2015 budget cut by $1 million, resulting in cuts and belt tightening

by Mike Creswell
Monday, October 6, 2014 | 6 yrs old

It is "challenging times" to be working on a budget, said Rob Roberts, chairman of the Board of Directors 2015 Budget Committee. 

"We felt led of the Lord to propose another cut in our overall Cooperative Program budget," he said as he introduced the new budget to the Board of Directors at its meeting Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Caswell.

The board approved the proposed budget, which will be presented for consideration to messengers attending the annual meeting Nov. 10-11 in Greensboro.

Cooperative Program Budget
Under the proposed budget, most institutions and agencies supported by the convention will receive reduced funding in 2015 due to the reduced overall budget. Those institutions include the Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina, the NC Baptist Hospital, NC Baptist Foundation and the Biblical Recorder. Fruitland Baptist Bible College will be allocated the same dollar amount as in 2014.

The allocation for the NC Baptist Scholarship program which provides scholarships to NC Baptist students to attend one of five historically affiliated Baptist universities in the state will be reduced from $650,000 in 2014 to $300,000 in 2015. 

The allocation that provides some matching retirement funds and life and disability protection benefits to NC Baptist church staff members participating in Guidestone’s retirement plan also was reduced, but the Executive Committee allocated funds from market gains in the convention's investment accounts to make up the shortfall.

Roberts said some significant savings were seen in the business services part of the budget because leases for business equipment in the Baptist Building in Cary were renegotiated at lower rates. The 2015 budget will include a 2 per cent cost of living adjustment for the convention's staff; there was no cost of living adjustment for Convention staff in the 2014 budget. 

Through Sept. 12, the convention had received $19,866,164 which is 6.46 percent behind budget, but essentially flat on a year over year basis, reported Beverly Volz, director of accounting services on the convention staff. However, careful administration of expenses and cash flow has enabled the convention to continue operating in the black thus far in 2014.  

As proposed, the 2015 budget will increase the percentage going to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by half a percent to 37 percent. This marks the 10th consecutive year that the SBC allocation has been increased by a half of one percent in North Carolina’s CP budget.

The SBC's budget is made up of funds from 41 Baptist state conventions across the country, enabling the SBC to have a budget this year totaling $191.5 million. 

Those funds are used to fund the International Mission Board's missionaries serving around the world; the North American Mission Board's missionaries serving across North America; the six Southern Baptist seminaries, including Southeastern at Wake Forest, NC; and the work of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Administrative expenses of the SBC Executive Committee in 
Nashville are less than three percent of its overall budget.

Cooperative Program contributions from the churches to their state conventions have been mostly static for the past two years, which is actually an improvement in a steady decline in the average percentage most churches give through the Cooperative Program over the past 30 years.

State conventions have been squeezed as they have increased the percentage of their budgets going to the SBC, decreasing the funds they have available for missions and ministry within their own states. One indication of the pressure is that the total number of state convention employees nationwide has decreased by about 400 over recent years.

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has faced a similar situation with declining contributions through the Cooperative Program over recent years: the convention's annual budget has declined from $36.4 million in 2006 to $30 million in 2014.

Two board members questioned increasing the SBC share of the budget in light of decreasing revenue. 

Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. said he has advocated the continuing increases because 10 years ago the convention's SBC share was 32 percent, a low percentage compared to other state convention's rivaling North Carolina in age and size. 

He reminded the board that, when the Cooperative Program was adopted in 1925, the model projected at that time was that the state conventions would send 50 percent of their revenues to the 
SBC. 

But the other part of that proposal in 1925, he said, was that the churches would send 50 percent of their incomes to the state convention.

In reality, he said, churches across the Southern Baptist Convention are now sending about 5 percent of their undesignated receipts for the Cooperative Program. In North Carolina the percentage is less than that, said John Butler, executive leader for business services.

Board member Carol Anthony asked about percentages other state conventions give to the SBC. Anthony is pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church, Marshville. 

Butler explained that state conventions vary widely in the ministries they support. For example, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention sends 55 percent of its Cooperative Program budget to the SBC. 

"But the SBC of Texas has no institutions or agencies. They support no children's homes, etc.," he said. Most state conventions send between 38 percent and 43 percent of their budgets to the SBC, he said.

Butler said some state conventions have made significant changes in their budgets and moved rapidly towards giving 50 percent to the SBC in the last couple of years. 

By contrast, in North Carolina the convention's leaders have increased the SBC share incrementally, so as to avoid negatively impacting ministries lead by North Carolina Baptists.  We wanted to avoid taking a "machete" to the budget, he said.

But North Carolina's increase from 32 percent to 37 percent is as large an increase as made by any other state convention, he said, adding that North Carolina is the only state convention that has increased its percentage going to the SBC every year for 10 years.

Board member David Powell, pastor of Cowee Baptist Church, Franklin, asked Roberts if any thought had been given moving the $300,000 budgeted for college scholarships to the Baptist Children's Homes or the International Mission Board instead. 

Roberts said yes, they had looked at many such possibilities. Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer, addressed the question to remind the board that when the convention established a new relationship with the Baptist colleges and universities several years ago, part of the agreement was that the convention would establish and administer a new scholarship program in lieu of funding the 
schools directly for scholarships. 

The board's Christian Higher Education Special Committee discussed the scholarship question during its meeting earlier that, Davis said. That committee is establishing a task force to study the scholarship program in light of the convention's declining revenues; options on how the current scholarship program might need to be reconfigured are being explored.

The Budget Committee also recommended a challenge budget that would determine how additional funds received beyond the budget would be used: one third for church planting, one third for the SBC's Cooperative Program budget; and one third to be divided equally among NC Baptist Children's 
Homes, the Biblical Recorder and Fruitland Baptist Bible College.

This recommendation was passed.

North Carolina Missions Offering
Roberts said the Budget Committee recommended that the goal for the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) be set again at $2.1 million, as it has been for several years, though the amount received each year has totaled about $1.8 million. The offering would again support the work of NC Baptist Men (NCBM), church planting and associational missions, divided as follows:

 

$856,720 for NC Baptist Men, plus $313,080 for NCBM's two mission work camps, Red Springs and Shelby, and $124,200 for NCBM's mobilization ministry projects; $596,000 for church planting; and $210,000 for associational missions projects. 

The NCMO recommendation was approved and will be part of the budget package that messengers will consider during the annual meeting in November.