Ga. Baptist Mission Board rolls out restructuring plans

by Scott Barkley/Christian Index, posted Wednesday, March 13, 2019 (9 months ago)

DULUTH, Ga. (BP) -- Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., rolled out restructuring plans Tuesday (March 12) during the Mission Board's executive committee meeting.

Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., shared restructuring details Tuesday (March 12) during the Mission Board's executive committee meeting.
Photo by Myriah Snyder/Christian Index
With various multi-colored maps on display, Hammond's report on the mission board's future included details on how there will be no "Baptist Building," no large collection of departments and no expectations of attending meetings that often involve a stop-and-go crawl through Atlanta traffic. Hammond also outlined a new focus for resourcing churches and pastors, the ones he calls his "heroes."

"They -- you -- have the most important job someone could have," he told the mission board's executive committee members. "You preach the Gospel."

Anticipation of Hammond's announcement had been building since a downsizing in January indicated changes on the way. With it comes a shift in mentality, he told state missionaries in a closed-door meeting March 6 that presented the changes.

"It won't be the case of churches coming to us for help and resources. We'll be going to them," Hammond said.

"We want to put a higher emphasis on results, not activity," he said in a call for greater efficiency of missions dollars. "Let's be sure that what we're doing makes a difference. The world is changing every day. If we're not, we're going to get lapped."

Missions and ministry center to be sold

The listening sessions Hammond has hosted throughout the state rendered a variety of answers from pastors. But some responses were uniform. One concerned the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth, which opened in June 2006.

In response to a question on what the Mission Board needs to stop doing, "stop holding on to the building" received nearly five times the response as anything else, Hammond said.

While there are several interested buyers, ongoing talks with interested parties will continue, expressed chief operation officer Kevin Smith.

Each region will not be a "mini-convention" Hammond explained. Catalysts and region consultants will be mobile, working from home or whatever office space (such as a coffee shop or their cars) when not visiting churches, he said. A central administration location, he noted, for approximately 50 staff is currently being sought north of Atlanta.

Core values

Traveling across the state to the listening sessions clarified Hammond's desire to streamline the Mission Board and make it an entity focused on pastors and churches, he told executive committee members. To that end, he presented three core values for the Mission Board:

-- "Pastors are our heroes."

-- "Churches are our priority."

-- "Georgia is our mission field."

"The passion of an entity is seeing what they do. The character is found in what they decide to stop doing," Hammond said. "It's hard to stop doing things, especially when they used to work. But truthfully, we're not unlimited in our resources."

Being efficient with resources and mission dollars calls for a focus on goals, he added.

"We exist to encourage, resource, train, and bless pastors and churches," he said. "If we cease to do that, then we need to cease to exist."

Hammond addressed anticipated questions about the final core value. Yes, he said, Georgia Baptists are called to go into all the world. However, that starts with healthy churches in Georgia.

"We're going to partner with others in reaching Georgia [such as] through our associations and focus on specific areas of lostness," he said.

Partnerships through the North American Mission Board or International Mission Board could help healthier Georgia Baptist churches reach one of NAMB's Send cities or an unreached people group, he explained.

"It's not that Georgia is going to be all that we do; my prayer is we'll end up doing more than we've ever done," Hammond said. "But we want to make sure the light is shone in Georgia like never before so we can shine it elsewhere."

Six regions, five teams

Instead of a perspective where the Georgia Baptist Mission Board is headquartered northeast of Atlanta, six regions will serve to make the Board closer in accessibility to churches. Five teams, each with a lead strategist (basically a vice presidential position), will address key areas of ministry in:

-- Church strengthening

"All the activities we'll be doing as a mission board will point toward this," Hammond said.

-- Pastor wellness

"This is the other 'significant rail' on which this train is going to run," he said. "It'll be for the whole family."

-- Research and development

"Communications, resources, Cooperative Program development, designing logos, [etc.]," he said. "We want to respond to what churches say they need."

-- Georgia Baptist women

"We'll work to equip women to reach women," he said. "Georgia WMU will be in this team."

-- Strategic church planting

"We use the word strategic because ... we want to see where the population trends and growth are," he said. "See where we're under-churched."

The church strengthening lead strategist will work directly with five catalyst leaders, each assigned to an area listed below:

-- Evangelism

-- Missions

-- Discipleship

-- Next-gen

-- Music and worship.

Those catalysts will focus on their area of engagement through the state through a consultant assigned to that region.

Church strengthening will be one "rail" on which the restructuring will run, with church pastoral wellness serving as the other, Hammond stated. The latter, he added, will address the health of pastors in spiritual, physical, vocational, relational and financial areas.

"There are some great things we can learn to help us deal with stress. The bodies that we have are what carry us as we carry the Gospel," he noted.

Chief Strategist Steve Parr explained that the restructuring process will begin on June 1, with a rollout at the Georgia Baptist Convention Nov. 11-12. Full implementation of the restructuring is expected to be complete on Jan. 1, 2020.

Scott Barkley is editor of The Christian Index (christianindex.org), online newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
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