Mayfield—At the Graves County Baptist Association annual meeting, Director of Missions Glynn Copeland reported that several of their churches had an increase in their Cooperative Program support in the 2014-2015 church year. After digging a little deeper it was discovered that at least three churches made intentional decisions to raise their level of contribution to the cooperative program.
While there may have been others, the three churches that were discovered—and their pastors who led them to do so—include Bell City, Presley Lamm; Mayfield First, Wes Fowler; and Sedalia, Brad Hall.
Brad Hall has been pastor of Sedalia Baptist for three and a half years. When he arrived, Hall noticed that the church’s Cooperative Program giving was not as strong as it should be. The congregation was giving a set amount of $4,500 annually.
Hall led the church to increase to $10,000 in 2013, and then $20,000 the following year. This past year, they reached $24,000, which is about 6 percent of the church’s total budget.
His goal is for Sedalia to reach 10 percent of undesignated giving. Its total missions giving this past year was $85,000, up by $15,000 since 2012. He believes the congregation has increased their CP and other missions giving because God has blessed them financially.
Wes Fowler has been pastor of Mayfield’s First Church for four-and-a-half years. When he arrive, the members were giving 4 percent of their undesignated offerings to the Cooperative Program.
Fowler came to Mayfield from a strong CP-giving church in Georgia. During the interview process, he asked for Mayfield First’s budget, and he shared with its search committee that he thought their CP support was low. If called as their pastor, he said he wanted them to increase their giving.
Fowler set a goal of increasing CP giving with the deacons, and in 2012 the church jumped from 4 to 6 percent. The congregation has steadily increased by a half percent each year until reaching 8 percent of undesignated receipts going to the unified missions giving fund today.
One thing Fowler did to make a case for missions giving was to preach a series of messages where he shared that God’s people needed a way to support foreign, home and state missions. He then emphasized that they have a way through the Cooperative Program, but need to support it more. The church responded positively and has sacrificially given, even foregoing spending money on themselves to better support missions work around the world.
Presley Lamm has served as pastor of Bell City Church for four years. The church has had a strong history of Cooperative Program support, but recently had cut its giving due to budget challenges. The church has grown from about 10 people in attendance four years ago to around 90 today.
Lamm has taught the members that the Cooperative Program involves their church in missions at home and around the world. He said, “Even though we are small in numbers, we can still give to a program that serves foreign missions, women’s ministry, and home missions,” mentioning some of the places being reached by CP dollars.
When he came to Bell City, the church was giving to CP at approximately 1 percent of its offerings. Lamm led them to double to 2 percent, and then urged them to further increase the amount to 4 percent last December. His goal is to someday return to the church to its historical level of 10 percent allocated to the mission’s fund.
The leadership of these pastors, and the willingness of their churches to follow, provide encouragement for other pastors and churches. Here are some takeaways from their examples:
1. The pastor’s leadership is crucial. Rarely do churches grow their CP giving unless the pastor, at the least, is on board—and, in most cases, is out in front.
2. Education matters. People need to be reminded of the broad reach of the Cooperative Program. Each of the three pastors used the pulpit and CP promotional materials to educate their people on the history and usefulness of the SBC’s unified mission’s fund.
3. Vision matters. Each of these pastors cast a vision of where they felt the church needed to go in terms of CP giving. The churches gladly responded to their leadership.
4. Patience and perseverance are essential. Leadership requires consistency. These pastors understood that an increase in missions giving would not take place overnight, but it could take place over time.
5. Highlight the blessings. These pastors were faithful to remind the church that God is blessing their efforts to give more to missions causes.
6. Spotlight the need. These pastors were also faithful to remind their congregations about the great need to reach the lost and unchurched around their state, the country, and the world. One of the pastors stated that during a budget meeting he had shared, “Unsaved and unengaged people do not make budget requests, and that he was in the finance meeting to represent them.”
To their credit, these churches were ready and willing to respond to the leadership of their pastors. People they have never met are being blessed because these pastors led and their churches gladly followed. (WR)
Todd Gray, West Kentucky Region Consultant