In the midst of ongoing financial challenges related to the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern Baptists have given more than $200 million through the national Cooperative Program allocation budget for the first time since 2008.
Giving for the 2021-2022 fiscal year totaled $200,452,607.68, becoming the first time in 14 years that CP giving topped the $200 million mark. The 2008 total was $204,385,592.63.
Even in a year full of challenges, SBC president Bart Barber celebrated the milestone, saying, “The generosity of our churches this year demonstrates that this model of cooperation still enjoys the confidence and favor of our churches.”
Executive Committee interim president Willie McLaurin echoed that sentiment.
“The local and global reach of every gift is a testimony to the strong cooperative spirit of every church in the SBC,” McLaurin said. “I want to express a personal word of gratitude to pastors, associational missionaries and state conventions for their partnership in advancing the gospel to the nations and the neighborhoods.”
One state contributing to the growth of giving toward national and international ministries was Iowa. The state saw their giving increase by more than 40 percent this fiscal year.
“In Iowa, we love to contribute through the Cooperative Program,” said Baptist Convention of Iowa executive director Tim Lubinus. “The ministry of Cooperative Program entities extends the work of our churches to send missionaries, plant churches, train leaders, and much more.”
That international missions focus of CP-funded ministry isn’t lost on International Mission Board president Paul Chitwood.
“This year’s Cooperative Program offering has bolstered the work of the International Mission Board around the world,” Chitwood said in a statement. “I often talk about the fact that the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is used exclusively on the mission field overseas, but most of the Cooperative Program dollars that come to the IMB are also used overseas. While the percentage of CP dollars we use in the U.S. is small, that, too, is incredibly significant as it allows all of Lottie to get to the harvest fields. CP makes up one-third of our overall budget, so, simply put, the IMB couldn’t exist without the CP. I thank God for the generosity of Southern Baptists and for the strong partnership of Baptist state conventions that have increased the amount of CP designated for national and international missions.”
In addition to international missions being funded through CP giving, church planting and theological education are important aspects for many pastors and church leaders. One such pastor is Jon Nelson, who planted Soma Community Church in Jefferson City, Mo., in 2015.
Nelson called the $200 million total a “tremendous milestone” and remarked how this will continue to allow “multiple churches to be planted and sustained in difficult places.”
North American Mission Board president Kevin Ezell knows all too well how much the milestone means to NAMB’s assignment.
“We rightly celebrate this exciting financial milestone, but I don’t measure the success of the Cooperative Program in dollars and cents,” Ezell said. “I measure it by how Southern Baptists are bringing glory to God through every person baptized by our chaplains each year, every new gospel-proclaiming church started by one of our missionaries, and every life changed by Christ through a Send Relief ministry center. Those things are happening every day because of what is given through CP, and we are thankful for every person who sacrifices to make it all possible.”
Nelson also noted how the faithful giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program has allowed him and countless others to finish their education debt free and follow the call to missions and church planting.
Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, Calif., has seen students reap the benefit of CP support for many years.
“The Cooperative Program has provided the financial foundation for Gateway Seminary for more than 70 years,” Iorg said. “Without this national support base, it is unlikely Baptists in the West could have built such a strong seminary. We thank God for the national and global reach of the Cooperative Program. It has made the difference for Gateway.”
The global reach of the CP is why SBC second vice president Alex Sands advocates his church’s partnership with churches across the SBC.
“Our church participates in the Cooperative Program because we believe we can do far more to reach the lost with the gospel by partnering with other churches than we can by ourselves,” Sands said. “We have programs and ministries to reach our Jerusalem and Samaria, but the CP allows us to partner with other churches to reach the uttermost parts of the world.”
For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, gifts received by the EC for distribution through the CP allocation budget totaled $200,452,607.68. This is $8,181,171.40, or 4.26 percent, more than last year’s total budget contribution of $192,271,436.28. The amount given was ahead of the $190,000,000 budgeted projection to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America by $10,452,607.68, or 5.50 percent.
The Cooperative Program is the financial fuel to fund the Great Commission mission and vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state, and every nation. Begun in 1925, local churches contribute to the ministries of their state convention and its missions and ministries through a unified giving plan to support both sets of ministries. Monies include receipts from individuals, churches and state conventions for distribution according to the 2021-2022 Cooperative Program allocation budget.
State and regional conventions retain a portion of church contributions through the Cooperative Program to support work in their respective areas and forward a percentage to national and international causes. The percentage of distribution is at the discretion of each state or regional convention.
The convention-adopted budget for 2021-2022 is $190 million and includes an initial $200,000 special priority allocation for the Vision 2025 initiative. Cooperative Program funds are then disbursed as follows: 50.41 percent to international missions through the International Mission Board, 22.79 percent to North American missions through the North American Mission Board, 22.16 percent to theological education through the six seminaries and the Historical Library and Archives, 2.99 percent to the SBC operating budget, and 1.65 percent to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. If national CP gifts exceed the $190 million budget projection at the end of the fiscal year, 10 percent of the overage is to be used to support the Vision 2025 initiative, with the balance of the overage distributed according to the percentages approved for budgetary distribution. The Executive Committee distributes all CP and designated gifts it receives on a weekly basis to the national entities.
Month-to-month swings reflect a number of factors, including the timing of when the cooperating state Baptist conventions forward the national portion of Cooperative Program contributions to the Executive Committee, the day of the month churches forward their CP contributions to their state conventions, the number of Sundays in a given month, and the percentage of CP contributions forwarded to the Executive Committee by the state conventions after shared ministry expenses are deducted.
Designated contributions include the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, Global Hunger Relief, Disaster Relief and other special gifts. This total includes only those gifts received and distributed by the Executive Committee and does not reflect designated gifts contributed directly to national entities.
CP allocation budget gifts received by the Executive Committee are reported monthly to the executives of the entities of the convention, to the state convention offices and to the state Baptist papers, and are posted online at sbc.net/cp.
— Jonathan Howe is vice president for communications at the SBC Executive Committee.