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WMU announces voluntary retirement plan amid COVID financial crisis

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — In response to a decline in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, national Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) announced today it is offering a voluntary retirement plan to staff.

“We have worked incredibly hard over the past several years to ‘right size’ our organization based on revenue projections,” said Sandy Wisdom-Martin, executive director of national WMU. “With two difficult back-to-back downsizings and budget cuts, our goal has been to simplify and put limited resources where they can make the most impact for the Kingdom.”

Over the past four years, WMU has cut 34 percent from its budget, which will be $5.2 million beginning in October for 2020-21. Sales of curriculum for missions groups is WMU’s main source of revenue. However, with so much uncertainty related to the pandemic, many churches are not ordering these resources.

“This year we were strategically poised for growth, and then COVID-19 hit our vibrant ministry with a force unequal to anything we’ve seen in recent decades,” Wisdom-Martin said.

When churches suspended in-person services and many across the country were sheltering at home at the onset of the pandemic, WMU quickly responded by moving GA and RA lessons for April and May online, creating free missions resources for families during the summer, providing free PTSD Bible studies and resources for pastors, launching a new podcast with inspiring interviews, and more. While these efforts help meet needs, they don’t replace income lost from decreased sales as churches grapple with not knowing how to plan for needed resources.

With diminished revenue and uncertainty as to when it might rebound, cuts are necessary to present a balanced budget for 2020-21.

“We value all of our employees,” Wisdom-Martin said. “Each and every one makes meaningful contributions, and we are seeking to be as gracious and generous as possible. After the consideration period for those eligible for the voluntary retirement offer closes on September 21, we will determine how much of a deficit in the budget remains and how to proceed from there.”

Wisdom-Martin stressed that though the pandemic has had a significant impact on WMU’s ministry model, the crisis did not catch God by surprise.

“Even in the midst of these difficult days, we confess God as our sustainer and provider,” she said. “I believe He has a hope and a future for WMU. This crisis has negatively affected our bottom line but it has positively amplified our mission.

“Changes in our culture and church community bring opportunities for us to explore missions engagement in new and different ways. People are open to Gospel conversations like never before; this is not the time to shrink back, but to boldly proclaim Christ.”

Woman’s Missionary Union is an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention that was founded in 1888. It is the largest Protestant missions organization for women in the world. Based in Birmingham, Ala., national WMU is not a part of the Cooperative Program allocation budget and receives no funds from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. National WMU is supported through the sale of magazines and products and from investments and charitable contributions.