NEWS | Eric Reed
Admittedly, the numbers are not great. But the tally of the 2014 Annual Church Profiles filed by IBSA churches shows the need in Illinois is growing, and the recent call to prayer for spiritual awakening is on target.
“The job is getting harder, the climb is getting steeper, the leaders are getting fewer—but the challenge is no less important,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams prior to the report presented to the IBSA Board in its March meeting. In fact, the challenge grows, as does Illinois Baptists’ responsibility in our large and significant mission field.
The 2014 ACPs, completed by 95% of IBSA churches, showed declines in several areas including worship attendance (-10.5%), baptisms (-11%) and Sunday school/Bible study participation (-1.5%).
Adams expressed concern about the declines, especially in baptisms, which had increased in recent years. “The actual decline is about 3.4%” when comparing churches that reported in both 2014 and 2013. Several churches that reported baptisms in 2013 were “non-cooperating” in 2014, therefore their tallies were not included in the ACP tally.
While total missions giving through the Cooperative Program was down slightly year-to-year, from $6.34 million to $6.1 million, the average percentage of undesignated offerings given by Illinois churches held steady from 2013 to 2014 at 6.8%. The national average was 5.5% in 2013, up from 5.4% the year before and marking the first upward tick in over 30 years.
The Board approved a plan to draft the 2016 IBSA budget based on projected CP giving of $6.4 million, and to hold the Illinois/national SBC split on Cooperative Program offerings at 56.75/43.25%. Gifts above the hoped-for goal will be shared evenly by IBSA and the national SBC at 50/50.
Four goals for 2016 were recommended by the board’s strategic planning committee and approved. They will guide planning for IBSA’s work next
year, with a focus on the development of leaders who grow healthy, evangelistic, reproducing congregations. Some goals may seem beyond our capability, said committee chairman Larry Wells, “but God can do it all through his people who pray and who work diligently for the kingdom.”
Adams explained the new focus on leadership development in his report to the Board, citing attendance of more than 300 Illinois church leaders at the January 20-22 Midwest Leadership Summit in Springfield as evidence of interest in, and hunger for, training and coaching. “I think we have such a long way to go in true, deep leadership development,” Adams said. “We’ve come a long way, but we have much more to do.”
Adams pointed to deployment of eight part-time zone consultants across the state and the work of the new Church Resources Team creating new conferencing opportunities and learning cohorts as ways IBSA is focusing on growing effective church leaders.
Board members braved a winter storm to attend the March 3 meeting, with some traveling icy roads in Central Illinois to handle state association business. That raised the question whether such meetings can be joined by telephone or over the internet. With 27 members present, a quorum was easily reached, so the meeting proceeded. A similar question about long-distance electronic participation in board and committee meetings was raised at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November. Board chairman Chip Faulkner reported the issue is presently under consideration.
The Board welcomed seven new members: Steve Hardin of Roland Manor Church in Washington, Curt Lipe of Faith Church in Galesburg, Scott Nichols of Crossroads Church in Carol Stream, Jay Simala of New Song Church in Zion, Sammy Simmons of Immanuel Church in Benton, and Daniel Wilson of Grace Church in Granite City.
For 30 years of service to Illinois Baptists, Executive Administrative Assistant Sandy Barnard was honored with a standing ovation, a gift, flowers, and cake. (Later, she was seen cleaning up after the party.)
Cathy Waters was recognized for 10 years’ service. She was recently promoted to the position of Ministry Coordinator for the Church Resources Team, organizing large events and conferences.
Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper and IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Communications Team.