NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Despite the challenging economic times, Christians have had a readiness over the years to “love thy neighbor” despite their own money fears, as evidenced by the growth of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program launched in 1925.
Southern Baptists’ channel for supporting national and international missions and ministry accelerated during the Great Depression –- “a time when it should have disappeared,” said Ben Stroup, coordinator of LifeWay Christian Stores’ offering envelope service.
“Instead, it brought churches together.”
Younger Southern Baptists are less informed about the impact of the Cooperative Program than previous generations who faithfully supported the effort, Stroup added.
John Kyle, director of Cooperative Program development for the SBC Executive Committee, added, “Many church members, or maybe even most church members, have no idea what the Cooperative Program is, and more importantly, who it reaches.”
At the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in San Antonio, the Executive Committee launched a campaign — “Every Number Has a Story” — to raise awareness about the Cooperative Program by using statistics to communicate the breadth and reach of ministry supported by Southern Baptists. For example:
— 609,968 — The number of baptisms in 2007 reported by International Mission Board missionaries and their overseas co-workers.
— 2,778 — The number of endorsed Southern Baptist chaplains who last year led 9,954 people to Christ.
— 3.5 million — The number of meals fed to the hungry in 2007 through Southern Baptist hunger ministries in North America.
— 1,238 — The number of homes and buildings repaired in 2007 by disaster relief volunteers.
LifeWay’s offering envelope service has created an “Every Number Has a Story” envelope series to support the Executive Committee’s efforts. Each offering envelope carries a different number and picture that reinforces the impact of the Cooperative Program in addition to the church’s custom information. The envelopes can be distributed individually in bulletins and pews, in boxed sets or sent directly to homes of church members through a mailing program.
“It is our hope that the envelopes will begin to reseed the vision and highlight the fruit of our cooperative missions and ministries in the hearts of Southern Baptists across the country,” Kyle said.
“Giving is an outward sign of an inward commitment,” Stroup said. “People want to contribute to something larger than themselves and there is no better denominational effort” than the Cooperative Program.
“Further,” Stroup said, “young adults today are two generations removed from the people who launched the Cooperative Program. No one is telling them the CP story. If more people understood the Kingdom impact of the Cooperative Program, they would see it as the most effective long-term, sustainable strategy to accomplish the Great Commission.”
Stroup hopes the offering envelope series also will relieve pastors of the pressure of building support for the program through one special-emphasis Sunday a year.
“This is our pew strategy,” Stroup said. “The Every Number Has a Story series is really a grassroots effort to keep the ministry — and the fruit -– of the Cooperative Program consistently in front of church members throughout the year and to educate younger Southern Baptists on the Kingdom impact they have around the world as their church participates in this effort.”
Jenny Wingard is a writer based in Nashville, Tenn. The “Every Number Has a Story” offering envelope series can be ordered at www.lifewaystores.com/envelopes or by calling 1-800-874-6319.