ALLENTOWN, Pa., (BRN) – For Pastor Joe Velarde, senior pastor at Riverbend Community Church, giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) means personal growth, pivotal ministry relationships and the opening of Riverbend. 

“Collaboration is really what the Cooperative Program is about,” said Velarde. 

“It’s what makes us unique within the BRN family and the SBC family – together we cooperate resources, financially speaking, for the greater good of Kingdom movement.” 

In 2009, those financial resources made a difference for Velarde and the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania as they contributed to the planting of Riverbend Community Church. 

“When I look at my funding, as I became a missionary on a church planting side of things, those resources were available to me because people chose to give. So, on a personal level, it’s really personal in that way,” said Velarde. 

Velarde went on to explain that, during his early days of church planting, the CP also benefited him through vital ministry connections and relationships, many he still partners with or works alongside. 

“Then I think about, [if] we go further out, [and] start looking at people who are in state, who are then supported through Cooperative Program dollars that then help to create what the North American Mission Board (NAMB) is and our Send City missionaries and things like that, and I work directly with them.” 

Naming just a few of these essential relationships, Velarde named Send City Missionary Kyle Canty, NAMB Church Planting Catalysts Todd Beel, Michael Nerger and Hal Hopkins as well as BRN Executive Director Dr. Barry Whitworth, who previously served as a church planting catalyst for NAMB.  

“I can go through a list of guys who I’ve personally been impacted by…and those relationships have been instrumental in my own development, my growth [and] what the church has become,” said Velarde. 

Since its opening, Riverbend Community Church has grown to be a church with several thriving ministries – including Night to Shine, a prom experience for those with special needs, Ripple, a ministry dedicated to serving the homeless, women’s ministry, Vacation Bible School, a community podcast, and more – as well as a church that is now aiding other church plants. 

“We also believe about really helping to raise up and multiply disciples, new leaders, new ministries and new churches,” said Velarde about Riverbend. 

“And in my own experiences, of what I’ve been able to glean and take from the Cooperative Program and people who have invested in me, I’ve wanted to then see that multiplied. So, one of the ways that’s happened is we’ve been able to work with a variety of church planters here in the Lehigh Valley.” 

Two of those church planters are Adam Kern at The Vine Church, who did a church residency at Riverbend, and Wilson Tuero, pastor of Misión Vida in Easton, Pennsylvania, who is striving to reach the Hispanic population in the Lehigh Valley area. 

“It’s those types of things that the Cooperative Program has unleashed and enabled us to do when it comes to multiplication, not just personally, but also as we think about multiplication through others and seeing the work continued,” said Velarde. 

Through God’s grace, this cycle of generous giving has continued to accelerate Kingdom movement and create cooperative missions in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. 

Hear more about how your cooperative giving is impacting the Lehigh Valley in this month’s episode of Celebrating Cooperative Missions: