A decade of victories and challenges

Lisa Misner Sergent —  April 4, 2016

Top 10

“I feel like in some ways, after 10 years, I’m just figuring things out,” Nate Adams told the Illinois Baptist State Association Board of Directors last month during a celebration of his service as executive director.

Adams offered some reflection on IBSA’s victories over the last ten years, and a few challenges ahead, all in the form of a “top ten list.”

10. Goals and measurements. IBSA now has a consistent, annual pattern of evaluating churches’ needs (surveys), measuring churches’ progress (ACP), setting focused, organizational goals, and measuring effectiveness through multiple, strategic metrics. Our goals are based on facts and feedback, not programs or preferences. Everything from annual budgets to the Annual Meeting theme are driven by purpose and strategy.

9. Strong church participation. Over the past 10 years, IBSA churches baptized 49,584 people and planted 242 new churches. Mission trip participation is up 23% to more than 24,000. Nearly $90 million was given to missions, including more than $64 million through the Cooperative Program (CP). This growth in church participation is in spite of fewer total churches and members.

8. Financial frugality, stability, and health. Over the past 10 years, annual income over expense has averaged $395,000 or around 5% (in 2006 it was $36,608). IBSA’s Cooperative Agreement with the Baptist Foundation of Illinois (BFI) has helped it to grow and for the CP subsidy of BFI to be reduced from a peak of $153,000 to $35,000 in the 2016 IBSA budget.

While 2015 CP giving was $411,000 less than 2009 and NAMB revenue was $252,000 less, IBSA has avoided involuntary lay-offs, and modest compensation increases have been possible each year.

7. Updated and renewed facilities. In 2012, IBSA completed a $1.9-million renovation of its Springfield building and grounds, debt-free and on schedule. The building now hosts groups of up to 250. In 2014, Lake Sallateeska expanded and renovated its dining hall and two other buildings.

6. Staff efficiency and strength. IBSA has trimmed, restructured, and right-sized its staff to adjust to available resources, increased personnel costs, and the evolving needs of churches. Part-time zone consultants are the most notable example. Today, the IBSA staff is not only more diverse, but far more field-based and closer to churches than it was 10 years ago.

5. Effective change management. IBSA has weathered significant economic and social change, from the secular culture, to the national SBC, to local associations and churches themselves. Many organizations and state conventions in particular have had traumatic adjustments to these changes. By acting early, budgeting conservatively, and an “elastic” restructuring, IBSA has for the most part been able to manage a gradual altitude adjustment with minimal negative consequences to IBSA churches. Changes at both the national SBC and local association level present IBSA with new opportunities and challenges for the future.

Those are the victories of the past 10 years. Now the challenges ahead:

4. IBSA churches’ relatively low net impact on lostness in Illinois. While 242 churches have been planted, the net IBSA congregation count has dropped from 1,032 to 957. IBSA churches baptized 4,400 in 2015, yet dropped 3,352 in Sunday School attendance.

3. Reversing health and growth trends among churches. Annual baptisms are down 18% from the 2009 level. Overall worship attendance is now basically the same in 2016 as 2006, though it rose as much as 9.3% (in 2008). Overall Sunday school attendance in 2016 was 17.4% lower than in 2006.

2. Rekindling the passion and renewing the power of cooperation. Some younger leaders and those without Baptist backgrounds do not always understand or buy in to the cooperative missions model. After dropping to 6.8% in 2013 and 2014, the CP giving percentage rebounded to 7.1% in 2015. Nationally, the average is 5.5%. “Engagement” is key for IBSA’s future.

1. Raising the bar of leadership. Most of the challenges and problems with which IBSA churches struggle are rooted in leadership issues. As the 2015 Midwest Leadership Summit and 2016 Illinois Leadership Summit demonstrated, there is a hunger for leadership development among IBSA churches and leaders.

Lisa Misner Sergent

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Lisa is IBSA Director of Communications. A Missouri native, she moved to Illinois 22 years ago and arrived at IBSA a few years later.