Members of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) executive committee praised a plan announced by convention leaders to help pastors and churches across the state in the areas of church health and revitalization.
During the executive committee’s regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 11, at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, BSC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. announced organizational and staff changes that include the formation of the newly named Church Health and Revitalization Team.
Sandy Marks, senior consultant for church health and revitalization, will lead the new team, previously known as the Church Strengthening Team and led by Neal Eller, who is retiring in January after more than 29 years of service to the state convention. The position being vacated by Marks, which is currently assigned to the convention’s Disciple-making Team, will be brought under the new Church Health and Revitalization Team.
Convention staff members who currently serve on the Church Strengthening Team will remain as part of the new Church Health and Revitalization Team.
The changes will take effect Jan. 2, 2020.
Hollifield said he made the changes following discussions with the members of his executive leadership team about the need to increase the convention’s efforts to assist churches in the area of church health and revitalization. Hollifield said when taken together, the percentage of churches in North Carolina that are either plateaued, declining or dying is approximately 86 percent.
“We need to do more to help with this,” Hollifield said.
Lynn Sasser, BSC executive leader for evangelism and discipleship who oversees the Disciple-making and Church Strengthening teams, said the restructuring and name change reflects the heart of what strengthening churches involves.
“Church health and revitalization is a primary means of church strengthening,” Sasser said.
Sasser said church health and revitalization efforts would first focus on the needs of pastors, while also addressing church systems.
“There is no way to have a revitalized church with a pastor who is burned out and who is struggling and stressed day by day,” Sasser said. “A lot of the efforts that we are placing on church revitalization will begin with the pastor.”
Executive committee member Perry Brindley, associational missions strategist for the Buncombe Baptist Association and president of the North Carolina Associational Missions Conference, praised the convention leadership for addressing a growing need across North Carolina.
“Thank you for seeing this and taking action,” Brindley said. “This is something that I see everyday, and … I was once one of those pastors.”
In other business, the committee approved a year-end bonus for all convention employees and a one-time merit bonus for a limited number of convention staff who have gone “above and beyond” in their work responsibilities. The merit bonuses will be awarded at the discretion of the executive director-treasurer with input from other executive leaders.
Funding for the year-end and merit bonuses comes from interest income earned from investments and not from Cooperative Program (CP) funds.
The committee also authorized John Butler, executive leader for Business Services, to approve housing allowance requests from convention staff members who are ordained.
Beverly Volz, director of accounting services, reported that Cooperative Program (CP) and special offering receipts from North Carolina Baptist churches are all up year over year.
Through the end of September, CP receipts totaled more than $23.8 million, slightly more than 3 percent ahead of the same time period in 2018. Despite being ahead year over year, CP gifts are about 9 percent below the 2019 budget, but Volz reported that the convention is still operating in the black.
Giving to the Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon and North Carolina missions offerings are also up year over year. Through September, giving to Annie Armstrong totaled more than $6.1 million, which is up more than 3 percent from 2018. Giving to Lottie Moon totaled $11.5 million, which is up nearly 16 percent from 2018. Giving to the North Carolina Missions Offering totaled $1.6 million, which is up nearly 3.5 percent from 2018.
Board of Directors’ President Melanie Wallace also recognized outgoing executive committee members George Hunnicutt, chair of the Communications Committee, Chris Hughes, chair of the Convention Relations Special Committee, and David Richardson, chair of the Business Services Special Committee, who have completed their terms of service.
The next meeting of the state convention’s board of directors is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 27-28, 2020, at Caraway Conference Center and Camp near Asheboro.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Chad Austin is Content Strategist-Editor of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina Communications Team.)