Many younger pastors have a positive view both of the name “Cooperative Program” (CP) and the ministries funded through CP, according to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) Young Leaders Advisory Council Survey.
Photo by Roger S. Oldham
Executive Committee Young Leaders Advisory Council chairman Jordan Easley, far right, guided the conversation as the group brainstormed ways to increase participation of younger pastors in Southern Baptist life during the council’s first meeting in Atlanta in January.
Slated to conclude in early August, the survey is one of the tools the Executive Committee Young Leaders Advisory Council is using to find ways to deepen the involvement of millennial pastors and church leaders in the total life of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The 22-member council is chaired by Jordan Easley, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.
“We’re looking for ways to maximize the next generation of pastors and leaders and show them that we are truly stronger when we work together,” Easley said.
The early reports from the survey of young leaders, initiated in March, “have given us great insight,” Easley said. “It’s obvious the next generation of Southern Baptist leaders recognize and appreciate the value and ministry portfolio of the Cooperative Program.”
The survey had been completed by 2,299 respondents by mid-July. While the survey is accessible to anyone, the large majority of those who have completed the survey are between 18 and 39 years of age.
Forty-two percent said they found the name “Cooperative Program” either extremely appealing or very appealing, and another 38 percent found the name somewhat appealing. Five percent said the name is not at all appealing.
Respondents identified the two “highest value ministries” to “you and your church” as the International Mission Board (81 percent) and the six SBC seminaries (76 percent).
Theological education ranked number one in response to the question, “In which area(s) of SBC NATIONAL Convention ministry have YOU personally seen the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program?” Seminary training received the top ranking by 76 percent of the respondents, followed in order by international missions (68 percent) and church planting (61 percent).
Relief ministries (38.5 percent) came in at number five in the national SBC question but was number one in the question asking participants to rank state CP-assisted ministries, with 1,355 marking disaster relief and 796 marking children’s homes and other benevolent ministries.
The average percentage respondents said their churches have given through the Cooperative Program from their churches’ undesignated receipts is 7.8 percent.
Sixty-three percent of respondents are senior pastors or other church staff; 8 percent are church lay leaders; 6 percent are denominational staff; 5 percent each are church planters and seminary students; and 2 percent each are missionaries and college students.
Appointed by Executive Committee President Frank S. Page in January, the EC Young Leaders Advisory Council has a one-year assignment to identify and recommend best practices to help Southern Baptist entities, state convention leaders, associational networks and a newly-launched young leader initiative better to connect with millennials.
“The [advisory] council is working to provide concrete ways for young leaders to actively be involved in the life of the convention,” said Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement and EC liaison to the council.
“We want to know what steps we need to take to make sure their voices are heard and that they are providing leadership in every aspect of the convention,” Weathersby said.
The advisory group hopes to draft recommendations to foster vibrant participation within Southern Baptist life among young leaders, including both pastors and denominational servants, and present a comprehensive report to Page by spring 2018.
In order to meet this goal, council members continue to seek input from millennial leaders through the 21-question online CP survey. The 2017 SBC EC Young Leaders Advisory Council Survey can be accessed here.
The advisory council’s second meeting is scheduled for mid-August. Council members hope to see the survey response rate increase so their recommendations will be as comprehensive as possible.
In a related move, the SBC Executive Committee and North American Mission Board (NAMB) are launching an ongoing young leader initiative to more effectively engage younger pastors between the ages of 25 and 45.
The initiative’s goal is to provide a sense of brotherhood for those already participating in Southern Baptist life, but also will focus on finding ways to engage those who are disconnected or minimally involved, Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, noted.
“I know there are thousands of young pastors who have a great contribution to make to our Southern Baptist family,” Ezell said. “We want to serve them better and let them know they are loved, valued and needed.”
Page added his hope that the EC Young Leaders Advisory Council will provide valuable information that will enable the EC and NAMB to see an increase in young pastor participation.
“The Executive Committee is delighted to partner with the North American Mission Board in this process of engaging younger pastors and churches,” Page said. “Our driving imperative is to do whatever it takes to see every man, woman, boy and girl have the opportunity to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe this partnership helps make that possible.”
Jonathan Akin, former pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., has joined NAMB’s staff to lead the joint effort.
“This summer will serve as a launch date for a new day in how the SBC mobilizes our next generation of pastors,” Page said.
The Executive Committee has hosted or sponsored several events and efforts under Page’s leadership to connect with young leaders, including the Southern Baptist Young Leader Network and formation of talkCP, a blog geared toward younger Baptists with the goal of fostering greater understanding of and participation in the Cooperative Program.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Roger S. Oldham is vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, sbclife.net, the journal of the Executive Committee.)