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Recession causes NAMB to enact slowdown

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In remarks to some 250 staff members of the North American Mission Board on Jan. 8, President Geoff Hammond asked NAMB team leaders to operate at 90 percent of their approved budgets during 2009.

However, Hammond said funds committed to God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the denomination-wide evangelism emphasis, would not be affected. State cooperative budgets also will not be subject to the 90 percent spending level but will operate according to normal state funding practices.

Carlos Ferrer, NAMB’s chief financial officer, said in comments to Baptist Press, “In light of continuing economic trends, the North American Mission Board leadership believes good stewardship requires that we be proactive in planning for potential changes in revenue during 2009.”

In addition to the 90 percent spending level, Ferrer said NAMB also would evaluate and monitor closely hiring for any staff vacancies.

“While there is no hiring freeze, it is appropriate to fill vacancies wisely,” Ferrer said.

Hammond is scheduled to announce final results of giving to the 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions during a meeting with national and state leaders of the Woman’s Missionary Union on Monday, Jan. 12, at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega, Ala.

“We praise God for the faithfulness of His people in giving to cooperative missions and to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering in 2008,” Hammond said, “and although it was a tough year, we rejoice at the sustained giving of Southern Baptists.” Support for Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong offering “continue to be effective even during tough economic times,” Hammond said.

The goal for the 2008 Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was $61 million, following a record $59.3 million contributed in 2007.

The Annie Armstrong offering accounts for about half of NAMB’s annual budget, with about 40 percent provided by church gifts through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel of support for national and international missions and ministries. The gifts enable NAMB to support more than 5,600 missionaries and their ministries throughout the United States, Canada and their territories.

To date, two SBC seminaries and Woman’s Missionary Union also have announced budget cuts.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., announced Dec. 18, that it had reduced its current budget by $1.7 million and that an additional $800,000 to $1.5 million would be cut in the next several months. “Given the personnel-intensive nature of our budget, the only way we can act responsibly in this situation is to anticipate a reduction in force in terms of total employees and total personnel expenditures,” SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. The seminary also is reducing travel expenses and halting campus improvement projects that are yet to be contracted and funded.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, announced Dec. 16 that it will be cutting its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million. Among reductions being made to the budget are “temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.” SWBTS President Paige Patterson was quoted in a seminary news release as saying, “The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school.” The news release then stated that Patterson “went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve.”

On Dec. 10, Woman’s Missionary Union announced it was enacting measures to reduce its 2009 budget by $1.4 million. Some of those steps included reducing team expense budgets in areas such as travel, projects and activities; implementing four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009; a hiring freeze on vacant positions; reducing employer contributions to retirement plans; freezing merit pay increases; and eliminating incentive bonuses in 2009. The organization’s revised budget for 2009 is $9.6 million.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.

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