For many members of Southern Baptist churches, the letters “CP” have lost their meaning. They ask, “What’s that?” Similar queries follow mentions of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering (formerly the Harry P. Stagg State Missions Offering). Also, in the midst of it all, their pastor speaks on tithing. All the while, Compassion International, the International Red Cross and others seek donations for their own causes. Sadly, many Southern Baptists cannot define or do not recognize their own offerings and the roles they fulfill. I offer a primer.
A church member’s offerings always have a destination - even those given “for whatever you think we need most.” Churches have budgets, as do Southern Baptist agencies. The budget in force at the time governs the use of general gifts to those organizations. That is undesignated giving. Beyond the budgets, donors may give toward specific organizational activities - designated giving. Another type of designated giving is a special offering initiated and promoted by an organization, similar to a GoFundMe campaign. Every special offering has a specific purpose.
The Cooperative Program combines free-will giving by individuals and churches with cooperative agreements between state conventions and national Southern Baptist agencies. Cooperative Program giving funds ongoing, routine, ordinary ministries of state conventions and denominational agencies. It is all controlled by budgets.
In the Cooperative Program, individual members of churches give voluntarily to their church. The churches adopt a budget, usually annually, that guides the uses of gifts. In Southern Baptist churches, typically, a portion of the budget is the Cooperative Program.
Churches send their budget-allotted amount of church member gifts to their state convention. State convention messengers have adopted a budget that also includes a Cooperative Program allotment. The state convention forwards that allotted amount to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. The rest of the church gifts remain for state convention use.
The SBC has adopted a budget that the Executive Committee uses to divide the states’ gifts to CP among the different SBC agencies.
Special mission offerings allow church members to support specific agencies in addition to their church’s CP giving. The International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Baptist Convention of New Mexico all promote and receive special missions offerings. Items listed in a special offering’s allocations usually receive little or no funding through organizations’ regular budgets.
Southern Baptists, being a generous people, have always given beyond their tithes and beyond their church budgets to special mission causes, especially those of their denomination.
Special missions offerings extend individuals’ Kingdom impact in tangible ways. This issue of the Baptist New Mexican describes how the BCNM will use gifts to the Mission New Mexico State Missions Offering. It allows church members to support specific work in our state.