A committee charged with studying a range of financial solutions within the Southern Baptist Convention is recommending that entities promote the Cooperative Program by continually referencing and promoting it in publications and printed materials.
The SBC Funding Study Committee issued its fourth interim report to the Southern Baptist Executive Committee February 20, saying that more needs to be done to educate younger generations about the benefits of the Cooperative Program — Southern Baptists' method of funding missions, seminary education, and other ministries.
The committee released three recommendations, one of which is to request that the Executive Committee and entities include "motivating references" about the Cooperative Program "noticeably and continually on all regularly issued printed materials, characterizing it as a most efficient way of funding worldwide missions and ministry, and directing readers to the Cooperative Program Web site to learn more about it."
"The committee envisions more than the proliferation of a logo or catch phrases such as 'A Cooperative Program Ministry,' although saying just that may be helpful," the report states. "What the committee has in mind is the insertion of the CP logo accompanied by short explanations of how the Cooperative Program operates or how it assists the ministry to which the publication relates."
One practical way this could be done, the report says, is for the seminaries to let students know how much of their education is paid for by CP dollars. For example, report cards and billing invoices could include a statement at the bottom reading, "To date, $9,000.00 of your seminary education costs were paid for by the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention."
"With LifeWay as the world's largest religious publisher, and our other entities also regularly printing a raft of materials, the committee is assured that by using the cooperative coordination skills we as Southern Baptists surely possess, much can be done to bring greater awareness of the Cooperative Program to the forefront," the report states.
Other venues that could be used to communicate the importance of the Cooperative Program include "invoices for products and services, periodicals, mass mailings, videos, audios, automated phone answering or messaging programs, television specials, books, booklets, pamphlets, letterheads, radio shows, and public addresses."
The committee was formed in 2002 and consists of eleven members, chaired by Bill Anderson of Texas. The report was received by the Executive Committee on a voice vote. All of its recommendations must be approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14.
The committee also recommended:
• That the Executive Committee "take the initiative in collaborating with each entity" to develop "metrics" — that is, what to measure in each entity's ministry — and report the measurement in the SBC Annual each year beginning in 2008. "The value each entity adds to their Cooperative Program allocation must be known by Southern Baptists to justify the increased giving they will be called to make," the report says. Such a yearly report by each entity would give Southern Baptists "measurable" ways to understand the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program, the report says.
Examples include the "numbers of graduates produced at each level of education, the number of past graduates (five or ten years prior) still in Southern Baptist ministry, the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts given by the average Southern Baptist church, and the year's increase or decrease in that figure, similar numbers for baptism rates, the number of ministers in the Adopt an Annuitant program, the amount distributed under that program, the number of SBC-affiliated churches using LifeWay Sunday School material, the percentage of our churches that number represents, the number of new church plants for the year [and] the number of church plants reported in past years (five or ten years prior) that are still functioning churches," the report says.
The goal would be to make each entity's yearly report "more uniform from year to year" and "more specific, which could be graphed over time."
• That the Executive Committee post the SBC's Organizational Manual at SBC.net and print it each year in the SBC's Book of Reports and Annual. The objective would be "to make as many Southern Baptists as possible aware of each entity's assignment, and to provide a backdrop against which entity reports of progress and accomplishment can be made."
"The Organization Manual is one of the Southern Baptist Convention's five governing documents, the others being its Charter, its Constitution, its Bylaws, and its Business and Financial Plan," the report says. "Of the five, the only one not readily accessible by Southern Baptists is the Organization Manual, since all of the others are printed twice every year — once in the spring in the Book of Reports, and once each fall in the Annual.
"Without possessing the Organization Manual's clear iteration of assignments, Southern Baptists have no standard against which to set expectation or satisfaction levels. Similarly, the SBC entity reports each year vary in response to general perceptions. To assure that all participants are on the same page, that 'page' should be produced."
The committee said that above all, the Cooperative Program is dependent upon the denomination having a renewed emphasis on biblical financial stewardship.
"The Cooperative Program has not failed us since its inception, but we have certainly failed to properly maintain it," the report says. "In our last report and in this report we have emphasized the need for the continuing, intentional training of our people regarding stewardship and the Cooperative Program. Obviously these aspects have little to do with discovery of a new vehicle, and everything to do with rediscovery of an old and proven one — sacrificial giving … and through the Cooperative Program first and foremost.
"As stated above, every member of this committee firmly believes and cannot emphasize enough that whatever it may recommend in the future to address funding needs, and even if all of our other adjustive recommendations are fully embraced, nothing fiscally positive and lasting will be accomplished if stewardship training and Cooperative Program commitment continue to languish."
The committee examined but rejected six alternative options, which included:
• Allowing additional special offerings.
"Special offerings could also promote unhealthy comparison and competition by and between entities, undermining unity and our coherent CP strategy. More importantly, an increase in the number of special offerings is a move toward societal funding — an approach that has proved in the past to be ineffective and even harmful to ministry."
• Lifting limits on entities directly appealing to churches.
"Removal would allow any entity to appeal to the churches at any time — for any purpose — opening the door for even more appeals while retaining all of the negative characteristics of societal funding."
• Approving new funding pathways.
"Southern Baptists are already free to contribute in widely differing ways, and providing even more alternatives in a veritable sea of alternatives solves little. Encouraging Southern Baptists to give biblically, give liberally, and to give efficiently is the key. The Cooperative Program meets all of these goals. Instead of providing new pathways, we should energetically embrace the tried and true one."
• Reapportioning the Cooperative Program "pie" — the percentage of CP funds that each entity gets.
"The problem is that the entire pie is too small. Therefore the committee sees no need to change the Cooperative Program allocation percentages at this time, since any such change would fall far short of solving funding problems."