IMB : No further mandatory missionary staff reductions

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Photography such as the one above depicting life in the African bush has been a part of the International Mission Board Communications department. In the IMB's latest round of cuts, the division was eliminated. IMB/Special

International Mission Board missionaries are no longer facing staff reductions as part of the agency’s realignment to reduce budget shortfalls. But part of today’s restructuring includes the elimination of the agency’s 40-member Communications work group.  IMB/Special

RICHMOND, VA — No further International Mission Board missionaries will be required to leave the field as the agency enters its second and final chapter of getting the agency back on financial track.

That is the news from the 170-year-old missions agency the day after it eliminated 30 Communications positions and announced to staff it was shuttering their department on April 29.

Today’s development gives breathing room to personnel around the world who were awaiting news of whether their positions would also be eliminated.

In a bid to further reduce staff in the Richmond headquarters and on the field, IMB President David Platt told those two groups this morning that the agency is offering a second round of voluntary severance packages that must be finalized by Feb. 22.

IMB Executive Vice President Sebastian Traeger presented specific details of the reset and the HRO plan in this morning’s Town Hall format with staff.

‘Hand Raising Opportunity’

Being called a “Hand Raising Opportunity” (HRO), the second round of staff reductions will provide an opportunity for personnel to leave the agency with a severance package that was less generous than what was offered in the first round to those who met certain eligibility requirements but more generous than a traditional resignation or severance package.

Active, long-term, and short-term missionaries are eligible for the HRO. Missionaries can transition from the field over the next several months, according to a press statement released after the Town Hall meeting.

In addition, all full-time and regular part-time staff are eligible for the HRO.

On Aug. 27, 2015, Platt announced a “drawdown” of the agency’s missionary force due to expenses that exceeded income by as much as $21 million in 2014 alone.

Part of plan to reduce staffing levels by 600-800

To balance the budget, the Atlanta native – who was named to lead the 170-year-old agency in August 2014 – announced the IMB would reduce staff by 600-800 positions in the coming months.

To put the staff reduction in context, approximately 4,800 personnel serve as missionaries and 450 as staff. The “600” number represents the change IMB leadership has known the organization needs to make to reduce missionaries from 4,800 to 4,200. That number was described as most likely a minimum, with the larger “800” number representing a more realistic picture of the reduction of missionaries and staff necessary to put IMB in a responsible and sustainable financial position.

IMB media spokesperson Julie McGowan told Baptist state paper editors that IMB leaders will share final numbers at the end of February. Platt will field questions from the group during their annual meeting being held Feb. 15-18.

Budgeting on offering goal rather than receipts

The agency had a standing policy of frequently increasing its Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and budgeting the entire amount, even though it regularly failed to reach the goal by at least $20 million. Over six years that brought its deficit to $210 million and severely depleted its cash reserves.

To bring expenses more in line with reality, the agency has taken the unusual step of reducing its 2016 offering goal from $175 million to $155 million – the amount of the annual shortfall.

The HRO is being designed to further lower overhead and allow staff to pursue other employment opportunities.

In a statement to trustees at noon today, the agency explained the second stage of its “reset” as first introduced by Platt last year. The document, portions of which were obtained by The Index as a public statement, stated:

“Over the past several months we (a trustee committee overseeing the realignment) have been conducting an evaluation of all positions within the Mobilization Group to ensure that all the positions that we have within Mobilization are the right positions in light of our operational needs going forward.

Work going to overseas teams, churches, outside vendors

“After examining the functions, capacity, and workload, we determined that the functions performed by the Richmond Communications center are no longer needed or can be adequately performed by others. The functions of the Center will be performed in the future by overseas IMB missionary communication teams, or through partnerships with churches and outside vendors.”

Under the reset, much of the work previously performed in Richmond will be farmed out to communications teams in overseas locations.

“These next two months put a responsibility in each one of our laps to seek the Lord concerning His will for our lives,” Platt said, reiterating two points to missionaries and staff.

Two points made to missionaries and staff

“First, on a biblical and theological level, IMB missionaries must each resolve to do all of our work around the world in glad, wholehearted alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the 40,000 churches we represent.

“Second, along these lines, those 40,000 churches expect each of us individually and all of us collectively to work diligently and wisely for the spread of the gospel around the world. In other words, they expect all of us to give the right effort that this mission requires, and this means we must hold one another to a high bar when it comes to our work.”

In the midst of this two-phase process, Platt shared last August that IMB leaders would be re-evaluating systems and structures across the IMB not only because of IMB’s financial realities, but also to be the best possible stewards of the resources that churches have entrusted to IMB to get the gospel to the nations.

Surviving workers to be transferred to other positions

Platt described the 30 persons who jobs were being eliminated as being “some of the kindest servants and leaders in the Richmond office. The IMB is indebted to them on many levels. In the days to come, we want to express our honor and appreciation for the countless ways these brothers and sisters have served Christ through the IMB.”

The surviving 10 persons in the Communications group will be transferred to other positions.

The IMB will not be eliminating any other teams, groups, or departments during the final reset which concludes in February.

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