Page's announcement came at a day-long meeting of the Stewardship Development Association (SDA), a consortium of state stewardship specialists, at the SBC Building Feb. 23.
"SDA will be our preferred provider for production of stewardship and Cooperative Program materials," Page told the gathering in Nashville, Tenn. "You are much better at some things than we are. We can't keep doing what we've been doing."
Last November, as a cost-cutting measure, Page eliminated the EC's Cooperative Program and stewardship division and moved responsibility for CP promotion into his office. Several staff positions were deleted in the move, including those with primary responsibility for production of CP materials.
SDA President Stan Smith said the partnership signals "a new day in the Executive Committee's commitment to partnering with state conventions."
Smith, who is associate executive director of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey, told the membership, "We have a new opportunity for cooperation that we have not experienced before."
On its website, StewardshipDirect.com, the SDA describes itself as "a national organization of denominational stewardship leaders (that) has for 40 years equipped churches to address Biblical stewardship by investing in resource development and leader training in areas such as tithing, Cooperative Program promotion, and church budgeting."
The partnership between the SBC and SDA also is in keeping with the Great Commission Resurgence report adopted by the SBC last June.
Component Six of that report encouraged the EC "to work with state conventions, charged with responsibility for CP and stewardship education, in developing a strategy for encouraging our churches to greater participation and investment in the Cooperative Program."
Component Six also expressed "hope that a unified (CP) strategy with clearly established goals will be in place" by the 2013 SBC meeting.
Page asked the SDA to help develop a 10-year CP promotion strategy around "a single, nationwide CP theme" that all state conventions and SBC entities can promote. He said both the state executive directors and leaders of the SBC's entities agreed the previous week to the concept of a long-term strategy that would be customizable but unified. "Not 42 voices, but one voice," Page said.
The group also discussed rebranding the image and identity of the Cooperative Program with Kerry Bural, principle of The Resonate Group, a communication consulting agency based in Nashville. Bural and Page agreed that rebranding needs to be more than a slick marketing campaign. "It's not just about getting CP better known, but showing that it works," Page said.
Page also said the Executive Committee would continue to oversee use of the CP name and image and would still have a role in determining direction of CP promotional efforts, "maintaining the ability to review materials" along with SDA leadership.
Ashley Clayton, the EC's associate to the president for CP and stewardship, said, "We are at the beginning of this relationship so there are a lot of things we don't know. But what we do know is what we have been doing to promote CP hasn't been working." Clayton said the EC is getting rid of its inventory of CP promotion material including videos and brochures. "We are getting out of the resource business, although we will continue to produce the printed Missionary Moments prayer guide.... We exist to help you promote CP and do stewardship education," Clayton said.
In other business, the SDA:
-- unveiled a new three-week church-wide stewardship emphasis called "Transitions" based on the Book of Ruth. The comprehensive program includes CD and DVD resources, age-graded lessons, sermon ideas, posters and other promotional materials which are available at the SDA website, stewardshipdirect.com.
-- heard an update from Crown Financial Ministries, with which the SBC will continue to partner around It's a New Day, a personal financial management program.
-- previewed a series of CP videos produced by the Missouri Baptist Convention around the theme "Together We Are There."
Marty King is editor of The Illinois Baptist (www.ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist), newsjournal of the Illinois Baptist State Association.
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