Trustees for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) heard reports of how missionaries and staff are meeting needs and responding to crises amid the COVID-19 pandemic in an online meeting June 8.
“We are not downshifting,” NAMB president Kevin Ezell told trustees, speaking from NAMB’s offices during the meeting, which was held virtually because of travel and social distancing limitations triggered by the pandemic. “As other people are running away from crisis, our missionaries are not downshifting. They are moving forward.”
As North America moved toward widespread shutdowns and economic downturn in March, NAMB implemented spending reductions which prioritized keeping missionaries on the field and protecting evangelism and church planter funds. Those included a hiring freeze, cancellation of all staff travel, postponement and/or cancellation of events and placing a hold on all discretionary spending. The moves produced a combined budget reduction of 40%.
“We are not cutting any church planter funding at all, it’s still 100%,” Ezell told trustees. “And evangelism is still at 100%.”
Ezell told trustees that revenue appears to be trending toward a 20% decline in giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and at least a 10% drop in the portion of Cooperative Program funding designated for NAMB. Combined, those decreases would total an estimated $16 million in revenue decline for NAMB in the current budget year. Ezell said planning for the 2020-21 fiscal year will also take anticipated reduced revenue into account.
Ezell addressed a recently reported drop in baptisms in Southern Baptist churches and praised Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s vice president of evangelism and leadership.
“He is doing an incredible job,” Ezell said. “The baptism numbers came out, and we knew going into it that it was going to take more than one year to turn this around. NAMB is taking its share of the responsibility, but it’s the churches who have got to do this. But we feel like we are making great strides.”
Regarding baptisms, outgoing NAMB trustee chairman Danny Wood, the senior pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., added, “We are laying a foundation and this thing is going to go up.”
During the meeting, trustees heard reports from various committees about how NAMB has continuously responded to needs during the crisis through its Send Relief, Send Network and chaplaincy ministries.
In additional trustee business:
- Matt Smith, NAMB’s chief financial officer, reported that budget reductions NAMB implemented at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have offset revenue declines.
- Trustees approved an annual financial report sent to the Woman’s Missionary Union accounting for how funds from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering are spent.
- New officers were elected to lead NAMB trustees: Daniel W. (Danny) de Armas, senior associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Orlando, was elected chairman. Eric J. Thomas, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va., was elected first vice chairman. William L. (Willy) Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Fla., was elected second vice chairman.
- Larry D. Robertson completed his service as a NAMB trustee. Robertson, who pastors Hilldale Baptist Church in Clarksville, Tenn., served as a trustee for 10 years.
Ezell concluded the meeting by expressing gratitude to trustees for their leadership and thanking Southern Baptists for their continued support of NAMB.
“I am so thankful to Southern Baptists for their faithfulness,” Ezell said. “Our first core value is, ‘Whatever It Takes.’ Our second is, ‘Do More with Less.’ This year we are going to have the opportunity to live that and express that perhaps more than any other time since I have been at the North American Mission Board. But we are absolutely going to do it.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Ebert is executive director of public relations at the North American Mission Board.)