Executive Board approves new staff, proposes $28.9 million budget

GRAPEVINE—Hiring two new convention staff members, proposing a 2020 budget of $28.9 million and approving a special needs ministry strategy were among actions of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Board when it convened July 30 in Grapevine.

Joshua Owens, 25, was approved as SBTC communications associate. Previously, he served as a social media strategist with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Owens will help produce SBTC social media and news content and develop new channels—such as podcasts—for disseminating convention news.

Director of Communications Gary Ledbetter said the SBTC will continue producing a print edition of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, as well as online news content, and has developed a team to assist with that ministry. “What we don’t know as well is digital communications. Josh has experience working with three SBC entities in this area. For a young man, he has wide and very pertinent experience for the direction we see our news apparatus going in the coming years. 

Owens developed and managed social media channels for both the ERLC and Southwestern. At Southwestern, he also was tasked with analyzing daily Baptist and secular news for the seminary’s executive leadership team. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southwestern’s undergraduate college and a master of science in strategic communication from Texas Christian University.

Over the past two years Owens has served as an IMB journeyman, and he is fluent in Spanish. In addition to assisting with development of missions strategy, he participated in IMB field work and training in Africa, Europe & the Middle East. In all, Owens has traveled to 29 countries on five continents.

Montana church planter Dave Carroll was approved as SBTC church ministries associate, a position in which he will consult with churches about worship arts, music education and worship technology.

In 2013, Carroll, 41, planted Elevation Church in Billings, Mont. The congregation grew to 500 in Sunday worship attendance during his tenure, saw 520 professions of faith in Christ and became one of the fastest-growing Southern Baptist churches in Montana.

For the previous 12 years, Carroll served on church staffs in Florida, including worship and youth ministry duties, and assisted with church planting in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master of divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Carroll cited his wide-ranging ministry experience as preparation for service in Texas.

“South Florida brings some diversity [in its] variety of people. Montana has prepared us for the smaller places. We got to see what it looks like in rural America,” Carroll said, adding, “I’m excited to see what God has in store for us in the area of worship.”

The Board accepted the Administrative Committee’s 2020 budget proposal, which represents a $12 decrease from the current year’s $28.9 million budget. The budget requires approval of messengers at the Oct. 28-29 annual meeting in Odessa.

While receipts for the first half of 2019 were $443,951 behind budget, a “good strong July” made up the shortage and put the convention ahead of budget for the year to date, CFO Joe Davis reported.

The special needs ministry strategy adopted by the Board included a grant of up to $30,000 from SBTC reserve funds to cover, among other items, a consultant or part-time employee to oversee the equipping of churches to reach and disciple special needs families.

The strategy was based on recommendations from a task force appointed by the Executive Board in April and chaired by Board member Tommy Oglesby. In appointing the special needs task force, the Board was acting on a 2018 messenger motion that the convention “study the needs of special needs families and develop a strategy for churches to minister to special needs families and reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Oglesby, pastor of South Jefferson Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant, told the Board “there is a great open door for churches to be involved in those special needs situations.”

Ministry to special needs families “can be a huge community outreach,” Oglesby said. “I’m delighted at the end of the day at the progress and recommendations that have been made” by the special needs task force.

Potential special needs ministry initiatives include, according to recommendations presented to the Board:

  • Enlisting regional specialists to consult with churches upon request;
  • Placing a “Special Needs Sunday” on the SBTC calendar; and
  • Developing digital resources to assist churches with special needs ministries.

Eighteen churches were approved for affiliation with the SBTC while 14 were removed—11 having disbanded or merged and three requesting removal. The action brings the total number of affiliated churches to 2,726.

The Board heard reports from Criswell College President Barry Creamer, Jacksonville College President Mike Smith and Jason Curry, president of the Texas Baptist Home for Children.

Criswell College is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Creamer said, and expects “the biggest transition in school history” in coming months with construction the college’s first residence hall.

Until now, Criswell “has been a commuter school” with largely nontraditional students, Creamer said. A campus dormitory will open doors to “reach traditional students and engage them with” local ministries “while giving them four years of education.”

Creamer added, “We’re blooming in the neighborhood where God has planted us.”

Jacksonville College, Smith said, is thankful for Cooperative Program gifts through the SBTC because sustaining the college “would be difficult without that financial support.”

Smith and other Jacksonville staff members presented testimonies of God’s work through CP at the college, including a mission trip to Nigeria, the sharing of online courses with other small colleges and salvation decisions made by students during chapel services.

The Texas Baptist Home for Children (TBHC) facilitated foster care for 287 children last year and saw 24 adoptions, Curry said. A five-year expansion plan for the ministry calls for staff increases and potential facility changes in Garland, Bedford and Denton among other sites.

TBHC is seeking to recruit additional foster families from Texas Southern Baptist churches, Curry said. Many Texas children need safe, loving homes, and will never hear “the message of the gospel outside of coming to a foster home.”

In other business:

Disaster Relief Director Scottie Stice reported on SBTC ministry at migrant relief shelters in Del Rio and Brownsville, where migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. receive meals, showers, clothes, backpacks filled with snacks and a gospel witness before heading to destination cities assigned by the federal government.

The Del Rio shelter serves approximately 30 immigrants per day who have been released by the government to settle in U.S. cities. “This is a happy place,” Stice said. “There are big smiles,” and “people are so appreciative of a shower.”

The Brownsville shelter, set up at West Brownsville Baptist Church, is “an evangelistic hot spot,” Stice said, with some 4,000 immigrants passing through during the past six to eight months and approximately 3,000 professions of faith in Jesus Christ over the same time period. “It is unbelievable what they’re doing down there.”

Though the number of migrants crossing the southern U.S. border is projected to decline during the hottest months of the year, SBTC DR volunteers still are needed as are volunteers through Texas Relief, an initiative that allows believers not credentialed in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to join the ministry.

Bart McDonald, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation, reported that the Foundation currently manages some $53 million in deposits from more than 390 churches. Those investment accounts will earn $1.2 million in interest over the next 12 months.

From its pool of deposited funds, the Foundation offers loans to churches and SBTC ministries for construction projects and other capital needs, McDonald said. More than $50 million in loans have been approved over the last five years.

“It’s a win-win situation,” McDonald said. “We offer competitive terms” and “tell our borrowers 100 percent of what you’re paying in interest is used to fund kingdom causes.”

The next Executive Board meeting is Oct. 30 in Odessa in conjunction with the annual meeting.

David Roach & Tammi Ledbetter
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