on Wednesday, July 10, 2024

During the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting, NOBTS President Jamie Dew led a panel on the CP Stage discussing what the Cooperative Program means for seminary education.  

Dew compared the impact the CP has on the six Southern Baptist seminaries with the impact it has on the convention’s missionaries.  

He said non-SBC missionaries often have to return from the field every couple of years to raise support, but the SBC’s missionaries are funded through the International Mission Board which enables them to fully devote all their time and effort towards their ministry. The CP has a similar effect on the seminaries. 

“Institutions like us are able to focus our energies and our attention on actually educating students, building programs, teaching courses and doing all those types of things because of this luxury that we’ve got called the Cooperative Program,” Dew said.  

“It’s a huge game-changer. The Cooperative Program quite literally cuts the cost of theological education by about two-thirds for our students.” 

Joining Dew on the panel were Adam Groza, president of Gateway Seminary, and Ryan Hutchinson, Executive Vice President for Operations at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Each spoke about the important role the CP plays for their respective institution.  

“About a third of Gateway’s operating budget comes from the Cooperative Program,” said Groza, who was recently appointed as Gateway’s 8th president. 

“Without the Cooperative Program, quite frankly, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world.” 

Hutchinson and Dew worked together for several years at Southeastern.  

Dew said Hutchinson may be the most versatile and knowledgeable person when it comes to the Cooperative Program in the whole Southern Baptist Convention. 

Hutchinson pointed out changes Southeastern would have to make without the Cooperative Program and said those outside the SBC often marvel at what the CP can accomplish.  

“If the Cooperative Program went away and we had to all of a sudden charge the students for those dollars we would have to increase tuition overnight by 40 percent, just to be able to cover what the Cooperative Program does,” Hutchinson said.  

“I love the fact that whenever we have anybody from other seminaries that are not Southern Baptist come and visit our school and are looking at our operations, they stand amazed at the Cooperative Program because of the impact that it is able to have on the institution. Especially on the students, being able to essentially graduate debt free because of the impact of it.” 

Groza added that the CP also ends up being beneficial for those who are not Southern Baptist.  

“Non-Southern Baptist students also benefit from the Cooperative Program,” Groza said. “Many of them, while they’re at school at a Southern Baptist seminary, fall in love with the idea of churches cooperating together to pull their resources to train the next generation of ministry leaders. We have a lot of students that come in and decide to lead their churches to give to the Cooperative Program because they see the value in it.” 

The panelists then spoke about recent declines in CP giving and how this can affect the seminaries.  

Dew explained one misconception Southern Baptists may have about the Cooperative Program is that it does not fully fund the seminaries, but rather provides a percentage of each institution’s operating budget.  

Despite challenges the seminaries may face due to declining CP numbers, Dew closed out the panel by expressing deep gratitude for those who generously give to the Cooperative Program, an essential part of SBC seminary education.  

“Thank you for your support through the Cooperative Program,” Dew said. “It is a gift. It is a gem. It is a missiological force in history. I hope and pray that we’ll all remain faithful to it in the years to come.” 

The full panel discussion can be viewed here.