NASHVILLE, Tenn.––The large majority of Southern Baptists believe strongly in the Cooperative Program (CP) — The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) unified approach to missions support — because it allows congregations to accomplish more together than they could achieve by themselves. New data from LifeWay Research indicates 1 in 4 pastors see room for improvement in how CP dollars are allocated and how efficiently they are being used.
A census of all Southern Baptist congregations, conducted by LifeWay Research between November 2007 and February 2008 on behalf of the SBC’s Executive Committee, revealed that 87 percent of pastors are generally satisfied compared to 13 percent who are generally dissatisfied with the Cooperative Program. One out of 3 pastors strongly agree that state conventions and SBC entities supported by the CP use the contributions efficiently.
Pastors also selected one of six descriptions that best fit their view of the Cooperative Program. The description chosen by the most pastors (44 percent) was "mostly positive" stating, "We believe the CP perhaps could be improved in some ways, but is doing a very good job at present of supporting worldwide missions."
The second largest group of pastors (36 percent) describes the Cooperative Program as "overwhelmingly positive," stating, "We believe the CP is not only satisfactory, but is essential to the continued existence of the SBC, and the fulfillment of its mission of worldwide evangelism."
Thirteen percent of pastors have a "mixed" view agreeing that the CP "could be improved in many ways." The remaining responses were spread across "mostly negative" (2 percent) and "overwhelmingly negative" (1 percent). Three percent of pastors describe their church as "unaware" of the Cooperative Program.
Pastors feel strongly that the most important objectives of the CP are to send and support missionaries (83 percent) and to provide resources to plant churches (74 percent) in North America and around the world. More than half strongly agree it is important for the CP to educate and equip pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders, to address social, moral and ethical concerns, and to support state convention missions and ministries.
"Clearly, pastors believe the Cooperative Program is valuable for more than two reasons, but supporting missionaries and church planting are the most widely affirmed as essential," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "Since many churches equate ‘missions’ with the Cooperative Program, we should not be surprised that ‘missionaries’ are at the top of the agenda for pastors."
Pastors indicate that the most important benefit of the Cooperative Program is that it "allows my church to support more missions endeavors efficiently than we could on our own." Seventy-six percent of pastors strongly agree that this is an important benefit and a nearly identical 74 percent strongly agree that this currently describes the CP.
In sharp contrast to the strong overall view of the CP and agreement upon its objectives are pastors’ assessment of how efficiently contributions are used.
While 65 percent of pastors strongly agree it is important for SBC entities supported by the Cooperative Program to use the contributions efficiently, only half that number (34 percent) strongly agree efficiency is present today. Similarly, 63 percent of pastors strongly agree that efficient use of funds by state convention entities is important but only 32 percent strongly agree this is the case today.
Views of the current allocation of funds also fall short of the importance pastors place on it. Fifty-four percent of pastors strongly agree the appropriate division of Cooperative Program funds between state conventions and the SBC is important. Currently 31 percent of pastors strongly agree funds are divided appropriately between state conventions and the SBC.
The 2009 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina budget calls for a CP division that forwards 34 percent of undesignated receipts to ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention. That is a two percentage point increase in the past four years.
A larger majority of pastors (62 percent) strongly agree that it is important for the Cooperative Program to allocate contributions appropriately among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities. Only 38 percent strongly agree the current allocation is appropriate among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities.
The primary resources used to promote the CP, according to the pastors, are bulletin inserts (72 percent), posters (62 percent), missions magazines (54 percent), prayer guides (51 percent), videos (50 percent), missionary speakers (49 percent), and subscriptions to state Baptist papers (41 percent).
Click here for a summary of survey results.