As churches and ministries continue to grapple with the financial impact of COVID-19, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) officials have proposed a Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2021 totaling $27 million.
The proposed budget reflects an overall decrease of nearly 11.5% from the current 2020 budget, which amounts to a reduction of $3.5 million.
Rick Speas, chairman of the convention’s Budget Special Committee, presented the budget proposal to members of the BSC’s board of directors during a meeting held Thursday, July 16 at Caraway Conference Center near Asheboro. Members of the state convention’s executive committee received the proposal during a video conference call the day before.
The 2021 proposal calls for reductions to all state convention ministries and no cost-of-living adjustments for convention staff. The proposal also calls for reductions in allocations to the institutions and agencies, which include the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder, N.C. Baptist Hospital and the N.C. Baptist Foundation.
“The numbers you see are a drastic change,” Speas said. “But it’s our best effort to try to be responsible in light of the times, in light of the circumstances and in light of trends as we see them.”
Based on current trends, Speas said convention officials anticipate receiving somewhere between $27 million and $27.5 million in financial gifts toward the current 2020 budget of $30.5 million by the end of the year. Speas said the committee sought to develop a budget proposal for 2021 that was “in that range.”
Under the proposal, the state’s allocation to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) would remain at 42% of the overall budget, which is the same level as the current budget. If approved as recommended, the 2021 budget would end an unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive years of increasing the percentage allocation to SBC missions and ministry causes in the North Carolina Cooperative Program budget.
“This was painful for us as a budget committee,” Speas said. “But in light of the fact that we are having to make such a decrease in the overall budget, we felt like that (percentage) should stay the same.”
Neither the executive committee nor the full board took any action on the proposal, but were given opportunities to ask questions and share feedback with Speas and the budget committee. Both the executive committee and the board must approve a budget proposal before it goes to messengers for a vote at the BSC’s annual meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 9-10 in Greensboro.
Through the end of June, total giving to the state’s 2020 CP budget totaled more than $12.8 million, which was about 15.8% or $2.4 million below budget. The total amount given was down about 7.8% or nearly $1.1 million less than the same time period as last year. However, overall giving from May to June reflected an overall increase.
“We don’t know what to expect going forward, but God has been faithful, our churches have been faithful and members of those churches have been faithful in their giving,” said John Butler, executive leader for the BSC’s Business Services Group. “We are thankful and appreciative of their faithfulness.”
Butler said most other state conventions are operating anywhere from 10% to 25% below their year-to-date budgets, so trends in North Carolina correspond with national trends.
Butler also reported that giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was down nearly 30% from the same time period as last year, while giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) were down by 10% and 11%, respectively.
Giving to the Annie Armstrong offering has been significantly impacted because the coronavirus pandemic hit North Carolina just prior to Easter, which is the time when the offering is typically promoted and received. Butler said he wasn’t sure how much giving to the Annie Armstrong offering would increase before the end of the year. Butler said he was optimistic, however, that the Lottie Moon and NCMO offerings would see increases because their promotional seasons and primary giving periods are yet to come.
Convention officials also announced that due to faithful Cooperative Program giving through the pandemic that it would resume funding of new church plants effective Friday, July 17. As a cost savings measure at the outset of COVID-19, the convention temporarily suspended funding of new church plants that were not already in the funding cycle, but still provided coaching, training and other resources.
Chuck Register, BSC associate executive director-treasurer and executive leader for the Church Planting and Missions Partnership Group, told members of the executive committee that approximately 20 new church plants are in various stages of the funding pipeline.
PPP loan update
Butler also said that he expects funds that the convention received through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration to be fully forgiven based on parameters of the loan. The convention can apply for loan forgiveness beginning in September.
Butler said funds received through the Paycheck Protection Program enabled the convention to avoid any employee layoffs. The program, along with other cost-saving measures enacted at the outset of COVID-19, has also enabled the convention to operate about $1.4 million in the black through the first half of 2020.
EDT search team named
Board President Melanie Wallace also named a nine-member search committee that is charged with recommending a successor to Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the BSC’s current executive director-treasurer, who had previously announced his plans to retire at the end of February 2021.
Committee members are: Noah Crowe (chairman), intentional interim pastor of Peachtree Memorial Baptist Church in Murphy; Allan Blume, transitional interim pastor of Pittsboro Baptist Church in Pittsboro and member of First Baptist Church of Cary; Quintell Hill, pastor of Multiply Church in Monroe; Andrew Hopper, lead pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro; Michael Sowers, pastor of First Baptist Church of Buies Creek; Jarrod Scott, pastor of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale; Jennifer Thoppil, member of Salem Baptist Church in Dobson; Don Warren, member of Parkwood Baptist Church in Gastonia; and Beth Wooten, pastor’s wife and member of Beulaville Baptist Church in Beulaville.
Wallace called upon N.C. Baptists to pray for the committee members as they begin their work.
“I plead for you to pray for these people.” Wallace said. “They have a difficult task.”
In his first remarks to the full board since announcing his retirement plans, Hollifield thanked board members in particular and North Carolina Baptists in general for their support of his stated vision for the state convention when he first became executive director-treasurer.
“By God’s grace, we are becoming the strongest force in the history of this convention for reaching people with the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Hollifield said. “Thank you, and I say, ‘To God be the glory for all He has done, is doing and is going to do.’”
Study committee approved
The board approved a motion recommended by the Budget Special Committee to appoint a study committee to be named by the board president and vice president that would examine the “relationships and funding models” between the convention and the institutions and agencies that currently receive Cooperative Program support. The study committee would begin its work in 2021 and report their findings to the board in January 2022.
The board also approved two motions from the Business Services Special Committee. The first motion approved and affirmed the convention’s 2019 annual audit as presented by external auditors. The second motion authorized the transfer of 20% of 2019’s net operating income to the convention’s contingency fund. The transfer will total $12,563.
Wallace named three individuals to serve remaining terms on the convention’s Christian Life and Public Affairs committee. They were: Shirley Sells, a member of Crosspointe Baptist Church in Concord; Joe Sinclair, student pastor at Aversboro Road Baptist Church in Garner; and Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.
The next meeting of the executive committee is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the Baptist Building in Cary.
The next scheduled meeting of the full board of directors is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 28-29, at Caraway Conference Center.