Richmond, Va. | The International Mission Board announced it will be eliminating 600-800 of its staff and missionaries in an effort to eliminate the board’s revenue shortfalls, which also includes a complete reset of the organization.
The plan was announced at an Aug. 27 town hall meeting that included senior leadership and missionaries and staff. Missionaries and non-field staff joined the meeting via digital media. Trustees were briefed on the plan at their Aug. 25-26 board meeting.
“With a really heavy heart, I announced to the staff this morning that the only viable way forward involves a great reduction of personnel and staff,” shared IMB Executive Director David Platt in a press conference following the town hall meeting. “We need a major adjustment in the number of personnel, to reduce the total number by 600-800 people.”
“These are not just figures. These are faces, brothers and sisters, who have spent their lives spreading the gospel to those who’ve never heard it,” he continued. The IMB currently has approximately 4,800 missionaries in the field and 450 staff which together equal 80 percent of its budget. The reduction represents up to 15% of the organization’s staff.
While giving through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering has increased in the last few years, the IMB projects it will fall $21 million dollars short of its current budget this year. This follows several consecutive years of budget shortfalls and six years of expenditures totaling $210 million dollars more than has been given to the IMB.
In recent years, the organization has covered budget shortfalls through cash reserves and selling property. These measures along with plans set in place by previous leaders to reduce its staff and missionary size through attrition are “no longer viable in light of current reality,” stated Platt.
“We praise God for the reserves and property sales that made this possible and for leadership which chose to spend these resources for the spread of the gospel,” he said. “But we cannot continue to overspend. For the sake of short-term financial responsibility and long-term organizational stability we must act.”
Phase one of the plan is the voluntary retirement or resignation of missionaries and staff. Platt stressed no one would be pressured to leave during this first phase.
Phase two is the conclusion of the reset where decisions will be made to work through how missionaries will be used. “We must hold each other accountable in higher standards in our work…We can’t employ everyone who wants to work for the International Mission Board,” said Platt. The goal is to finish the reset by early 2016.
Platt encouraged everyone to boldly ask God where he was calling them to move. “God is not sidelining anyone in this process,” he said, noting opportunities for Christians to move overseas for their professions, education and retirement while they can also share Christ and plant churches.
“These realities, while they are financial, are ultimately spiritual,” Platt said. “God is ultimately orchestrating everything for his glory.”
The reset will be completed on knowledge IMB senior personnel will gain in coming days and months, as they evaluate what is needed around the world in various fields. “I certainly don’t have a forecast for what all that looks like,” said Platt. In all this the IMB is “trusting God to lead and re-direct 600-800 people in the days to come.”
The goal of the reset is to “get to a healthy place in the present in order to be in a healthy position for the future,” Platt said. “We want to move forward with innovative vision, wise stewardship, and high accountability to the churches we serve, the peoples we reach, and the God we worship.”
The 170-year-old organization is the primary international missions sending agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
By Lisa Sergent with additional reporting by Morgan Jackson.