Stretching a dollar concerns nearly everyone today. Whether one lives in a rural section of the nation or in a metropolitan area, people are concerned with getting the most for their money. Women, especially, have been responsible for seeing that household budgets are balanced. In the past women have discovered many ways to stretch their dollars at home. The kitchen is a great place to practice dollar stretching – an inventive cook substitutes one ingredient for another to stretch the recipe. A meatloaf can be stretched by adding soda crackers to the hamburger. Coupons are a great way to save money when grocery shopping. Going to a matinee will stretch your entertainment dollar.
In light of recent economic developments the average American family is very aware of the crunch everyone will be facing in the months to come. Because families’ financial circumstances often affect their giving habits, churches also will begin to feel the economic downturn. In order to answer the needs of a lost world, individuals need to learn to stretch their dollars so that evangelistic efforts around the world continue. It was as an answer to how this can happen that the Cooperative Program was born. Because of this unique giving system, not a single day passes when Southern Baptists don’t stretch their dollars!
Stretch Your Knowledge
Prior to 1925 there was no unified way of supporting missions. Churches can now join other churches in a partnership to collect and distribute mission funds. This partnership is entered on a voluntary basis and operates on local, state and national levels. Individual churches decide on a percentage of their offering receipts that will go to the state convention. The state then decides on the percentage it will send to the national level. Some of the money sent to the national level will actually be returned to the state through the North American Mission Board to help ministries within the state. What a way to stretch a dollar!
The Cooperative Program has widened Southern Baptists’ view of the world because it can accomplish so much. It is an efficient method of distributing money fairly through national agencies. Six seminaries for the education of missionaries and church leaders are supported. The missionary sending agencies, the International and North American Mission Boards, rely upon the faithful giving of Southern Baptist churches to continue evangelistic ministries around the world and within the borders of North America.
Missions awareness is a key factor in people’s giving. Mission efforts will continue to grow if an awareness is developed. Gifts to missions increase in proportion to the knowledge people possess. Stretching your knowledge will motivate you to stretch your dollars in order to give more.
Stretch Your Vision
In light of the fact that only a small percentage of the world’s population of 6.5 billion is related to any Christian group, Southern Baptists must stretch their vision. The vision should include information about the missionary force that numbers over 10, 000. The vision should include information about how to motivate others to give to mission causes. That vision needs to encompass the awareness of mission efforts in one’s own geographical area and state. Associational Directors of Missions work with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to strengthen what churches can do together to reach out to the lost in their regions. NAMB is heavily involved in working with the diverse language and ethnic groups in the United States. Dollars given through the Cooperative Program enable associations and state conventions to plant new churches, provide resources for missions education, leadership training for healthy churches, and evangelistic outreach opportunities. Mission dollars are used and used and used again – that’s really stretching your dollar!
Stretch Your Abilities
Onabell was a retired widow in her 70s but she was still very much involved in the mission projects of her small church. When a food distribution project was started, Onabell went to her drugstore which carried canned goods. She made a “deal” to purchase cases of green beans and corn for the Operation Share boxes. A bargain hunter by necessity, Onabell made careful plans for giving because she felt everyone needs to have a part in sharing the gospel with others. She knew about stretching the dollar. Click here for information on Operation Share.
Stretching one’s abilities can be accomplished in several ways. An active prayer life for your church and its mission vision is an excellent beginning. Praying for the state convention, its staff, and the ministries it sustains is another. The Cooperative Program is a people-oriented approach to missions. It touches thousands every day. Stretch your prayer life by remembering all this program does and the lives it affects. Giving is as important to spiritual health as prayer and the reading of God’s Word. Demonstrating gratitude for God’s blessings through giving will necessitate rearranging priorities and will stretch your abilities.
Stretch Your Imagination
In the days when most women had no access to cash, they were ingenious in finding ways to earn money in order to give to missions. Garden produce and eggs were sold as a source of missions revenue. Baked goods, jams, jellies found their way to others’ kitchen pantries for the cause of missions. Quilts, linens, and clothing projects were favorites of women who were committed to doing their part for missions.
Imagination and mission support are a wonderful combination even in today’s world. One group of women in a church began teaching younger women to sew and in the process became an ongoing mission support group. Through the years selling various sewing projects has provided them with money to give to missions – money they would not have otherwise had. This group recently presented a state camp with $1,000 for special camp projects!
Cooperative Program dollars are used in countless creative ways to spread the Gospel virtually around the world. Missionaries are known for using their imaginations as they seek new ways to share Christ with others. Raising goats, holding sports clinics, hosting block parties, providing medical clinics, teaching people to read, and the list goes on.
Our participation in giving through the Cooperative Program – even in difficult financial times – stretches our dollars and gives missionaries funds to match their creativity.
Stretch Your Involvement
The call to missions today is the same as it was prior to the early days of the Cooperative Program. The urgency is the same. Personal involvement is still the key. Only when individuals extend their knowledge, catch a vision, and use their abilities and imagination will the entire world hear about God’s love.
Giving to missions must be a heartfelt commitment which begins with tithing. Gifts to mission offerings need to be above the tithe, as we are called to support the local church. Women and men can take an active, verbal role in helping their churches decide what percentage of their church budget will be given through the Cooperative Program. A church that is generous in giving to mission causes will set a good example for its members. This will in turn bless the local church with more resources to reach its community for Christ.
How can we meet the needs of a lost world? Will our mission efforts be able to continue? Will state conventions be effective in ministering to the residents of their states? Today’s financial crises will affect how families spend. The only way for many ministries to continue is for us to give sacrificially. Cooperative Program receipts will be an indicator in days and weeks to come of the heartbeat of our concern. How will we respond to the challenge of world missions?
Stretch your dollar – give through the Cooperative Program.
For Cooperative Program information go to www.csbc.com/cooperative or contact Mike McCullough at 559.229.9533, ext. 251.