by Diana Chandler
EDITOR’S NOTE: October is Cooperative Program Emphasis Month in the Southern Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has personally signed letters to more than 4,400 Southern Baptist churches that have met or exceeded the 1% Cooperative Program Challenge.
Recognized for their contributions are 3,846 congregations that met the challenge for the first time during the 2013-14 fiscal year (Oct. 1-Sept. 30) and 576 that met the challenge for two consecutive years, said Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship development.
The 1% CP Challenge calls on churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by at least 1 percentage point of their budgets from undesignated gifts by their members and visitors. CP gifts undergird both the work of the state Baptist conventions and the SBC’s national and international missions and ministries.
In the letters in advance of October’s Cooperative Program Emphasis Month on the SBC calendar, Page reminded pastors that every Cooperative Program dollar given is an investment in Baptist outreach.
The letters seek to express the “heartfelt gratitude on the part of every international missionary, every church planter in North America and Canada, every person in need or at risk from natural disaster, every seminary student, every plateaued or struggling church, and so many other people who are impacted,” Page told Baptist Press.
The month-long Cooperative Program emphasis spurs churches to learn about the Cooperative Program and prayerfully consider increasing their contributions.
FishHawk Fellowship Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Lithia, Fla., is among churches that have met the 1% CP Challenge two fiscal years concurrently since 2012-13.
“We support and participated in the 1% challenge because the CP was instrumental in our establishment and growth as a church,” pastor David Whitten told Baptist Press. “As a former church plant, funds from the CP helped sustain us during the early days of our ministry. We are now a healthy, growing Southern Baptist church and we consider it both a duty and an honor to give back to the CP.”
FishHawk, in the Tampa area, increased its CP giving from 2.2 percent in 2012 to 5.6 percent in 2014, according to Executive Committee figures.
“We give and will continue to do so for two main reasons,” Whitten said: “One, to expand God’s Kingdom and, two, to provide funds so that other church plants can benefit from the CP just like we did many years ago.”
If every Southern Baptist church embraces the 1% CP Challenge, annual Cooperative Program giving would increase by nearly $100 million, Page said.
The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel of giving, begun in 1925, through which a local church can contribute to the ministries of its state convention and the missions and ministries of the SBC with a single monthly or weekly contribution. Gifts from state conventions and fellowships as well as churches and individuals are distributed according to the annual Cooperative Program Allocation Budget.
CP contributions for the current fiscal year were 1.13 percent above projections through August, Page announced in early September.
Clayton said the increased giving will help many Southern Baptist outreaches.
“Assuming this trend continues through the fiscal year end, that 1.13 percent increase represents almost $3 million dollars more for SBC missions and ministries fueled by the Cooperative Program,” Clayton said. “This is good news for Southern Baptists. As a matter of fact, missions contributions across the board are up over last year. Along with the 1.13 percent increase in Cooperative Program giving, special missions offerings, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, are both up by about two-thirds of 1 percent over last year.
“Again, good news,” Clayton said.
Baptist Press (BP) is the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention and provides news to the 42 state Baptist papers. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.