Louisville—The Mission Board of the Kentucky Baptist Convention heard plans to merge the KBC’s Business and Finance team with its Executive Office team and eliminated four staff positions as “belt-tightening” measures during its Dec. 11-12 meeting in Louisville.
The merger of the two teams, which will reduce the number of KBC ministry teams from five to four, was approved by the Mission Board’s administrative committee on Monday—though the staff impacted were consulted privately earlier.
Placing the downsizing within the context of “flatlined” trends in Cooperative Program giving by churches nationally, KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said the move was also necessitated in anticipation of a reduction in the KBC’s annual budget for 2018-19.
“At the close of the last fiscal year, with the exception of fiscal year 2013-14, we (KBC) have had the lowest CP receipts since 1999,” Chitwood noted. “Within that 18-year window of essentially flatlined receipts, the convention has significantly increased its commitment to fund missions and ministries outside of Kentucky.” This commitment, along with the growing fixed cost of doing missions work in Kentucky, have required major adjustments to the state conventions personnel budgets, he explained.
Specifically affected by the continued downsizing are the positions of Lowell Ashby, Business and Finance team leader, who will be retiring next year after 22 years with the KBC, and Debbie Bannon, administrative assistant in the Executive Office, who has announced her retirement effective in May after 35 years of service.
Two other staff positions are also being eliminated: the collegiate evangelism strategist position, vacated last January by Brian Combs, who will not be replaced; and a women’s and senior adult ministry consultant position held by Shelly Johns White.
In an emotional goodbye at the close of the meeting, Ashby, 65, told board members his departure had come sooner than he had planned.
“God led me here, … and He’ll call me from this. Those steps, I do not know,” he said. “And my statement is, I honestly have to tell you, I wish I had the opportunity to do more. I really do,” he added.
In other action, the Mission Board approved proposed year-end fund allocations of unspent board designated funds and CP overage of more than $530,000, with approximately $384,000 directed to Baptist Campus Ministry facilities, major equipment repairs and Executive Office special projects, which includes $149,000 for Kentucky Today and Frankfort initiatives.
Of the remaining funds, campus ministry training events and church plants will receive an additional $50,000; church consulting and related ministries will receive $54,500; and missions mobilization was given $42,000 for partnership missions trips, international disaster relief response and refugee ministries.
During his report to the board, Chitwood highlighted plans for a major evangelistic outreach in the Appalachian region when Kentucky Baptists gather for their November annual meeting in Pikeville. He also announced the proposed theme for the annual meeting, “Bring Good News,” based on Isaiah 52:7.
Plans are under way for an evangelistic crusade at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville on Nov. 11, Chitwood announced, adding that more than 200 pastors and other volunteers will be invited to serve as decision counselors.
“This will be a big deal,” Chitwood said. “We will also be encouraging local church revivals in the region. Our prayer is that this time next year, our Baptist churches in the mountains will have been encouraged and blessed by the efforts and that many will have come to know Christ.”
Chitwood also encouraged participation in the “Gospel Conversation Challenge,” a nationwide evangelism initiative to get Christians talking to relatives, friends, coworkers and neighbors about Jesus.
The GC Challenge is the brainchild of the North American Mission Board aided by LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and state-level Baptist leaders. Southern Baptist churches across the nation are being asked to make pledges to reach a goal of 1 million gospel conversations.
If a church could get 50 people to commit to having one gospel conversation each month, that one congregation could potentially reach 600 people for Christ, he said. (WR)