Missions Policy Letter
For several years the board has been challenged to develop a clearly defined philosophy regarding missions. When the church was small there was very little need; however, that time has come. By providing a clearly defined philosophy we will provide 1) direction; 2) protection; and 3) a comprehensive balance to the mission area. The intent is to provide a course for the church now and for many years to come.
Beginning in 2016 the missions budget will be established at a set rate of 12% of the general fund. Churches that give over 8% are considered in the exceptional category in the USA, so we view 12% of the general budget as still a very exceptional commitment of BCBC to missions. This generous 12% will be the established percentage year-in and year-out. Furthermore, the division of those monies going to the mission budget (which will be fully operational by January 2018) is as follows:
35% foreign (individuals or agencies supported that are not local)
30% active BCBC projects (eg. water purification to Honduras)
20% local (ministries in local community designed to meet the physical, emotional and/or spiritual needs of those around us)
10% crisis (to meet crises around the world during the year - this will be at the directive of the elder board)
05% flex fund. These are funds available for needs prioritized below:
- those in the body seeking to go with a mission agency for longer than a couple of weeks (with longer time commitments taking highest priorities)
- for missionaries we already support who present personal needs that we might be able to meet at the end of the year.
- other mission concerns
Again, the implementation of these percentages will be fully operational by January 2018. We anticipate that this will most likely bring our active missionaries down to perhaps around 10 individual/family units. Therefore, the delay of implementation will give those missionaries whom we support now between 12-28 months lead-time regarding whether we will be reducing their support or no longer supporting them at all. We do not relish this, but to implement what we believe is a comprehensive approach to missions it must be done. We believe that a 12-28 month notice should provide ample time for them to make the appropriate adjustments.
We anticipate all missionaries to return for a furlough to raise support during these next 28 months. Therefore by being given a heads-up that the changes will be implemented immediately after their furlough, they will be able to know how much additional funds they will need to raise during their furlough. Should there be any missionaries who do not take furlough during this time, it is our intent to keep them at the same level of support until such time as they do take furlough.
Furthermore, since the amount is 12% of the annual general fund, it will change from year-to-year. Though the track record is that the annual budget increases each year, nevertheless, it will be important that all missionaries we support understand two things:
- that the amount of support is based on a percentage of the budget and therefore will show a slight variance from year-to-year.
- that the commitment to support will no longer be for life. It will be for a two to four year period. They will be notified around 6 months prior to the ending period as to whether BCBC will or will not support them for another period of two to four years.
This contractual period will depend upon how their contract with their mission agency is set up. Most agencies require missionary renewal every two to four years. Our commitment will be honored through the contract period and reevaluated when it is time for the missionary to renew his/her contract. In the event an agency should not require a renewal, our commitment will be the maximum four years and then subject for renewal.
Some say they have never heard of such a procedure. However, we have all heard of missionaries simply being dropped by churches. This procedure is infinitely better than that, because it assures that won’t happen. It provides stability because it operates on a contract and renewal system that both parties can plan for.
Some people want a budget of 20-30% going toward missions while others want far less than 10%. Some want to only give a certain dollar amount of the budget to missions like all other programs and that’s it, but what that “set” amount should be varies widely from individual to individual. The church must be able to move forward in the future without re-litigating the issue of missions year-to-year and board-to-board between various people of differing preferences. Therefore, we are setting the amount at 12% of the general budget. This is being set and will remain as the policy from the board.
This puts us in the elite category of mission giving by churches in America. As has already been noted, Churches that give over 8% are considered in the exceptional category in the US, so we view our 12% of the general budget as an exceptional commitment of BCBC to missions. It also establishes a balance in our giving platform that is sustainable year-in and year-out.
Historically, it wasn’t until the August of 1994 (11+ years into our existence) that we finally reached and slightly exceeded the 10% threshold in our missions giving. For the next several years we hovered around the 10-12% range. Then in the late 1990’s it grew to 15% and in the early 2000’s quickly went to 20% and then mushroomed to over 25%. This was during the boom in the economy and the overall board simply went along with the increases without ever doing the hard work of developing an overall strategy for mission giving. Then when the boom ended around 2009 we slowly began to realize that we were on an unsustainable path of mission giving and that our lack of clear philosophy in this area was hurting our overall ministry and infrastructure.
For example consider that even though we have a huge mission budget we had to drop support for local missions over the last couple of years, which is simply unbiblical. Furthermore, we were so strapped for mission money (despite the huge budget) that we had to debate whether we could support one of our own people in the middle of the year when they wanted to go into a short-term mission ministry. It is these examples that show why we needed a comprehensive strategy that assures impact in our local community, foreign missions, meeting crises around the world, and enough funds to meet flexible needs that arise during the year.
Therefore, we have taken the necessary steps to reign in this area of ministry (that we allowed to get out of balance) and do the hard work of leading by developing a comprehensive philosophy and strategy for Missions that will maintain balance and blessing for many years to come (regardless of the economy).
This philosophy provides a comprehensive balance. For years we have felt a greater need to engage the body in missions more directly (rather than passively supporting a number of people) and wanting to create a much larger footprint in our local community. Unfortunately, almost all our monies were tied up already. So we were stuck bemoaning having such a small impact in our local community and not having sufficient resources to tackle projects that would give more hands on experience to those in the body. It is time for us to change course and reflect a much more balanced approach of what we want to achieve in missions. By dividing up the 12% into five areas (foreign, projects, local, crisis, flex), it provides an overall strategy that the whole body can understand and support. Everyone who is a part of BCBC will now know exactly how their monies are being used to meet needs locally and beyond as well as our ability to develop our own missionary projects and still be able to meet crises that arise throughout the world. We feel that each of these five areas is the overall task of the mission ministry and therefore must be budgeted and maintained.
This allows BCBC to have a vital stake in the overall spiritual, emotional and physical well-being of those in our own community. It also allows for the spread of the gospel through missionaries. This budget will allow us to develop projects that encourage the body’s participation. It will have built into it the ability to respond as the body of Christ to crises that arise all around the world. Finally, it will offer some flexibility to meet other situations that inevitably come up in the course of any given year.
We believe that this comprehensive approach will serve to encourage more ownership in missions within the body (as some will want to focus on local impact, others on foreign support, others on developing projects, and still others on responding to crises around the world). We also believe that it will create more awareness and joy in the body as to the ways our monies are serving the cause of Christ. For example, to be able to announce that some monies were going to help with the relief in Nepal, or some of our mission monies were used to provide shelter for battered women in New Bern, or that we will be raising up a team to provide water purification in a village in Honduras, would give the body a tangible awareness of why they are supporting missions beyond just the vital support of a missionary in the field.
It’s time for BCBC to implement a comprehensive strategy that addresses both the target percentage of money given to missions from our overall budget and specifically how that money is to be allocated. We appreciate the Missions Committee and its tireless work over the years. We have done the members of this committee a disservice by asking them to fly blind and not providing the proper oversight. As the church continues to grow and we anticipate even greater growth opportunities in the future, it is important for the board to step in and provide the leadership that assures the proper place of missions while fitting it in with all the other ministries of BCBC. We believe that this strategy does that.
We also realize that the initial steps that will have to be taken will not be pleasant for anyone. However, these measures must be done if we are going to give direction to this ministry in a way that will allow for its protection, balance, and sustainable growth for years to come.
In summary, this Mission Policy represents a philosophy that is clear in design, comprehensive in scope, compassionate in support and giving, and compromising in spirit. Each item in particular and collectively as a whole highlights everything you would hope a policy would accomplish.
In God’s Grace,
The Elder Board