COVID-19 takes a toll on BGCT operating budget
By Ken Camp
DALLAS, Texas (BP) — After an encouraging first quarter in Cooperative Program giving, the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) operating budget took a significant COVID-19-related hit in April, the BGCT Executive Board learned in a May 19 meeting conducted by video conference.
The board took the unusual step of entering into executive session to discuss the implications of a drop in both Cooperative Program giving and income from investments and other sources.
In a statement the BGCT said the board approved a plan to offer a voluntary retirement package to eligible staff. Details of the plan will be available after all eligible staff have been notified.
“As has been said by so many recently, we are experiencing unprecedented times and what is ahead of us all is somewhat uncertain,” BGCT Executive Director David Hardage said. “As a part of our response to these times, the BGCT is providing a positive and proactive offer for many of our longtime, faithful staff to retire if they feel like this is the right thing for them at this time.
“This offer is a generous but completely optional aspect of our plan. We are preparing to reset the BGCT for great days ahead as we emerge from this pandemic and prepare to do even greater missions and ministry work.”
Ward Hayes, BGCT treasurer and chief financial officer, reported $7.76 million in Texas Cooperative Program receipts from Jan. 1 to March 31, or 104.4 percent of budget. That represented a $400,000 increase in Cooperative Program giving compared to the same period last year, Hayes noted.
However, Hayes reported a $16.5 million market loss in investments — a 9.3 percent decrease — in the first quarter, which will result in lower distributed investment income. And preliminary reports from April, when most Texas Baptist churches were not meeting for in-person worship, show a significant drop in Cooperative Program giving.
The 2020 BGCT operating budget calls for $27.5 million in Texas Cooperative Program giving, which accounts for 78.4 percent of the budget. Anticipated investment income of $5.1 million accounts for 14.5 percent of the 2020 BGCT operating budget. The BGCT budget depends on another $2.5 million, or 7.1 percent, from revenue generated by conferences, events, product sales and other sources.
Texas Cooperative Program gifts in April were 82.7 percent of receipts for the previous year. Year-to-date Texas Cooperative Program giving stands at 98.9 percent of the same period in 2019.
Hayes reported that the BGCT applied for a Payroll Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration and was approved April 15 for a $4.7 million loan, Hayes reported.
At least $3.5 million will need to be spent on payroll and related expenses between April 15 and June 10, with no more than $1.2 million spent on rent and utilities, in order for the loan to be forgiven. Any funds not spent on qualifying expenses will remain as a loan to be repaid at 1 percent, and $700,000 is being held in reserve as a contingency for loan repayment, Hayes said.
In his report to the board, Hardage said the BGCT has provided $1,000 Pastor Relief Grants to about 320 bi-vocational and small-membership church pastors who have been severely affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted 116 individuals and churches contributed toward the Pastor Relief Grants, and the Executive Board authorized up to $500,000 in funds from the J.K. Wadley Missions Endowment.
Hardage said convention leaders are working on three different plans for the BGCT annual meeting, scheduled Nov. 15-17 in Waco, depending on the state of the pandemic at that point and on public health protocols.
Send Relief student missions goes virtual with GenSendNOW
By Brandon Elrod
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Every summer for the last few years, college students have participated in the GenSend missions experience, being fully immersed in one of the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) Send Cities to learn how to live “on mission” every day. But since the COVID-19 crisis is making the usual experience impossible, NAMB is launching a virtual experience for college students and leaders called GenSendNOW.
“With COVID shutting down safe travel, we really got to thinking about how GenSend is a way of thinking, not a trip,” said Steve Turner, NAMB’s senior director of next gen mobilization through Send Relief. “The coronavirus shouldn’t really slow us down. GenSend is really made for something like COVID.”
GenSendNOW launches June 1 and lasts through July. The program includes weekly, interactive webinars with mission leaders from across North America, training for how to live on mission and challenges that will help participants engage their own communities. Full access to the live video chats and training material requires participants to register for free at now.gensend.org.
“GenSend is your life on mission anywhere and everywhere, whenever you’re there to the glory of God and the advancement of the Gospel,” Turner said.
George Ross, NAMB’s Send City Missionary in New Orleans, will be one of the first missionaries to appear on the weekly GenSendNOW webinar.
“We have the firsthand experience of seeing college students moving to New Orleans,” Ross said. “We have seen college students participate in GenSend, come back and become game changers in church plants.”
Ross cited Lexie Green, an ICU nurse in the city, who served in New Orleans through GenSend and has been able to share her testimony after contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.
“We want college students to be aware that even in the midst of this pandemic, the mission is advancing,” Ross said. “This is an opportunity to make students aware of that and give them an opportunity to respond to it.
“The great news is that, as believers, as Kingdom citizens, we can step in, not only with help, but with the hope of what Jesus means to us and what we believe is the hope that changes a person’s life forever.”
Turner has recently engaged in virtual meetings with collegiate leaders across the nation. Many have been discussing plans for ministry given that the typical summer and fall schedules — such as college campus orientations and “welcome weeks” that take place at the start of the semester — could be radically different.
“GenSendNOW is about helping students navigate their life on mission in their current context while preparing them for going back to school, whatever that will look like,” Turner said.
In a typical summer, GenSend students travel to various cities or regions where they learn missional principles for using their lives to make the Gospel known, then return home where they continue to practice what they learned. The aim of GenSendNOW is to flip that script.
“For those who went to GenSend in the past, we’ve told them not just to use these principles in the cities they serve, but we’ve encouraged them to take them home,” Turner said. “Now, we are asking them to utilize the principles now and think about how they may use them in the city sometime in the future.”