The time had come for change. As Southern Baptists shifted from a societal to conventional model, adjustments were necessary in their approach to funding ministry agencies. In order to avoid competition between entities and overlaps in fundraising appeals, men like Southwestern president L.R. Scarborough led the SBC in 1919 to launch the “75 Million Campaign,” a five-year pledge campaign designed to fund missions and ministry in both state conventions and the SBC.
The campaign fell short of its goal but proved the power of cooperation, paving the way for the development of the Cooperative Program (CP) in 1925. M.E. Dodd, chairman of the committee who proposed the CP, expressed confidence in the endeavor, saying, “Money given to the church and the Cooperative Program will go farther, rise higher, spread wider, work deeper and last longer than when given to any other place or cause.”
In short, the CP functions under the same mindset as the convention model: “We can achieve more together than we ever could alone.” The way this works is that local churches from around the country, both mega and mini, pool their money together to accomplish the Great Commission.
The path of a CP dollar flows from church member to local church to state convention to SBC. As a local assembly, each Southern Baptist church decides what percentage of its tithes and offerings will be sent to its state convention, and the state convention determines what percentage will be sent to the SBC. Once the SBC receives the money, a funding formula determines how the money is distributed to SBC agencies (see diagram).
At each stage in the process, the percentages have been voted on by Southern Baptists. Thus, the CP emphasizes the bottom-up structure of the SBC against a top-down model.
Originally, CP dollars were intended to be divided evenly between state conventions and the SBC, but over time, states varied in their giving. For example, the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) sends 21 percent of CP dollars to the SBC and uses the remaining 79 percent for state missions and ministries, but the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) sends 55 percent of CP dollars to the SBC and uses the remaining 45 percent for state missions and ministries.
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Subsequently, if a local church in Texas gave $1,000 to the BGCT, $105 would go to the International Mission Board (IMB), $47.86 would go to the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and $46.54 would go to SBC seminaries. Conversely, if that same amount were given to the SBTC, $275 would go to IMB, $125.35 to NAMB, and $120.56 to SBC seminaries.
Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, says the CP makes ministry possible on state, national and international levels. From local and global church planting to disaster relief to religious education to equipping churches, the CP makes consistent, ongoing ministry possible where short-term efforts cannot.
“It is important to have an ongoing ministry in North America and around the world,” says Richards. “The Cooperative Program enables every participating church and individual giving member to have a part in all the ministries in North America and beyond.”