Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
Matthew 28:19-20. This is our Great Commission!
Motivated by the Lord’s command and the need of the hour, the Cooperative Program was created in 1925 during the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Memphis. The Cooperative Program has stood the test of time and continues to grow and serve the cause of missions.
The Cooperative Program is all about giving Tennessee Baptists an opportunity to come together with others to connect people to Christ from down the road and around the world.
Is this happening in our churches? YES! What is so amazing is that together our churches are connecting people to Christ as never before.
But there is so much more to accomplish. It is almost like we are drowning in lost people. Tragically, millions have yet to hear the name of Jesus. The need for missions has never been greater. I believe Tennessee Baptists will, as they have in the past, meet the challenge of carrying out Christ’s Great Commission.
Director of Strategic Relationships / Cooperative Program Specialist
What is the Cooperative Program?
The Cooperative Program, a financial lifeline developed by Southern Baptists, was born out of financial crisis and confusion. But it has grown to be a tool used by God to empower the witness of Baptists in Tennessee and around the world. The Cooperative Program provides the opportunity for even the smallest church to be a part of fulfilling the great commission.
How did the Cooperative Program come into being?
After the turn of the century, the fast growing ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention led to growing pains for both the denomination and local churches. Under the societal method of mission funding, individual agencies of the national convention as well as those of the state conventions were responsible for raising their own funds. These fund raising methods included countless special offerings, overlapping pledge campaigns, and frequent emergency appeals. Agencies employed representatives to directly solicit churches for support. Many times, pastors would arrive at church on Sunday morning to find more than one agency representative waiting to share with the congregation the needs of their agency. Unfortunately, in this system, funding often went to the most gifted fund-raiser instead of the ministry that had the greatest needs.
In 1919 state and national agencies found themselves in great debt. The $75 million campaign was devised to pay off debt. The response in pledges was tremendous. However, changing economics of the day kept many of the pledges from being collected. Nevertheless, the concept of cooperation had been discovered. With its adoption in 1925, the Cooperative Program became the primary funding source for both the Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist Conventions.
How does the Cooperative Program work today?
Giving through the Cooperative Program begins in the local church. Each church makes its own decision about the amount it will send through the Cooperative Program. Churches usually set a percentage of their budget income for the Cooperative Program. In 1927 the average Southern Baptist church gift through the Cooperative Program was 11% of its undesignated receipts. In Tennessee that figure is now 6.7%. Research has shown that churches with a high percentage given through the Cooperative Program have someone in their congregation who is a loyal advocate for the Cooperative Program. This person speaks up for the Cooperative Program during the church’s annual budget planning process.
The decision on how the Cooperative Program is allocated at the state level is made ultimately by the messengers to the annual meeting of the Convention. The Tennessee Convention sends 40% of the Cooperative Program dollar to the Southern Baptist Convention. The messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention then make the decision on how those funds are allocated.
The Cooperative Program is the lifeline of missions work in Tennessee and around the world. Today there are many threats to this lifeline that exist in the form of special offerings, designated giving, and the absence of effective Cooperative Program advocates in the local church. It is vitally important that churches study their priorities and recommit themselves to the impact they make on the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program.
Cooperative Program Budget Process
The budget process of the Tennessee Baptist Convention is a lengthy and detailed process, which encourages careful planning and provides for a wide range of input and evaluation. The following steps outline this process through which the budget is shaped and finally approved.
1. Budget and Program Committee initiates budget process - In April, the Budget and Program Committee reviews giving trends, recommends the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program percentages for the coming year, and determines the information needed from all institutions for budget allocations to be considered.
2. Groups of the Executive Board, Baptist and Reflector, and Institutions submit their budget requests to the appropriate committees - Each entity submits its budget request and supporting documentation, on prepared forms, to the office of the executive director-treasurer. This office in turn duplicates the requests and forwards them to the appropriate Executive Board committee in advance of the individual committee meetings.
3. Executive Board Committees hear budget requests - Each budget entity is invited to present its budget request to its respective committee. These committees consider the budget requests in context of the entities program assignments and makes a recommendation to the Budget and Program Committee. These recommendations are mailed in advance of the meeting.
4. Budget and Program Committee considers recommendations from the committees. - The Budget and Program Committee considers all of the budget requests as submitted by each entity in context of the anticipated receipts and general giving trends. It then makes a recommendation to the Executive Board, which is mailed to the Board prior to their September meeting.
5. Executive Board considers recommendation from the Budget and Program Committee - The Executive Board is presented with a complete budget detailing the original requests of the budget entities and the Budget and Program Committee’s recommendations. The Executive Board then makes a recommendation to the annual convention.
6. Annual Convention considers recommendation of the Executive Board. - A budget summary is printed in the Baptist and Reflector prior to the Convention. The Executive Director-Treasurer presents the budget on the first day. Any amendments to the proposed budget must be presented at this time. Proposed amendments are referred to the Budget and Program Committee for review and referral back to the Convention. The budget and all proposed amendments are then placed on the agenda for further consideration and adoption the following day.
7. Approved budget becomes the basis for the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars. - Each entity (Executive Board, Carson-Newman, Union, Harrison-Chilhowee, Adult Homes, Children’s Homes, Foundation, and Southern Baptist Convention) is assigned a percentage factor based upon their pro-rata share of the total budget. On the first day of each month, the Cooperative Program dollars received during the prior month, are allocated to the various entities based upon their percentage factor.