By Chris Turner
Director of Communications, TBMB
FRANKLIN — Tennessee Baptists indicated their strong support of the Cooperative Program in a recent survey conducted by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, with more than 26 percent of those surveyed saying they anticipated their churches would increase Cooperative Program giving in 2019.
The survey conducted between July 26 and Aug. 9, 2018, was designed to better understand how strongly Tennessee Baptists felt about the Cooperative Program and the future of Cooperative Program giving. More than 1,000 people responded to the survey which was comprised of both quantitative and qualitative questions.
Overall, respondents scored an 82 out of 100 when asked, “How would you rate your church’s support of the Cooperative Program?” Beyond the 26.42 percent who indicated increases in their churches Cooperative Program giving for 2019, 57.82 percent indicated their church’s giving would “stay about the same,” while 7.25 percent indicated they would decrease Cooperative Program giving, and 8.50 percent were unsure.
“It is encouraging to see such a positive response by Tennessee Baptists toward the Cooperative Program,” said Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “Together, our network of Tennessee Baptist churches contributes the third-most amount of financial support in 2017 toward the Cooperative Program out of all state conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention. I can’t emphasize enough that the stronger our Cooperative Program giving, the more resources we have as Tennessee Baptists to do missions in Tennessee, across North America and around the world.”
Nicki Brooks, TBMB’s marketing specialist who guided the survey, said the qualitative comments were “very positive, and an 82 is a very high show of support.”
“A lot of people said the Cooperative Program is the reason they are Southern Baptists and that it’s the best way to support missions and ministry,” she said. “As one respondent summarized, ‘There is no better strategic method of carrying out the biblical mandate of Acts 1:8 than the Cooperative Program.’ ”
However, some respondents expressed concerns that “younger people know very little about [the Cooperative Program],” and that, “[the Cooperative Program] sometimes lacks the relationship connection that so many people, especially Millennials, desire.”
A follow up question was related to moving towards an equal distribution (50/50) of Cooperative Program funds. In 2010, Tennessee Baptists voted to begin moving towards allocating the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program budget so that 50 percent of funds given went to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and the other 50 percent was invested in the missions and ministries of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
The 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts invested in Tennessee supports the ministries of Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and the Convention’s partner ministries: Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes, Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes, Carson-Newman University, Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy and the Tennessee Baptist Foundation. However, Cooperative Program giving in Tennessee has remained at the same level since 2010.
As a result, messengers to the 2017 annual state convention meeting at FBC Hendersonville voted to slow the Convention’s allocation to the SBC Executive Committee. Currently, the TBC allocates 46.64 percent to the SBC while 53.36 is invested in Tennessee. In 2010, the distribution was 40 percent SBC and 60 percent TBC.
Respondents were given six choices and asked what they thought the TBC should do moving forward: Continue toward 50/50 as planned (38.73 percent), continue to move toward 50/50 but at a slower pace (8.66 percent), freeze at the current allocation until Cooperative Program receipts increase (13.57 percent), begin reversing the increase in allocation to the SBC (6.26 percent), return immediately in the 2018-2019 budget to a 40/60 distribution (14.51 percent), I’m not sure (18.27 percent).
“While more than 38 percent felt the TBC should move toward the 50/50 distribution as planned,” Brooks said, “it is noteworthy that a combined 43 percent favored another option. Many felt the convention should follow through on its commitment to go to 50/50 while others felt strongly that there were great mission needs in Tennessee as well, and they didn’t want to see those needs go unmet due to lack of resources.”
Davis said that when TBC messengers voted to move to 50/50 Cooperative Program funding distribution, the language of the motion stated, “in a manner that enhances and does not inhibit” TBC missions and ministries.”
“The anticipation was that there would be greater giving through the Cooperative Program,” Davis said. “We have made positive and impactful progress toward a very worthy goal of 50/50. The messengers were wise to approve a budget that continues moving toward equal distribution but slightly slows down the process.”
The survey also asked respondents to rate their satisfaction with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and the Southern Baptist Convention. The TBMB received a satisfaction rating of 83 out of 100 while the SBC received a satisfaction rating of 72 out of 100.
The survey’s respondents represented a broad range of church sizes with 24.97 percent representing churches of fewer than 100 members; 30.61 percent from churches of 101-250 members. 14.80 percent from churches of 251-500 members; 17.02 percent from churches of 501-1,000 members; and 12.59 percent from churches with more than 1,000 members.
Forty-four percent of the respondents were from East Tennessee while 34.65 percent were from Middle Tennessee and 21.78 were from West Tennessee. Males were the majority respondents, representing 67.91 percent, while 32.09 percent were females. Pastors, fulltime and bivocational, comprised 20.19 percent of the respondents while the largest group was laypersons serving on church committees (37.78 percent). Other church staff weighed in at 18.01 percent.