FRESNO, Calif. (BP) — A 12-member California Baptist task force, appointed to study how California Southern Baptists can best fulfill the Great Commission, will bring seven recommendations to their state convention meeting this fall.
The recommendations range from defining what it means to be a “cooperating church” and reducing denominational overlap to prioritizing church planting and global mission.
Focus 21 Task Force chairman Glen Paden, a retired pastor and president emeritus of California Baptist Foundation, said committee members agree dramatic changes are needed to take the Gospel to more than 37 million Californians — at least 60 percent of whom will be non-Caucasian in 25 years.
“We see that happening in the public school population, among the young people here, and if we don’t set our sails to our future residents in this state, recognizing this change that’s occurring, we definitely will miss the boat,” Paden said. “There is no question in my mind that, not only here but all across our Southern Baptist Convention, changes are needed.
“We are basically an agrarian-structured denomination, and our structure and framework of our convention life has not changed very much, even though the world has changed significantly,” Paden added. “The geography from which our denomination was constructed was so limited, and now through electronic media and other ways, those lines have all gone, but we still maintain those structures.”
The Focus 21 Task Force was appointed during the California Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting Oct. 26-27, 2010, at Clovis by then-CSBC president Walter Price. The task force met multiple times during the ensuing months, consulting with entity leaders, selected state convention staff, directors of missions and other key Southern Baptists in the state.
The task force report said two concerns shaped their conclusions.
“First, the Task Force wants its recommendations to be received as accelerants to the mission of California Southern Baptists,” the report said. “The CSBC and its boards and agencies should be commended for their excellent service over the years. The Task Force recommendations do not criticize past practices, but rather chart a direction for future progress in key areas.
“Second, the Task Force intends its recommendations to be processed through the governance and under the leadership of the CSBC and its entities,” the report stated. “The Task Force recommendations do not usurp the role of the Executive Board or ignore the governance process in place for the entities. The Task Force recommendations do not bypass these processes, but rather establishes a path for these groups to accomplish future progress in key areas.”
While the report said the task force “does not anticipate being reappointed,” it does request that task force members be included in future deliberations “to provide information and perspective based on our research and findings.”
The report offers seven recommendations that, if adopted by messengers to the 2011 annual meeting Oct. 25-26 in Fremont, Calif., would be referred to the CSBC Executive Board for implementation:
— Clarifying Cooperative Churches, a call to clarify what constitutes a “cooperating church” in California Baptist life and enforce greater accountability of that definition, including creating a new category of churches that desire “friendly fellowship” with the convention but do not meet the definition of a cooperating church.
— Prioritizing Church Planting, a call to change or eliminate programs so that 25 percent of the CSBC Cooperative Program budget can be spent directly on funding church planters in California.
— Prioritizing Global Responsibilities, a call to move to a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the state and national Southern Baptist Convention within five years.
— Enlarging California’s Influence, a call to change the trustee nominating process for California Baptist University and the California Baptist Foundation to allow entity presidents and board members “significant input” into trustee selection and to allow “out-of-state Baptists and other evangelical Christians” to serve on those boards.
— Reducing Denominational Overlap, a call to establish a joint task force of key leaders “to re-vision the future roles of associations and the CSBC with the goal of reducing overlapping ministry responsibilities in California.”
— Communicating More Effectively, a call to “re-vision” the communications infrastructure for the CSBC, its associations and churches, and to prioritize electronic communications methods and diminish reliance on print media.
— Planning for the Future, a call to clarify the executive director search process to ensure “a professional process of executive leadership selection.”
Paden said the Focus 21 Task Force report implies no criticism of current state convention leadership: “We’re not unhappy with what’s been done. We’re not unhappy with our leaders in the state.”
Regarding the executive leadership selection process, the report said: “The time to plan for future transition is now, during a period of effective leadership, not in the midst of leadership change when it happens…. The CSBC is a multi-dimensional, multi-million-dollar ministry organization demanding continued outstanding leadership. The future search process — when the appropriate time comes for it to be initiated — must be suited to the organization of the future and the kind of executive leader needed for the position.”
The task force wants its recommendations “to become a pathway to change,” Paden said.
“We’re not here mandating changes per se; we’re raising areas that require more study and more planning for those changes,” Paden said. “Our report is really a referral to the governance systems in the state — the convention as well as the university and the foundation — to participate in those changes through another task force.
“We hope this will give them some levers to make whatever changes are necessary to move us forward,” Paden added. “We hope this will be an acceleration of our mission causes.”
Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press. The task force report can be downloaded in PDF format from the California convention website at www.csbc.com/article303730.htm?title=1&body=1.
The full text of the Focus 21 Task Force report follows:
Focus 21 Task Force Report
Presented to the California Southern Baptist Convention
October 25-26, 2011
Dr. Glen Paden, Chairman
The California Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Clovis, California, on October 26-27, 2010, directed the president of the convention, Dr. Walter Price, to appoint a Task Force to “bring a progress report to the California Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Fremont, California, Oct. 25-26, 2011 concerning how California Southern Baptists can more efficiently and effectively focus our efforts for the glory of God in fulfillment of the Great Commission; and, to request the next president of the California Southern Baptist Convention to extend the work of this committee for a second year to bring its final report and recommendations to the California Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Clovis, CA, October 23-24, 2012.”
Dr. Price appointed the following to the Focus 21 Task Force: Glen Paden (chairman), Michele Chandler, Narri Cooper, Steve Davidson, William Eng, Rich Johnstone, Stephen Jones, Jeff Iorg, Pete Ramirez, Varnum Shults, Matt Smith, and Roger Spradlin.
The Task Force has met multiple times since it was appointed. The meetings have included presentations from the executive leaders of the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC), California Baptist University (CBU), and California Baptist Foundation (CBF). A selected number of CSBC staff members also made detailed presentations about various aspects of convention work. The Task Force also hosted a listening session with California Directors of Missions, as well as met with other key leaders from across the state.
The Task Force thanks all who participated in these meetings. The presentations were excellent, the dialogue spirited, and the shared mission of accelerating the fulfillment of the Great Commission evident in the commitment of every person who participated.
The Task Force has felt the burden of its responsibility. As its work has progressed, two concerns have shaped its conclusions. First, the Task Force wants its recommendations to be received as accelerants to the mission of California Southern Baptists. The CSBC and its boards and agencies should be commended for their excellent service over the years. The Task Force recommendations do not criticize past practices, but rather charts a direction for future progress in key areas.
Second, the Task Force intends its recommendations to be processed through the governance and under the leadership of the CSBC and its entities. The Task Force recommendations do not usurp the role of the Executive Board or ignore the governance process in place for the entities. The Task Force recommendations do not bypass these processes, but rather establishes a path for these groups to accomplish future progress in key areas.
The Task Force recognizes its recommendations have many implications that will require a process of implementation. Some of the recommendations may require constitution or bylaw changes, program elimination, program enhancements, staff changes, denominational reorganization, and budget reallocations. Some of these decisions require time for full implementation and must be managed carefully. For that reason, the Task Force has structured its recommendations as referrals to the CSBC Executive Board. The Task Force is asking the convention to adopt these recommendations as referrals, not as actions demanding immediate implementation.
This is the first and final report of the Task Force which does not anticipate being re-appointed. The Task Force requests, however, that the CSBC Executive Board include Task Force members in its deliberations to provide information and perspective based on our research and findings.
Toward that end, the Task Force moves the following recommendations be adopted by the California Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on October 25-26, 2011 and referred to the CSBC Executive Board for implementation. The CSBC Executive Board is requested to report its implementing actions and updates on each of the following recommendations to the convention meeting in Clovis, California on October 23-24, 2012.
Recommendation One: Clarifying Cooperative Churches
The Task Force recommends the definition of what constitutes a cooperating church in the CSBC be clarified and greater accountability in using that definition be enforced in all aspects of convention life. The definition should include doctrinal standards in the Baptist Faith and Message as most recently adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a stated standard of Cooperative Program giving, and a new category to include churches who desire to remain in friendly fellowship with the convention but who do not meet the definition of a cooperating church.
Rationale Summary: About half of the churches affiliated with the CSBC currently do not give to the Cooperative Program and very little, if anything, to other CSBC or SBC causes. These churches are, however, still considered “cooperating churches.” The current CSBC governing documents have a general definition of a cooperating church, but that standard is not universally applied in determining convention services or privileges.
A higher standard of accountability will make CSBC affiliation more meaningful and more clearly communicate our shared expectations and responsibility for participation. Every effort should be made to continue relating to as many churches as possible, but churches that do not meet the definition of a cooperating church should be grouped accordingly and encouraged to become cooperating churches.
Recommendation Two: Prioritizing Church Planting
The Task Force recommends CSBC program changes or eliminations, with corresponding budget adjustments, so that 25% of the CSBC Cooperative Program budget is spent directly on funding church planters in California (not including administrative support, administrative staff, or contributions by the North American Mission Board). The Task Force further recommends more careful definition, documentation, reporting, and celebrating of church plants initiated in California.
Rationale Summary: While the CSBC does many good things, the urgency of reaching more people with the gospel in California demands prioritization of church planting. Currently,
$130,311 of California Cooperative Program funds are budgeted directly for funding church planters. This is about 3.2% of the in state portion of the CSBC Cooperative Program budget. Future CSBC budget allocations must reflect this commitment by significantly increasing California funds devoted to this task. Care must be taken so these additional funds are spent in the field supporting church plants and planters, rather than administrating church planting.
Recommendation Three: Prioritizing Global Responsibilities
The Task Force recommends the goal of a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the CSBC and the SBC be achieved within the next five years. The Task Force recommends this be achieved by two means: reducing the allocation of funds currently budgeted for CBU to $100,000 and reallocating funds from the CSBC Cooperative Program budget to the SBC Cooperative Program budget.
Rationale Summary: The SBC has adopted a 50/50 split between state conventions and the national convention to increase funds available for global mission responsibilities. State executive directors voted unanimously to lead their states to meet this goal. While the needs in California are significant, California Baptists must do their part to fund a global mission strategy.
Through excellent leadership, CBU has overcome its dependence on denominational subsidy thus freeing these funds for other uses. Through strategic deletions, the CSBC must prioritize its work – preserving the most important items and eliminating those deemed less essential. While these changes might seem like financial sacrifices, it must be noted that more than 94% of all offerings received by CSBC churches are currently spent on mission and ministry in California.
Recommendation Four: Enlarging California’s Influence
The Task Force recommends the trustee nominating process for CBU and CBF be changed to allow the President and Board of each entity to provide significant input to the nominating process for trustee selection. The Task Force also recommends additional out-of-state Baptists and other evangelical Christians be permitted to serve on these boards to facilitate the growing national influence of both entities. The CSBC Executive Board should work with trustee officers and executive leaders from both entities to shape final recommendations related to these matters.
Rationale Summary: CSBC entities have a growing regional and national reputation and responsibility. These entities are maturing and must be encouraged to expand their influence even more. While CSBC church members must remain a clear majority on the boards of these entities, enlarging the scope of their membership will facilitate the influence of these entities beyond California.
Recommendation Five: Reducing Denominational Overlap
The Task Force recommends establishing a joint task force of Directors of Missions, state convention staff, leaders from ethnic fellowships, and other key leaders to re-vision the future roles of associations and the CSBC with the goal of reducing overlapping ministry responsibilities in California.
Rationale Summary: The current denominational paradigm of multiple associations and a state convention serving churches separately is based on geographic limitations, cultural realities, demographic patterns, transportation methods, and communication systems that are no longer relevant to modern organizations. Younger leaders and ethnic leaders are often confused and frustrated by traditional Baptist denominational structure. Polity concerns are usually given as reasons for inaction on denominational reform. Denominational structures, however useful, are extra-biblical organizations created to serve the churches and must be continually revised to retain their usefulness. The time has come for a bold new vision of denominational structure that eliminates overlapping programs, redundant systems, confusing funding policies, and other bureaucratic perplexities.
Recommendation Six: Communicating More Effectively
The Task Force recommends a significant re-vision of the communication infrastructure for the CSBC, its associations, and its churches. The new network should prioritize electronic communications methods including data management, video-conferencing, integrated web platforms, social media, and diminished reliance on print media.
Rationale Summary: Relevance in the Digital Age mandates a major investment in communication systems to network Baptist churches and entities in California. Print media is no longer the primary means of communicating in the global community. California Baptists need one electronic portal integrating and simplifying the information, resources, and communication necessary for streamlined denominational function. Extensive investment in videoconferencing, distance education, and on-demand training are also essential as the primary means of church-servicing and leadership development in the future.
Recommendation Seven: Planning for the Future
The Task Force recommends clarifying the executive director search process to insure an orderly transition plan to maintain the positive momentum of our work. This process should insure a representative group of California Southern Baptists, including Executive Board members and other leaders from various constituencies, are involved in a professional process of executive leadership selection.
Rationale Summary: The time to plan for future transition is now, during a period of effective leadership, not in the midst of leadership change when it happens. Healthy organizations facilitate smooth transitions, not abrupt changes. The future effectiveness of the CSBC and its entities will largely be determined by the next executive leader. The CSBC is a multi-dimensional, multi-million dollar ministry organization demanding continued outstanding leadership. The future search process – when the appropriate time comes for it to be initiated – must be suited to the organization of the future and the kind of executive leader needed for the position.