SBTC board OKs funds for more church starts

FORT WORTH–The executive board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has approved an additional $250,000 to help fund eight to 10 more new church starts than budgeted for 2006.

The funding, which the board approved during its regularly scheduled meeting April 25 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be available for disbursement beginning in July and will continue with the additional church plants over a 36-month cycle–a typical duration of support, said Robby Partain, director of the SBTC’s missions group.

The SBTC maintains about 130 funding relationships with new churches at any given time, Partain told the board.

The current budgeted funding for 2006 is enough to maintain relationships with existing church plants, but funds are insufficient to start more churches–and the church planting group is developing a waiting list for potential church starts, Partain stated.

The growth of the convention’s church planting work, Partain said, has also created the need to evaluate how potential church plants are selected.

“We’re now looking at the whole equation so that we don’t get bottlenecked in the whole process” of planting new churches while placing others on a waiting list. Partain said that evaluation would include strategies, structures, priorities and funding processes.

The SBTC does not fully fund any church plant; other partnering churches, associations or networks are involved as well, Partain said.

Beginning in July, the SBTC would potentially fund eight new churches with an average of $1,100 through June of 2007–a one-year window. During the second year, funding for the same church would be about $900 per month, then $600 per month through the third year.

New Minister-Church Relations Director

Troy Brooks, who joined the staff in 2004 as Minister-Church Relations associate, was elected unanimously as successor to Deron Biles as Minister-Church Relations director. Biles, effective June 1, will become dean of extension education and an associate professor of Old Testament at Southwestern Seminary.

Brooks, a longtime Texas pastor, served at First Baptist Church of Groesbeck before joining the SBTC staff.

Board chairman Joe Stewart said he traveled to Jacksonville, Texas recently with Brooks and called him a “man of God” who would do an outstanding job as MCR director.

The board heard the following reports from affiliated ministries:

> Criswell College President Jerry Johnson reported the second-highest spring enrollment ever–440 full-time equivalent students–and an all-time record tuition revenue. This summer, students will travel to Russia and Israel on mission trips, he said.

> East Texas Baptist Family Ministry reported it will begin hosting children in June after the first set of houseparents join the staff June 1, ETBFM director Gerald Edwards said. Also, two more children’s homes will be complete by the end of summer. Two retired pastors and their wives have moved on campus as well, and three more retirement homes are planned.

> Jacksonville College had 300 students enrolled in the fall semester and 297 in the spring, reported Gerald Gray, who represented the school in place of President Edwin Crank. Gray said the school’s affiliation with the SBTC has been “the best thing that ever happened to us.”

> Texas Baptist Home in Waxahachie has helped provide a safe place for 24 mothers and children since September, said Phillip Gardner of the TBH staff. Additionally, the ministry has helped place 148 children from “unsafe homes” with foster care families, helped place 20 children in “forever families” adoptive homes, and helped 28 expectant mothers through its “Hannah Ministry.”

In other business:

> The board approved an administrative agreement and employee-sharing agreement for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Foundation, which should be able to accept donor gifts after Internal Revenue Service approval in the next six months, reported Keet Lewis of the foundation board. Through the agreements, SBTC employees and office space will be furnished by the convention for the foundation, which will reimburse the convention each year for such use. SBTC Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis and ministry associate Randall Jenkins will be employed by both the SBTC and SBTCF.

> In his board report, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said Cooperative Program receipts have increased in 2006. He encouraged board members who are pastors to designate a Sunday to explaining the Southern Baptist CP missions funding channel and play a segment of the Cooperative Program DVD the SBTC mailed to churches.

“It’s important we tell the story of the Cooperative Program and how it undergirds everything we do,” Richards said.

Richards also told the board of his hope to revitalize the ministries of plateaued or declining churches through an endeavor he is calling “The Ezekiel Project,”—a third leg supporting the stool of missions and evangelism.

“Some of (the declining churches) will not be salvaged. Some many not let us do it. But there will be some that will,” Richards said.

“Without a turnaround, in 20 years those churches will be gone.” But some of them can be revitalized “once again as dry bones live,” he said.

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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