Snapshot of six state conventions’ budget realities

Each fall, messengers to Baptist state conventions typically gather in annual meetings to hear ministry reports, celebrate accomplishments and conduct business. This year, because of the pandemic, annual meetings were as unique as the year itself, with some meetings happening virtually, some taking place in person but abbreviated and others not happening at all.

For those not meeting, bylaws provided guidance for how to handle necessary business items.

One major business item front and center for all state conventions was budget planning for 2021, and this report focuses on what took place in Alabama and the five contiguous states.

Of the six reviewed, three state conventions — Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee — left budgets unchanged for 2021, two — Georgia and Florida — decreased budgets, and one — Mississippi — is still to be determined.

Budgets remaining same for 2021

Alabama — $37.5 million budget to be split 50/50 between state causes and Southern Baptist Convention causes. No annual meeting was held. Alabama’s budget has remained unchanged since 2019 and has remained relatively consistent in recent years after a few significant adjustments following the record $46 million in 2009.

Louisiana — $18,653,700 budget with 63.26% dedicated to state ministries and 36.74% going to SBC causes. Abbreviated annual meeting was held Nov. 10. Louisiana convention leaders indicated maintaining a consistent budget from 2020 to 2021 is a positive for the state after seven straight years of declining budgets going into the global pandemic year of 2020. The budget for 2013 was $21,627,235, and it has decreased every year since then until the flat budget for 2021 was recently approved.

Tennessee — $35 million budget with 52.5% for Tennessee ministries and 47.5% for SBC causes but 2020 formula adjusted for 2021 because of financial uncertainty. First $25 million will be split 60/40 favoring Tennessee; next $5 million split 50/50 and last $5 million split 18.7% to Tennessee and 81.3% to SBC. Any monies over the budget amount will shift back to the original formula. No annual meeting was held, but the budget decision was made by the convention board of directors in a virtual meeting Nov. 11. Tennessee’s current budget amount reflects a decade of gradual decreases since its record-high budget of $39 million in 2009.

Budgets decreasing for 2021

Georgia — $37.835 million, a $2.415 million or 6% decrease from the 2020 budget of $40.25 million. The budget is split 60% for state causes and 40% for SBC causes. An abbreviated annual meeting was held Nov. 9. Georgia’s budgets have fluctuated annually since its record budget of $53.3 million in 2008. Along with the budget decrease, more than 30% (49 of the 140) of Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff members were offered voluntary retirement incentives. To qualify, employees must be at least 55 years old with at least 10 years of GBMB service, and the decision must be made by Dec. 4. (Read more about Georgia’s budget adjustments here.)

Florida — $28.5 million budget, a $1.5 million or 5% decrease from the 2020 budget of $30 million. Florida’s budget has gradually decreased for more than a decade from its record high of $41 million in 2008. The budget designates 49% for state causes and 51% for SBC causes. No annual meeting was held, but the State Board of Missions adjusted the budget, acting as the convention ad interim. The Florida Baptist State Convention also led the SBC in baptisms in 2019, reporting 25,338.

Budgets yet to be determined for 2021

Mississippi — 2021 budget pending Dec. 1 meeting by the 100-member convention board and executive committee. The 2020 budget is $31,073,945 split 62% state causes to 38% SBC causes and comes after a gradual decrease from the state’s record-high budget of $35 million in 2009. No annual meeting was held, but $1 million was sent to the International Mission Board in October as a surprise gift because the convention significantly underspent the budget in 2020.

Snapshot of staff and churches

Alabama has approximately 62 staff members serving about 3,225 churches.

Louisiana has approximately 53 staff members serving about 1,600 churches.

Tennessee has approximately 80 staff members serving about 3,000 churches.

Georgia has approximately 140 staff members serving about 3,500 churches.

Florida has approximately 47 staff members serving about 2,800 churches.

Mississippi has approximately 87 staff members serving about 2,100 churches.

Update to story on Dec. 2, following Mississippi Convention Board’s Dec. 1 meeting:

Mississippi Baptists’ 2021 budget is $28,510,346, a decrease of 8.25% from the state’s 2020 budget of $31,073,945. The state’s record-high budget was $35 million in 2009. The 2021 budget designates 62% for state causes and 38% for SBC causes. After the 2020 annual meeting was postponed, Mississippi Baptists’ 100-member convention board approved the 2021 budget in its Aug. 25 meeting. The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board sent $1 million to the International Mission Board in October as a surprise gift because the convention significantly underspent its budget in 2020.

In an interview with The Alabama Baptist, Shawn Parker, executive director-treasurer for MBCB, stated that, because of the decreased 2021 budget, state convention personnel have been asked to reduce their program budgets by 8.25%. “At this point we believe our reduction may very well be overstated, because our receipts for 2020 have remained on pace in spite of the COVID effect. We plan to review the 2021 budget toward the end of the second quarter and make any adjustments (hopefully up) that might seem appropriate. We’re optimistic that we’ll be closer to this year’s [2020] budget than we initially thought,” he said.

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