By Paul Baxley
The essence of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is partnership. It’s collaboration. And for clarity’s sake, this spirit extends to the budget process.
After an extended process involving the Finance Committee of the CBF Governing Board and the CBF staff in Decatur, the CBF Governing Board unanimously approved a proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2019 and ending September 30, 2020.
The budget will be initially presented during the Thursday morning “Fellowship at Work” session (June 20), discussed in greater detail in a business breakout that I will attend at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and then you will vote on it in the Friday morning “Fellowship at Work” session (June 21) at the General Assembly in Birmingham. We are releasing this budget in advance of the General Assembly to encourage reflection and prepared participation in that business breakout by those who are interested or have questions.
The Governing Board has proposed a budget that forecasts an increase in revenue for the 2019-20 fiscal year. This is despite CBF feeling the pinch from times when revenue does not reach our budget needs, as some other denominations, organizational partners and partner congregations can attest. Denominational shifts, transitions in leadership and changes in church giving affect religious organizations year-to-year. Over the past 12 months, CBF has experienced a decline in revenue. As we prepare for the coming fiscal year, we are putting in place new efforts to engage congregations and their leaders more deeply, to listen for greatest needs, to tell the story of the mission and ministry of CBF and invite much deeper participation.
There is a deep commitment and desire among Cooperative Baptists to see us strengthen our ministries for congregations and their leaders, participate more faithfully in God’s mission in our communities and around the world, and help new generations of women and men hear God’s calling in their lives. This budget is built to give us the best opportunity to position ourselves for growth while also engaging in important strategic planning in the upcoming fiscal year that can guide implementation of this budget and development of future budget proposals.
As has been the case for quite some time, substantial portions of our “ministries” initiatives are funded through grants and other restricted revenue streams. Examples include Dawnings, our Lilly Endowment-funded Ministerial Excellence Initiative and Thriving in Ministry Initiative, the expansion of Together for Hope and other efforts in advocacy, racial justice and reconciliation and efforts to discern new paths in ministerial preparation. Gifts that establish and offer initial funding to ministries like these are a wonderful blessing in our Fellowship in that they have allowed us to expand our ministries both following the Great Recession and even through other challenges. At the same time, it is essential that while continuing to seek these kinds of gifts, we also recommit to the importance of unrestricted support of CBF ministries and mission by congregations and individuals so that these efforts (and others) can be sustained after the initial restricted funding is used.
If the upcoming fiscal year goes exactly as planned, CBF would experience a net loss of $432,000 and a larger loss in areas of our ministry funded by unrestricted gifts. Because we prepared for decline in revenue in the current budget year, our reserves position allows us to absorb that loss in the coming year but would not allow us to continue to do so indefinitely. This budget is designed to give us a significant opportunity to seek an increase in support while also making decisions about where we strategically should invest God’s resources given by congregations and individuals in the years ahead. Of course, the Governing Board, its Finance Committee and our staff in Decatur will keep very close watch on income and expenditure patterns through the course of the coming fiscal year.
We will continue the conversation about how CBF can best serve you and your congregation as we partner in renewing God’s world, about how we allocate resources for the good of the Kingdom and how we fund our partnership now and into the future. That conversation is best undertaken when you have clarity.
Clarity is our aspiration in making the proposed budget available early, introducing it from the platform at 9:30 Thursday morning (June 20), extending an open invitation to participate in a budget breakout session led by members of our Governing Board and me at 1:30 p.m. in East Ballroom A of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) on Thursday and inviting you to be present for the vote at 10:00 Friday morning (June 21).
For the sake of clarity, for the sake for CBF, for the sake of Christ, I hope you will accept our invitation to enter into this conversation and that you will join us as together we build a more faithful and redemptive future.
Read the proposed FY2019-2020 budget here.
Find the schedule of meetings and events during the 2019 General Assembly in Birmingham in the 2019 Assembly Guidebook.
Rev. Dr. Paul Baxley is the Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.