The idea of the Cooperative Program originated in Kentucky. On Nov. 16, 1915, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky (now the Kentucky Baptist Convention) met at Jellico, Tennessee, near the Kentucky state line, and adopted a budget plan for the support of all denominational projects throughout the state and convention.
A leader in this plan was Harvey Boyce Taylor who developed the idea as “the box plan” at the First Baptist Church of Murray beginning about 1900. Prior to the “box plan,” the Murray congregation operated as other churches. Committees would be appointed to seek gifts for missions and subscriptions for the pastor’s salary and other needs.
Work beyond the local level was supported through special appeals. Most of the schools and mission boards sent field workers to the churches for special offerings. This was not only costly and inefficient, but many worthy mission causes were neglected.
With the “box plan,” boxes were placed at each door and the church would “walk by faith” — depending upon God to put in the hearts of the people to contribute in the amount in which they felt led to meet all of the needs of the church. The funds would then be budgeted to the various needs on a percentage basis. For example, the 1914 budget for Murray Baptist Church showed the following percentages: Missions, 50%; Pastor’s salary, 25%; Assistant Pastor’s salary, 5%; Sunday School, 10%; Miscellaneous, 5%; Poor, 5%.
In 1905, Taylor started serving on the Executive Board of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky — a position he would hold for the next 20 years. This provided an opportunity to give wider exposure to the stewardship work of the Murray congregation and in 1913, he was named chairman of a committee to consider the question of unifying Baptist work across the state. In 1914-15, he and another member of the committee toured the state to promote the unification plan and the unified offering approach, leading to its adoption at the meeting in Jellico.
Kentucky’s adoption of the unified budget plan directly influenced the 1925 inauguration of the Cooperative Program, the national channel for mission giving of Southern Baptist churches.