By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WOODWORTH – Louisiana Baptists will be operating in 2018 with its leanest Cooperative Program budget in 20 years.
During a Sept. 26 meeting at Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center in Woodworth, the Executive Board approved the Business and Finance Committee’s 2018 financial plan based on Cooperative Program contributions of $19,507,905, a decrease of $535,426.
Cooperative Program projections are based on actual receipts from August 2016 thru July 2017.
The allocation formula for distributing Cooperative Program gifts between the Southern Baptist Convention and Louisiana Baptist causes remains unchanged, with 63.26 percent supporting ministries in the state and 36.74 percent forwarded to fund national entities.
This equates to $12,340,701 in Cooperative Program funds for Louisiana Baptist missions, a decrease of $338,710 from 2017.
“Our churches and our members continue to face difficult financial challenges,” David Hankins, Executive Director for Louisiana Baptists, told the Baptist Message. “The continued energy recession coupled with last year’s floods have significantly impacted our churches and in turn, us.
“Congregations have had to adapt and so have we,” Hankins continued. “Even in this difficult season, the faithfulness of God’s people is encouraging. They are doing what they can with what they have and I’m confident God will bless their gifts as we work together to impact Louisiana and beyond with the Gospel.”
The budget will be brought to messengers for approval during the 2017 Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, scheduled to be held Nov. 13-14 at Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. It is the fourth consecutive decrease in the Cooperative Program budget.
“Through August we are 6 percent behind the previous year but we are optimistic we may close some of that gap due to a weak fourth quarter last year.” said Dale Lingenfelter, business director and chief financial officer for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. “We do realize these are challenging financial times for our state yet we are very thankful for the faithful giving of our churches which allow us to continue our cooperative mission efforts together.”
Lingenfelter noted the Executive Board chose some cost-saving measures to off-set a lower Cooperative Program budget.
First, he said two full-time staff positions will be eliminated through attrition by retirements. He said these personnel reductions combined with an expected increase in earnings from trust investment assets will help balance the budget.
Second, Lingenfelter said the Executive Board chose to discontinue a protection benefits program that provided term life insurance and a disability benefit for individuals, but was costing $125,000 per year. He said GuideStone initially provided the benefit free to enrollees, but then shifted some of the cost to state conventions.
Lingenfelter said the budget also was under pressure from an announced 25 percent cost increase for GuideStone health insurance. He said multiple options are under consideration for softening such a dramatic financial impact.
Upon the committee’s recommendations, the Executive Board approved the second quarter 2017 financial report, the 2016 annual audit and the 2018 State Missions Service budget of $12,590,241, a decrease of $177,852 from the previous year.