs of expanding ministry opportunities, leaders of the SBC proposed, in 1919, the 75 Million Campaign, a five-year pledge campaign. The campaign was designed to fund the missions and ministries of all the state conventions as well as that of the Southern Baptist Convention. Although that program fell short of its goal, it led to the launching of the Cooperative Program in 1925.
2. The definition of Cooperative Program, as adopted by the messengers to the SBC annual meeting, is: “… Southern Baptists' unified plan of giving through which cooperating Southern Baptist churches give a percentage of their undesignated receipts in support of their respective state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries."
3. How the Cooperative Program works: Individuals provide tithes and offerings to their local church, and the participating churches forward a portion of their undesignated funds to their state Baptist convention. During the annual meeting of each state convention, messengers from local churches across the state decide what percentage of Cooperative Program gifts contributed by local congregations stays within the state to support local missions and ministries, and what percentage is to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for North American and international missions. At the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, messengers from across the country decide how the gifts received from the states will be distributed among SBC entities.
4. Funds for the Cooperative Program are used to finance the North American Mission Board (namb.net), International Mission Board (imb.org), the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and the six Southern Baptist seminaries in America (Southern, Southeastern, Midwestern, Southwestern, Golden Gate, and New Orleans). (Although they receive no Cooperative Program support, LifeWay Christian Resources, Guidestone Financial Resources and the Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) actively promote Cooperative Program in publications and missions resources.)
5. Cooperating Southern Baptist churches contributed $481,409,006 in Cooperative Program contributions through their respective state Baptist conventions in 2011-2012. Of this amount, $186,640,481 (38.77 percent of all CP contributions) was forwarded to the SBC for support of the Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries. Of that amount 73 percent went to world missions, 22 percent to theological education, three percent to the SBC operation budget, and 1.65 percent to ERLC.