Editor’s note: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – When Cameron Hayner chose the path of a seminarian, he thought through several factors such as cost, convenience and the ability to maintain a personal ministry schedule where he could put his education into practice.
The Cooperative Program became a leading determiner for his decision to go to a Southern Baptist seminary.
“There are two things I love about the Cooperative Program,” said Hayner, an Advanced Master of Divinity student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “First, with every dollar I give through my local church, I know that I am supporting missions, theological education and local church ministry around the world.
“Second, the Cooperative Program helps to ensure that students like me can receive a quality biblical and theological education at low costs from theologically driven and mission-minded faculty who equip generations of students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”
Members of Southern Baptist churches attending an SBC seminary receive a 50 percent reduction in tuition costs through the Cooperative Program. If that weren’t the case, Hayner said he would have had to change jobs or add another one to his part-time staff position at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis last year.
Instead, Hayner didn’t have to choose. He continued to serve at Bellevue while taking online classes through Southeastern.
“I reaped those benefits made possible through the Cooperative Program,” he said.
“I love that I was able to actually continue to serve in the local church while attending seminary. It also opened the door for some discipleship opportunities as well.”
Brian Drummond was able to continue serving in smaller churches as a result of the Cooperative Program support to his education at Gateway Seminary.
“It’s been such a major blessing and enabled me to continue in God’s ministry, seeing people changed and going from broken lives to having a personal relationship with the Lord,” said Drummond, a second-year Master of Divinity student.
Drummond is a Riverside native who majored in business and Christian studies at nearby California Baptist University. When it came to theological education, he looked at several options including those outside the SBC. The CP assistance for paying tuition proved too much to ignore alongside the instruction he would get at Gateway.
“I feel called to church revitalization and have seen the Lord work in smaller churches. Being a part of seeing some get relaunched has been a major blessing,” Drummond said. He has been part of two relaunches, including Bridges Church in Riverside, where he serves as associate pastor.
“I was able to help the church grow and spend time mentoring and discipling students because of help through the Cooperative Program,” he said.
Both testimonies show that lower tuition costs are not the only way the Cooperative Program helps seminaries develop ministry leaders, said Southeastern President Danny Akin.
“Delivering theological education has radically changed in the past 25 years. We now are able to train men and women on our campuses, but also where they are already serving in ministry. This has allowed us to touch lives and prepare ministers across America and around the world,” he said.
“All of this is possible through the generous giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. The Great Commission tells us to GO and make disciples. Distance learning is simply another way that we can obey the final marching orders of King Jesus.”
Hayner attends Imago Dei Church, an 11-year-old congregation in Raleigh. There he volunteers about six hours a week in the student and collegiate ministries, not including attending worship.
The financial support from CP remains as important now as it was when he lived in Memphis.
“I’m able to attend seminary while working,” Hayner said. “This allows me to prioritize my education at this time in my life.”
That benefit has extended to living in Wake Forest, where he works in an administrative role in the SEBTS marketing department.
“It allows me to be in the classroom and take advantage of campus resources, be in discussions and things like that,” he said.