Ga. Convention eliminates 18 positions

Baptist Press
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Posted: Feb 06, 2012 5:52 PM
Ga. Convention eliminates 18 positions
DULUTH, Ga. (BP) -- The Georgia Baptist Convention experienced its most dramatic staff reduction ever Jan. 27 and Jan. 30 as 16 employees and two vacant positions were eliminated in the latest round of downsizing.

Staffing has now been cut 26 percent since the 2008 recession.

Cooperative Program receipts in 2011 finished the year 5.86 percent below 2010 income, a shortfall of $2,618,605. Total CP gifts in 2011 were $42,064,718 compared to $44,683,322 in 2010.

Ministries impacted by the layoffs include a part-time regional state missionary position, associational missions, mission volunteers, collegiate ministries, youth ministries, church/minister relations, convention financial services (part-time), Woman's Missionary Union (vacant position), communications (vacant position), employee services and support services.

The fourth round of staff cuts since 2009 has now reduced the state missionary staffing level from a high of 202 to 150. Staffing at the convention's Atlanta-area headquarters has now fallen from 133 to 103 and field personnel has declined from 69 to 47.

The convention's financial struggles were never more evident than in the days leading up to the November annual meeting when the GBC Executive Committee had to rework the 2012 budget, cutting $1.7 million on top of a $1-million reduction that the committee had approved in September.

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White said the late-January downsizing, in both staff and operational expenses, hopefully will put the state convention ahead of any revenue shortfall in 2012 and provide a cushion against any further reductions.

But, he added, there are no guarantees as the economy continues to right itself and while churches struggle to pay their bills without cutting ministry.

"Laying off personnel is the most painful thing I've ever done in my ministry," White told a somber gathering of staff in a called meeting on Jan. 30.

"None of the 16 individuals affected by the downsizing have done anything wrong. They were excellent employees of high moral and spiritual character. These terminations are not a reflection of their job performance or their contributions to Georgia Baptists."

Offering a degree of comfort to those who remained, White said, "I don't want our staff to worry if they will be next in a downsizing. I pray that no one will be next. I am grieved over those who are no longer with us."

White told the staff, "What we are experiencing here is not unlike what many of you are encountering in your own homes when you struggle with your personal finances. You simply can't spend more than you take in every month. It won't work in your household and it won't work at the office.

"You can live off of your savings and investments for a while, but there comes a time when even those assets are strained or depleted. In tough economic times like these, we have to take a hard look at all of our ministries and trim those that are not 'mission central.'

"I am very sorry that this is where we are but this is our reality for now. I pray that God will send a revival in our state that will provide the necessary spiritual and financial resources to reach Georgia and the world for Christ."

White urged remaining state missionaries and support staff to focus their work on implementing the GBC Study Task Force Report emphases on spiritual renewal, Kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting and authentic evangelism.

Among the most visible areas in the downsizing is the elimination of the mission volunteers department and the transfer of its responsibility to the disaster relief office in associational missions ministries.

The ministry, which grew out of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, had mobilized as many as 3,000 volunteers annually for state, North American and international missions ventures. But in recent years as churches caught that vision and began organizing their own mission trips, they became less dependent on the department.

Its ministry will largely be shifted to a website that will list all volunteer opportunities with contact information so individuals, churches, or associations can work directly with the field. An administrative assistant previously with the department will provide guidance as necessary.

In a special communication to staff on Feb. 2, Mike Williams, GBC assistant executive director and vice president for operations, said the "latest staff and operational reductions will result in an operating budget which will under-spend the approved budget by approximately $1,500,000. A margin like this is necessary due to the continuing negative trend in Cooperative Program giving."

Williams noted, "While missions and operational positions have been reduced ... mission responsibilities have been reassigned in order to minimize any disruption in service and ministry. Every ministry area continues to be funded through program and operational support. New leadership will be fulfilling adjusted assignments, but ministry leadership will continue to be provided in every area."

Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index (christianindex.org), newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.

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