I need to say something very important to pastors, staff and church leaders in North Carolina. We have about four years to decide if we want a news and information source with a biblical worldview in our state. For 181 years the Biblical Recorder has been an essential ingredient in Baptist life. The paper has provided news and information on many levels:
reporting on the ministries and outreach of N.C. churches and associations,
covering mission work in our state and around the world,
informing N.C. Baptists about their agencies including the Baptist Children’s Homes, N.C. Baptist Men, Fruitland and campus ministry,
publishing the great work of Southern Baptist agencies like our seminaries, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board (IMB) and the Executive Committee,
providing weekly Sunday School lesson summaries,
reporting on pastoral and staff changes,
and telling the stories of Baptists across the state.
We are still doing all of these things and more! We reflect the values of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Yet, for many reasons paid subscriptions continue to decline.
Everywhere I go, people tell me they love the Biblical Recorder. They compliment our positive emphasis and encouraging content. But all of the gracious, supportive words are not translating into subscriptions.
Cultural and technological changes have caused a large reduction in the number of people who read newspapers. We have stayed on top of these changes, posting much of our content online and using social media.
Our website, BRnow.org, is hailed as one of the best Baptist news web sites in the world, and it continues to grow. In 2014 the count of our “unique visitors” increased 480%. That is a phenomenal statistic! But websites do not bring in enough advertising revenue to pay the bills. Those who browse the Internet are reluctant to pay for access to news sites. Therefore, BRnow.org continues to be free to all users.
All Baptist state papers are struggling to survive. We receive a significant portion of our support from the Cooperative Program (CP). So the downward trend in CP giving is hurting everyone. The Recorder has seen a loss of $94,000 in CP revenue in the past three years. That is a huge sum for us!
The mainstay of the subscription base for most state papers is the “group subscription plan.” There was a time when almost every Baptist church had a group plan for members and leaders.
It was considered an essential ingredient for successful mission engagement. The state paper holds all CP-funded ministries accountable to the local church, and regularly informs Baptists on the impact of CP dollars around the world. People who read the Biblical Recorder are better informed.
Our group subscription plans are in decline for several reasons. First, many senior subscribers are in declining health, and many are dying. So churches are dropping subscriptions for these long-time supporters, while adding very few, if any, new readers to their list.
Second, many churches who have faithfully maintained their group plan are struggling to meet their budget. An easy place to cut the church budget is to remove the Biblical Recorder.
We know ministry is tough these days, and we certainly do not want to see churches cut their missions budget or decrease support for their personnel. But we believe it is ultimately harmful to the mission of the church to disconnect Baptists from vital information sources.
When I began serving as your editor, a senior leader at IMB said to me, “We need the state papers to survive. The papers are a major part of promoting the Lottie Moon offering and keeping Baptists informed all year long on the work of our missionaries.” He said it is not possible for IMB to get mission information to people in the pews without the Biblical Recorder and the state newspapers.
I genuinely believe one of the factors in the decline in CP giving and other missions giving is due to the lack of information reaching the people in our pews. The Recorder staff can help you resolve that problem. We exist to give your congregation news and information that will encourage their walk with God, strengthen the church’s missions giving and support the biblical preaching of the pastor.
Third, few pastors are starting a group subscription plan for their congregation. During the conservative resurgence most conservative pastors did not want their congregation to receive a newspaper that was not supportive of the SBC. For several decades many churches cancelled Biblical Recorder subscriptions. Every week pastors are telling me how much they love the tone and content of the Recorder. They often follow their generous comments with a statement like, “So, you must be seeing a great increase in subscriptions.” Wrong.
Baptists listen to their pastors. We need pastors to take the initiative to tell their people about the ministry of the Recorder. Most pastors already have a full plate. It’s hard to squeeze one more announcement in the service. But the people in your church family need to know that the Recorder is here to serve them.
Let me share few practical steps to keep your church members and attenders informed:
Talk about the Recorder. Tell your church who we are and what we do. We’ve provided some helpful tools on our website at BRnow.org/PromoteBR.
Invite the editor to speak in your association, local pastors’ conference or church. This has been the most effective way to increase awareness and strengthen our work. It personalizes our ministry.
An easy way to get your congregation connected is to encourage everyone to subscribe to the BRweekly. It’s FREE. This e-newsletter comes to your email inbox every Wednesday morning. BRweekly is also a great tool for rapid communication of urgent news.
Hold a Biblical Recorder Day in the church. Contact our office, and we will be glad to help arrange this special day.
Give a special gift to the Biblical Recorder in 2015. We need to raise about $100,000 each year to keep pace with the needs of N.C. Baptists.
Support our advertisers. Advertising revenue is about one-third of our annual income. For more information, visit BRnow.org/advertise.
Last, but certainly not least, I pray you will give strong support to CP. This tried and proven lifeline of ministry cannot be overestimated!
Do you want the Biblical Recorder to be here in five years? If so, let’s do something together to keep this important news source alive and available.
Please email us at [email protected] or call (919) 847-2127 if we can answer any questions and help you keep your church informed.