CLARION, Pa., (BRN) – Born and raised in the Carolinas, combined with attending a Southern Baptist Church for most of his life, Jason Hunter, vice president of the Baptist Resource Network’s (BRN) Executive Board, is no stranger to the Cooperative Program (CP).
“Growing up in the South, the Cooperative Program is something I heard about from birth. Basically, that was just life for us,” said Hunter.
In 2011, Hunter moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania to pastor at First Baptist Church (FBC) of Clarion in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where in September (2023) he celebrated 12 years of ministry.
It wasn’t long after his move that Hunter realized the CP was much less of a household term in the North than it was in the South. Over the years, he has developed a number of ways of explaining the Cooperative Program to those who ask and those who attend his church.
One way Hunter describes the CP is that “it was the GoFundMe before GoFundMe was popular.” But by far his favorite way to explain the Cooperative Program is by returning to his roots and taking a note out of his alma mater’s playbook.
“I am a Clemson graduate, and our Booster Club is called IPTAY. It was founded in 1934 because Clemson was struggling, and it stands for ‘I Pay Ten A Year,’ and their whole strategy was to get everybody to give $10 a year, [so] we can run a football program or athletic program,” explained Hunter.
He continued: “If you have enough people giving a little bit, you can raise a massive amount of money and do an awful lot of things.”
In Southern Baptist life, the Cooperative Program works very similarly to IPTAY. As every Southern Baptist Church a part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gives financially to the Cooperative Program, their funds are combined with the giving of other churches to benefit their state convention as well as national and international mission efforts supported by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB).
When SBC churches in Pennsylvania/South Jersey give to the Cooperative Program, 33% of their collaborative funds are sent to the SBC to be disbursed to NAMB, IMB, Send Relief, SBC seminaries and other missional needs. The remaining 67% stay within state borders to fund local missions occurring in Pennsylvania/South Jersey as well as partnerships that benefit pastors and churches.
These local efforts include: Outreach events hosted by BRN churches and supported by BRN evangelism grants; disaster relief efforts in PA/SJ; partnerships that meet needs for pastors, such as GuideStone Financial Services or Brotherhood Mutual; next generation ministry; coaching and training; and much more.
Although money is necessary to fund these mission efforts and resources, Hunter reminds us that the Cooperative Program goes beyond monetary motive.
“We can get caught up just in the dollars of it sometimes, but there’s something more there…it’s almost a commitment level to one another,” said Hunter. “[It’s] we’re all pushing in the same direction and it’s deeper than just the money. It’s the desire [and] what we want to accomplish with the money.”
From a personal level, Hunter has witnessed the CP, the giving of other churches, benefit his ministry and the ministry of FBC Clarion. The Cooperative Program has helped Hunter further his education at an SBC seminary and aided him in setting up a retirement plan with GuideStone.
At the church level, First Baptist Church of Clarion has benefited from BRN evangelism grants, which have enabled them to focus on reaching their community and meeting the needs of their neighbors through outreach events.
“I try to help people understand that CP giving is kind of a circle – it goes out, but it pretty quick circles around and comes right back, but it kind of goes out, multiplies and then comes back…and that’s helped us significantly,” said Hunter.
“It’s (the CP) just so much more than just a fundraising strategy…I think the Lord has blessed it and it definitely shows we can do more together.”
Hear more about how your cooperative giving is impacting Pastor Jason Hunter and First Baptist Church of Clarion in this month’s episode of Celebrating Cooperative Missions (this podcast is also available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and Amazon Music):