DULUTH — Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond, Jr., remained in the chapel of the Missions and Ministry Center for some 20 minutes after the closing “amen” of the Executive Committee meeting yesterday, March 12. Only a handful remained in the room, with the rest having already made their way to lunch. But some still had questions about Hammond’s presentation of a major restructuring.
There will be no “Baptist Building.” No large collection of departments. No expectations of attending meetings that – for those in South Georgia, anyway – include a stop-and-go crawl through Atlanta traffic.
In the announcement, Hammond 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 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.
“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 hosted through the state rendered a variety of answers from pastors, but some responses were uniform. One concerned the 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.
While there are several interested buyers, ongoing talks with interested parties will continue, expressed Chief Operation Officer Kevin Smith.
Traveling across the state to the listening sessions (read here, here, and here) 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,” said Hammond. “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. 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 a SEND city or 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. 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.”
- Pastor Wellness – “This is the other ‘significant rail’ on which this train is going to run. It’ll be for the whole family.”
- Research and Development – “Communications, resources, Cooperative Program development, designing logos, [etc.]. We want to respond to what churches say they need.”
- Georgia Baptist Women – “We’ll work to equip women to reach women. 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. 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:
- 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 pointed out.
Each region will not be a “mini-convention” Hammond stressed. He further explained that catalysts and region consultants will be very mobile, working from home or whatever office space (think a coffee shop or even their cars) when not visiting churches. A central administration location for approximately 50 staff is currently being sought north of Atlanta.
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 will be complete on Jan. 1, 2020.