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GBC restructures MRC ministry to save funds, build efficiency

Cutback will save $500,000 in CP dollars


DULUTH — The Georgia Baptist Convention has restructured its Ministry Resource Consultant program to reduce overhead and build greater efficiency into the ministry.

Seven of nine administrative assistant positions were eliminated in the restructuring that was effective Feb. 1. Only one of the positions was vacant, said Bobby Boswell, GBC assistant executive director and vice president for ministries.

The assistants whose positions were eliminated received full severance packages to help them in their transition to other areas of employment, Boswell added. MRCs will now operate out of offices in their homes.

The restructure is triggered by the national recession that is impacting church budgets, state conventions and Cooperative Program giving. In 2008, the rate of CP income was fairly normal until the stock market meltdown in the fall.

Sensing a softening in the economy, GBC Executive Committee members in their September meeting recommended a reduced budget for 2009. The following month those fears were realized when the Convention registered the lowest income from the churches since October 1997, according to Toby Howell, GBC vice president for finance.

When compared to CP income through the first 10 months of 2007, giving in 2008 was not enough to overcome October’s $800,000 deficit. As a result of that shortfall, CP income during 2008 finished the year down $962,811, or 1.94 percent below the previous year. That decrease pushed the state convention into its first deficit in 17 years.

As a result of the Executive Committee’s recommendation, messengers in November approved a 2009 budget that was 5.16 percent lower than the previous year, trimming $2.7 million from the 2008 budget of $52.3 million. That action was necessary to bring the 2009 CP budget in line with more realistic giving levels during the growing recession.

GBC Executive Director J. Robert White said the cutbacks in MRC support staff is an effort to help erase a portion of that million-dollar shortfall. The Convention will realize a savings of nearly $500,000 by closing all nine of the offices and reducing staff.

In addition, GBC leadership has cancelled the 2009 staff retreat at Toccoa and decided it could save additional funds by not having even a scaled down version at the Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth. Boswell said the Convention saved about $50,000 with that decision, which is the first time the spiritual retreat had been cancelled since a previous economic downturn about a decade ago.

As a result of the restructuring the MRCs will now receive administrative assistance from one of two remote locations.

Susan Bagley, who previously served with George Barnett in the Northwest Georgia Region, will continue to relate to Barnett in Ellijay and operate out of her office in the North Georgia Baptist Association in Dalton. But she will also handle administrative responsibilities for Phil Pilgrim in the West Central Georgia Region in Newnan, Mike Brandenburg in the West Georgia Region in Ellerslie, and Clay Turner in the Northeast Georgia Region in Cleveland.

Lisa Malcom, who previously served with Turner, has moved into the Missions and Ministry Center and provides assistance for Harris Malcom in the Southwest Georgia Region in Americus, Clyde Evans in the Middle Georgia Region in Cochran, Charles Drummond in the East Central Georgia Region in Evans, Ted Kandler in the East Georgia Region in Rincon, and Mike Everson in the Southeast Georgia Region in Valdosta. Baptist Village will continue to provide meeting space for the Southeast Georgia Region on its Waycross campus but Everson will primarily operate out of his home.

“In the past decade since we began the MRC program we have learned much about how to effectively communicate with our churches and associations,” Boswell explained. “The consultants continue to play an exceptional role in supporting the role of the associational missionary and being the face of the state convention in the farthest reaches of the state.

“During those 10 years there have been many advances in technology which have also made their jobs easier and removed some of the workload that previously was borne by the assistants. For example, the BlackBerry now allows consultants to be in immediate contact and they do not need to check in with an assistant to receive their messages,” he explained.

Such technological advancements have made some of the cutbacks easier to absorb because the work had already been shifted from the assistant to the MRC.

White said the administrative assistants played “a very vital role but at this time we believe we can provide the support staff with only two assistants rather than nine. We don’t believe we will lose any efficiency by this decision; we actually feel we will gain greater efficiency while conserving our limited funds. In these difficult economic times tough decisions have to be made and the most difficult decisions always relate to employees.”

White maintained that it does make a difference what Baptists give to missions “because what we give or do not give impacts ministry not only in Georgia but across the world.

“I would like to challenge all Georgia Baptists to be faithful stewards during these days of economic uncertainty. The tithe is God’s plan in good times and lean times. His plan for giving, if practiced faithfully, will always provide sufficient for His work.

“At the same time churches need to remain faithful to their missions support, understanding that what they give truly does make a difference.”