ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The North American Mission Board’s proposed budget for 2004 will be 6 percent less than the current year’s budget, forcing the board to reduce staff and program support. The proposed budget eliminates 31 positions, seven of which are currently filled by employees who will not be offered other positions or retirement.
Several Southern Baptist state conventions have announced similar cutbacks including staff layoffs over the past few months, including the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina which announced Aug. 26 it was cutting 20 percent of budgeted positions. The International Mission Board in June eliminated 61 full- and part-time positions affecting 37 employees. The stated reasons in most cases were higher expenses and flat or declining mission offerings.
“These have been the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make during NAMB’s six years of existence,” said NAMB President Robert E. “Bob” Reccord, who told employees during an Aug. 28 meeting of NAMB’s staff in Alpharetta, Ga., that the board will face the situation as a family.
“Just as your family at home walks through good times and tough times, we here at NAMB must face these challenges as well,” Reccord explained before reviewing details of the 2004 budget proposal. Affected employees then met individually with supervisors later in the day and the following day.
The proposed budget will be mailed to NAMB trustees in early September. Trustees will consider the budget during their regular board meeting Oct 8.
Reccord said based on giving history and trends, NAMB’s financial team projects the board’s income next year will be $7.2 million less than the 2003 budget — nearly a 6 percent decrease.
“We are thankful to God and Southern Baptists that support of the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering have allowed us to endure our country’s economic downturn better than so many other ministries, nonprofits and even for-profit organizations,” Reccord said. “But we must face the fact that mission giving is not keeping pace with growing increases in expenses like health insurance, utilities and capital and fixed expenses which will increase almost $3.4 million next year.”
Randy Singer, NAMB executive vice president, explained that although income from the Cooperative Program and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, which comprise more than 75 percent of NAMB’s income, have increased incrementally over the past several years, those increases have barely kept pace with inflation.
“We’re so thankful for the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Offering, but, when adjusted for inflation, both have been virtually flat several years which means the purchasing power has remained the same during that time,” Singer said.
“Due primarily to the impact of the sluggish economy on our investment income, NAMB has not reached income projections four of the last five years,” Singer said. “We must submit a 2004 budget which takes that into account.”
“The bottom line is, we anticipate having $3.4 million more in expenses we cannot control, but $7.2 million less income,” Reccord summarized. “That means we must come up with nearly $11 million in spending cuts in 2004.”
The proposed 2004 budget cuts $3 million from travel expenses, $1.6 million in communication projects, more than $4 million from support of various programs, and $1.7 million from personnel expenses.
Reccord said the budget proposal freezes salaries for NAMB missionaries and staff, the second year in a row staff have not received pay raises. And, although funding of state Baptist conventions and jointly supported missionaries are not being reduced, those budgets are not being increased as they usually are.
“Of course, the personnel reductions are the most difficult, and we’ve worked very, very hard to minimize them as much as possible,” Reccord said. “Many of the positions we’re eliminating are vacant, but other cuts will mean valued friends, colleagues and brothers and sisters in Christ will lose their jobs. However, under our present economic situation, there’s simply no way to avoid it, and no painless way to do it.”
Singer said 12 of the 31 positions are vacant and three employees will retire. “And, our leaders have worked very hard transferring nine employees whose positions are being eliminated to other positions here at the board,” he said. “Unfortunately, this will result in seven people losing their jobs.”
Of the 31 jobs being eliminated, six are in management, 14 involve professional staff and 11 are for support staff.
Reccord said the seven employees who remain without positions are being given a very fair severance package and assistance in finding new ministry positions. “These are wonderfully gifted, God-called people, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to help them find God’s will for their work life,” Reccord said.
Singer said the budget does not reduce support for NAMB missionaries who are jointly supported with state Baptist conventions.
NAMB currently has 460 fulltime equivalent positions including national missionaries, staff based in Alpharetta, and staff at the entity’s broadcast studios in Fort Worth. Reductions in Fort Worth staffing were made last year.
While pledging to walk through these difficult days with affected employees, Reccord concluded his report by reminding the staff that their dependence should always be on the Lord, quoting Isaiah 43:1-3: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you … when you pass through the waters, I will be with you….”