The International Mission Board Experiences Growth Despite Deficit Spending

( [email protected] ) Jun 26, 2003 01:23 PM EDT

RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board reported spending $37 million more than it earned in 2002. In his report to the IMB trustees May 7, the treasurer David Steverson explained reserve funds were used to cover the bills compiled through the 2000-2002 fiscal years.

"Clearly, we cannot continue to sustain such a large gap between income and expenses," he told the board. "We are fortunate in that we had reserve funds that could be drawn upon to support our work in 2002. These reserve funds were available because of additions to reserves in the 1990s, when we experienced good investment returns."

The IMB "must make significant adjustments if we are to prepare ourselves for the future" and that the current pattern of spending is "not sustainable over a longer term."

According to Steverson, the board had tapped the reserves in 2000 and 2001, however, “significant amounts” were drawn in 2002; the $37 million drawn in 2002 covered only 13 percent of total expenditures for the year.

"We need to keep in mind that when we spend reserve funds, it not only is reflected in a reduction in our total assets, but it also reduces investment income available to be budgeted in future years," he added.

In lieu of such financial challenges, the trustees approved a plan to reduce 2003 spending by $10 million. In doing so, 61 positions at the Richmond headquarters will be eliminated, and will cease publication of its flagship magazine, Commission.

Though IMB officials did not publicly state a projection for this year’s total shortfall, they showed concern over the $10 million shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. While the offering increased 1.15 percent over the previous year, the $115 million total fell short of the $125 budgeted goal.

Officials believe the recent downturn in the national economy lowered the IMB’s total cash and investments for 2002.

"We had $25.5 million in investment income [planned] in our 2002 budget and not only did not earn that amount, we actually had unrealized losses on our investments of just over $25 million," he explained.

On the brighter side, the IMB reported receiving more donations from Southern Baptists each year. In real dollar amounts, combined contributions to the IMB through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Offering increased 32 percent over the past five years. In 1998, Southern Baptists sent the IMB $181 million. In 2002, the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon provided $239 million to the IMB.

Nonetheless, the revenue could not keep up with the ever increasing expenditures. "None of our income sources came anywhere close to keeping up with our expenditures," Steverson told the board.

Much of the funds were spent on carrying out the long-term and short-term goal of having 1,000 new missionaries annually.

"Our missionary support expenditures reflect the increased numbers of missionaries who are serving around the world."

"We have record numbers of new missionaries, as well as record numbers of baptisms, churches, new churches and outreach groups. Church membership [overseas] is at an all-time high, and more people are involved in discipleship, Bible study and leadership training than ever before. … We can rejoice that while we have spent significant amounts, we have significant results to show for what was spent."