News Articles

State’s 400 advocates to underscore value of Baptist cooperative givi

.ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–As far as many Baptists are concerned, things could not be better for the Cooperative Program.
After all, receipts in recent years have continued to set record after record. Budgets continue to grow. Ministry and evangelistic efforts around the world continue to expand.
Even so, Louisiana Baptists’ Doyle Bailey sees trouble on the road ahead — a pair of generations that have not been taught the importance of tithing and sacrificial giving.
Statistics reveal the concern. For instance, 80 percent of Cooperative Program funds are given by 20 percent of the people and by people age 55 or older, said Bailey, state director of stewardship, Cooperative Program and prayer ministries.
That does not bode well for the future, when that small group of faithful givers passes from the scene, Bailey said.
“They are the last generation of denominational loyalists,” he said. “And when they’re gone, if we haven’t done something to replace them, we’ll be in serious trouble.
“We have already lost two generations of people who do not understand the importance of cooperative giving and the Cooperative Program,” Bailey explained. “And if we don’t do something, we’re going to lose a third one.”
So, what is a convention built on a bedrock belief in cooperative efforts to do? Obviously, now is the time to call in the CPAs — and that is just what Bailey is seeking to do. Indeed, he is in the process of recruiting 400 CPAs to work on the problem of what happens to the Cooperative Program in the future.
And while he understands that CPAs do not represent a magic cure, he is convinced they hold the key for the future.
Oh, and by the way, when Bailey talks about CPAs, he is not referring to certified public accountants — unless there is a Louisiana Baptist accountant who wants to be a CPA.
But one does not have to be an accountant. One can be a pastor or schoolteacher or housewife or attorney or secretary or student. Anyone can be a CPA — a Cooperative Program Advocate.
“Let me tell you about a great lady who is getting ready to celebrate her 75th birthday in less than two years,” Bailey said. “She’s been very good to us. She has helped educate many of us and been faithful in so many ways. … Now she needs our help.”
The “great lady” Bailey speaks of is the Cooperative Program, launched in 1925 to fund worldwide Baptist ministry, missions and evangelism efforts. As designed, the plan funds efforts by local churches, state conventions and the national Southern Baptist Convention by forwarding percentages of church offerings to each level.
It is an ingenious and unique plan that has served Baptists well — but too many members of the younger generations do not understand that.
And that is the purpose of Cooperative Program Advocates — to share the story of the Cooperative Program, to ensure a grand birthday celebration for the “great lady.”
The advocate effort is a simple one — people make a commitment to make five personal presentations regarding cooperative giving and the Cooperative Program by the year 2000. Bailey noted the presentations can take a variety of forms — talking to a Sunday school class, preaching a sermon on stewardship, talking to a child about the importance of giving to the church, affirming the importance of the Cooperative Program during a business meeting.
The plan does not outline how or when advocates should make presentations. That is intentional, Bailey said. “This is not really a program. This is just an effort to get people to be intentional in communicating the importance of cooperative giving, to encourage them to be aware of the opportunities to talk to others about the Cooperative Program and what it means.”
Essentially, the effort is designed to get people to tell their stories, to communicate their experience with cooperative giving, Bailey explained. “We’re talking about person-to-person communication,” he said. “That’s the way to pass on the story to others, to a new generation.” And that is just what people who agree to serve as Cooperative Program Advocates are commissioned to do — share their stories. As outlined in materials explaining the program, the goal of telling the stories is help “non-givers understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of our efficient, Southern Baptist way of giving.”
When an advocate makes a presentation on cooperative giving or the Cooperative Program, he or she is asked to fill out a small report card and return it.
Bailey said enlistment of advocates already has begun and will continue in upcoming months. Cards reporting presentations already have begun to be received.
“This is so simple,” he said of the effort. “It’s not based on lengthy training. It’s not limited to a certain group of people. It’s simply an effort to get people to take the experience they’ve had and pass it on to someone else, to get them ready to pick up the baton [of giving].”
If the goal of 400 advocates is reached and each one makes five presentations before the turn of the century, that means the importance of cooperative giving will have been communicated 2,000 times, Bailey noted. Who knows what kind of impact that could have, he said. “The polls on this won’t close for about two decades. That’s when we’ll find out if a new generation is ready to be cooperative givers.
“I know this is not the save-all for the Cooperative Program and our missions enterprise. But if we don’t start getting aggressive about telling this story, we’re going to have real problems.” And it does not take a certified public accountant to see that.
Details on the Cooperative Program Advocate effort can be obtained by calling the Louisiana Baptist Convention offices at (318) 448-3402.

    About the Author

  • C. Lacy Thompson