PHOENIX (BP) — In what may be the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference’s first public financial report, 2017 conference president Dave Miller noted expenditures of just over $400,000 for the Phoenix gathering plus an additional $100,000 provided by the Cooperative Program to help pay for meeting space.
“As pastors of average and smaller churches, the costs of the conference boggled our minds,” Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, wrote in a Jan. 2 report. “But we found that with the support of the entities of the SBC and the help of the [SBC] Executive Committee, a group of average church pastors can do this.”
Last year’s Pastors’ Conference — held June 11-12 at the Phoenix Convention Center — focused on leaders of small and medium-sized churches, with all conference preachers pastoring congregations of approximately 500 or fewer worship attendees. The conference leadership team also comprised pastors of average-sized churches.
Since 2014, the Pastors’ Conference has issued annual financial reports to the Executive Committee, but those reports have not been made public. The EC utilizes the reports in its meetings each February to help set the level of CP funding for future Pastors’ Conferences.
Miller wrote in his 2,100-word report, published on the SBC Voices blog, that previous Pastors’ Conference leaders operated with the “highest integrity.” He added, however, “We do believe that since it is the SBC Pastors’ Conference … accountability should be made to the pastors of the SBC.” Miller expressed hope future conference leaders also will publish financial reports.
The 2017 Pastors’ Conference total income of $410,582 — which does not include the $100,000 in CP funds allocated from the SBC Operating Budget to help offset Pastors’ Conference meeting space costs — comprised gifts from SBC entities, state Baptist conventions, churches and other organizations; some $52,000 forwarded by the 2016 Pastors’ Conference leadership team; revenue from booth and ad sales; and interest on a Pastors’ Conference account with the Southern Baptist Foundation, according to Miller’s report.
The conference’s “chief ministry partner” and largest financial contributor was New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Caskey Center for Church Excellence, Miller wrote. Three “session sponsors” — the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board — also made “substantial” financial contributions.
Several SBC entities assisted in ways other than financial donations, according to the report. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted an initial colloquium for conference speakers. New Orleans Seminary hosted a post-conference wrap-up session for the 2017 and 2018 conference leadership teams. Gateway Seminary produced and printed the conference program, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary supplied a pulpit for the conference.
Conference expenses, according to the report, included:
— $162,585 for meeting logistics such as facility rental, lights and sound;
— $88,855 for conference expenses like honoraria as well as travel, hotel rooms and meals for the speakers and leadership team;
— $61,000 for $1,000 scholarships to help pastors of smaller churches attend the conference;
— $19,960 for pre-conference expenses; and
— $4,378 in post-conference expenses.
After all bills were paid, the 2017 Pastors’ Conference gave nearly $24,000 to the Caskey Center to fund scholarships for the 2018 Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting in Dallas. Approximately $30,000 was forwarded to the 2018 Pastors’ Conference leadership team, headed by president H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
The 2017 Pastors’ Conference forwarded $20,000 to GuideStone Financial Resources’ Mission:Dignity initiative, which assists retired pastors and their widows who have financial needs. Attendees of the Phoenix gathering gave an additional $15,138 to Mission:Dignity through the conference offering, GuideStone reported in a comment to Miller’s SBC Voices post.
Miller’s report did not specify the exact amounts donors gave and kept some specific expenses confidential.
“We loved serving at the 2017 Pastors’ Conference and are eternally grateful for the support of the Executive Committee, the Caskey Center and the entities of the SBC,” Miller wrote. “I can never express my gratitude fully for that group of men who worked with me to make this conference a success.”