Published October 20, 2011
The Cooperative Program was born out of a time of institutional difficulty. Prior to 1925 the economy in the South was depressed because of falling cotton prices. You could say it was a time of economic recession. Institutions throughout the Southern Baptist Convention were strapped for cash. Several were faced with the possibility of having to close their doors. Great difficulties provided the backdrop for Southern Baptists to rally around the concept of cooperation. We tested the new idea that Southern Baptists could do more together than we could separately.
Over the last few years the experience and expertise of Mike Simoneaux has been called upon to help Georgia Baptist institutions, first at Truett-McConnell College and now at Brewton-Parker College, through difficult times. Simoneaux has become for these institutions what you might call Georgia Baptists’ institutional troubleshooter.
“It feels sort of like you are in a tornado…or tsunami…forces beyond your control have gathered you up and are moving you to a place that you do not want to go,” according to Simoneaux. “The answer to the future of an institution experiencing difficulty really lies in the hands of our Father. The wisdom that is needed is not the wisdom of man, but is really divine wisdom,” he added.
Simoneaux has learned that one of the greatest challenges in working with institutions during difficult times is discovering something worthy that can be greater and more powerful than the difficulty itself. This becomes a rallying point for everyone involved. “Early on when I was acting president at Brewton-Parker, having been here only a few weeks, I started working on a new vision and mission statement for the college. I wanted something that would demonstrate that our teaching is biblically based and that our vision focuses on Jesus Christ in everything we do. Students choose schools like Brewton-Parker, Truett-McConnell or Shorter not because education is less expensive than at a state school, but because of our efforts to honor Jesus Christ.”
Every student attending a Georgia Baptist college or university receives $5,322 each year from Georgia Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program. Simoneaux says that this information would surprise every student on his campus. “Every student would be very thankful,” he says. “If our Georgia Baptist college family and our churches knew that the amount provided by Georgia Baptists beats what the HOPE scholarship provides, they would be thrilled. The HOPE scholarship provided through the lottery offers only $4,000 if your GPA is above 3.5. Georgia Baptists have provided funds that amount to more than the HOPE scholarship even for the best students. That’s outstanding!”
Three great victories have occurred since Simoneaux began his troubleshooting work at Brewton-Parker. He says that raising over $1 million through the Annual Fund was a great milestone that has never been reached before in the history of the school. The Annual Fund is a campaign through which individuals, churches, and organizations may contribute any size gift to the general operations of the school. Simoneaux adds that the completion of new mission and vision statements has added clarification and a spirit of unity to the institution.
Finally, with great gratitude, the forgiveness of the $3.5 million loan by the Georgia Baptist Convention was overwhelming. “This decision by the Convention greatly improves our standing with the Department of Education.” These victories have set the course of the institution in a positive direction.
Simoneaux offers good counsel to churches that are now dealing with the difficulties of the present economic downturn. “I think in time of economic difficulty one has to determine what the priorities are. We spend a lot of our time here determining how we spend our dollars and finding the most strategic way to spend each one. That certainly applies to the larger question of support for the kingdom of God,” he said. Respectfully and in a spirit of appreciation for all that Georgia Baptists have done through the Cooperative Program, Simoneaux urges all Georgia Baptists to examine what their priorities are.
The Lord is at work on the campus of Brewton-Parker College. “We had a young man accept Christ recently in chapel. One of our trustees preached, gave an invitation, and when that young man walked up, we gathered around him. Our trustee led him to the Lord and it was a great experience. This is happening regularly at Brewton-Parker.”
Jesus encourages his children during times of difficulty, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). This is certainly true these days at Brewton-Parker College and in the experience of its president, Mike Simoneaux. The promise also holds true for our total Great Commission work supported through the Cooperative Program during the economic difficulties confronting us all.
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