GCR Component #4: Stemming the Tide of Duplication

Duplication of ministry is one of the greatest causes of inefficiency in the Southern Baptist system. It stems from good intentions. Each group wants to have a well-rounded, helpful ministry. Over the years, state conventions, for example, add different ministries but very rarely shed any. There's constant addition. "Hey! We can do THAT too!" seems to be the normal mode of operation.

Let me give an example from our state. I hope it won't step on too many toes, but I think its a perfect example of what I mean. Over the last few years, the state WMU has moved out of our state convention offices in order to avoid state convention leaders' influence over the organization. (The state convention was too conservative for the liking of WMU.) Also, issues with appointment of trustees have led Baptist Retirement Homes and the BSCNC to part ways as well.

These were two fairly prominent organizations the state convention had been involved with, and now no longer was. So what did they do? See it as an opportunity to shed some layers of organization? Take the opportunity in a time of declining budgets to downsize? From a standpoint of mission and vision, did they see it as a chance to narrow the focus of what the state convention does? None of the above.

Instead, the BSCNC started two new ministries so they could continue to be involved in women's ministry and senior ministry. NC Baptist Aging Ministry had a budget, as a new organization, of over $900,000 in 2009 and of $800,000 in 2010. That's right around 2.3% of the entire state convention budget. Now this is not to discredit the work of NCBAM or Embrace. I'm confident they have great people involved and do a good job with their respective ministries. But that is not the point!

Maybe we don't have to be involved in every possible ministry. Maybe we could just leave women's ministry to some groups out there who are already doing women's ministry well and simply put our churches in contact with those groups! Maybe it's not the job of a state convention to teach our churches how to have exercise classes for senior adults. Again, there's no doubt a lot of good has been accomplished by both of these groups. And I'm sure the people working with them are wonderful. The real question is: Are these essential to our mission?

The Result of Everyone Wanting to Do Everything

When we have so many organizations around the country with this same kind of attitude, that means there are a lot of people doing exactly the same job just for a different geographical region or different constituency. Instead of having 2 or 3 things we do really well, we all have the same 10 things that we're working on and our attention and resources are divided.

Add to this the fact that it's not just 41 state conventions we're talking about, there's also NAMB, local associations, churches, parachurch organizations... That means that in addition to ministry staff for each of these different ministries in each organization there are also administrative and organizational costs. Overhead increases exponentially. There ends up being a lot of wheel reinventing going on.

Can't We Delegate?
As an example, here are five items that are often available at the state convention level and also in some area of Southern Baptists' national organization:
  1. Church planting
  2. Mission trips
  3. Church consulting
  4. Stewardship education
  5. CP promotion
So the question is, instead of everyone doing all five, why don't we designate one level to be responsible for some of these things? Maybe divide them up 3/2 so that each level can focus more clearly on the tasks it's responsible for. Say church planting and mission trips become the responsibility of NAMB and let state conventions take care of church consulting, stewardship education, and CP promotion.

Makes sense and sounds easy, right? Well, I'll be the first to admit that theory is easier than reality here. It's not realistic to make such clean-cut distinctions and divvy out jobs like we're task manager on Celebrity Apprentice.

But at some level this is what Component #4 is about and attempts to do. Here's the text of Component #4:

We believe in order for us to work together more faithfully and effectively towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we will ask Southern Baptists to move the ministry assignments of Cooperative Program promotion and stewardship education from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and return them to being the work of each state convention since they are located closer to our churches. Our call is for the state conventions to reassume their primary role in the promotion of the Cooperative Program and stewardship education, while asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to support these efforts with enthusiasm and a convention-wide perspective.

So what we're talking about is making clear that the Executive Committee will no longer play a role on stewardship education and Cooperative Program promotion. That job will be left to the state conventions, who are already involved in this area as it is.

In my view, this is a fairly modest proposal considering the amount of duplication that exists. The task force could have called for more here and I would have been happy. But as a jump out of the starting block, I'm happy with this proposal.

Morris Chapman and Failure
One final note on this item. I came across an interview with Morris Chapman (HT: Les Puryear), head of the SBC Executive Committee yesterday. He said if this proposal is adopted, it "will be the first time since 1927 the convention will fail to use its own money to promote its own ministries." This is nonsense. To decide not to do something, and then to follow through and not do it does not equal failure. It really is beyond me why some people can't see past the way we've always done it. There are other options. The only failure here would be to allow duplication in this area to continue.

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