Busting Home Mission Myths: how Baptists Together is financed
Where our money comes from, where it goes, how it is managed - and some myths busted - by Richard Wilson, Support Services Team Leader
Prior to taking up my role as Support Services Team leader within the Specialist Teams based in Baptist House, I had already been treasurer of Caversham Baptist Church for seven years. I can still remember as a treasurer not understanding how the finances of the Baptist family worked and I’m sure that is not unusual among ministers, treasurers and secretaries in our Baptist churches. In this article I’m aiming to explain how our financial model works; where the money comes from, where it goes and how it is managed.
As Baptists, our focus is always on the local church and mission, and this philosophy drives our finances. Our funding is heavily reliant on the generosity of our churches and their members: our financial model is different to every other denomination. Whereas others are able to demand that their individual churches contribute a particular percentage or figure, giving to Baptists Together Home Mission Appeal is a free-will gift.
Our key priority when spending is how we can support our churches in their mission, rather than how we can support denominational institutions.
Where our money comes from
The starting point for any financial model is always the gathering of resources. Our key income sources to the Home Mission Fund are shown in the chart below (figures for 2018 provided).
Together these income sources provide the resources to support the life of our Baptist family, amounting to around £5.5m.
Myth 1: Baptists Together has huge resources that are being hoarded.
False! If only! We aim to keep our operating costs small and look to invest the money that we have directly into mission rather than support significant overheads. We keep some modest reserves in relation to our expenditure for rainy days, but don’t wish to keep funds back unnecessarily.
Our Baptist Union has a few other sources of income.
The largest of these is from the assets of churches which have closed. As part of the Family Solution, we have a policy of allocating these receipts directly to the Pension Reserve fund in order to address the challenge of the deficit in the Baptist Pension Scheme.
We also hold a small number of benevolent funds, the largest of which holds some investments which generate an income to support pastoral grants to support those working in our Baptist family when they have needs.
Where our money goes
Once we have gathered our resources, we then distribute them to support churches, deploying funds at local, regional and national level.
Myth 2: There’s a vast team in Baptist House.
Simply not true! There are currently 20 full-time and 19 part-time members of staff at Baptist House. This is proportionately fewer staff than any of the other major denominations.
There is one part of the Baptist Family that is not represented above – namely the five Baptist Colleges. They are independent charitable entities with their own funding streams (principally student fees). They don’t directly receive funding from the Home Mission Fund, although some funds at Regional and National levels are used to support training. However, it’s fair to say that funding ministerial training in the 21st century is a challenge that will need to be addressed in the next few years.
Myth 3: Only grants to churches are ‘real mission’.
Simply not true! We fundamentally believe that everything we do is mission. The work of our regional and national teams is focussed on supporting our member churches by equipping them to fulfil God’s mission in their local area. While grants to local mission projects are the most direct expression of this, the national expertise in the Specialist Teams and the regional support available to churches are equally essential in enabling our churches to continue in their mission.
The Subscriptions and income from services are directly allocated to the national Specialist Teams, with all the remaining money pooled into a ‘Common Purse’ that is then allocated between the Regional Associations and the Specialist Teams according to a formula overseen by the Baptist Steering Group (see diagram below).
Myth 4: Subscriptions pay for ‘overheads’ and the Home Mission appeal pays for mission grants.
False! This is a common misconception. Because we believe all our work is mission, we have no difficulty with using money from the Home Mission appeal to run these operations. To pay the costs of the staff and overheads of the Specialist Teams and Associations would require a much higher subscription, several times higher than the current rate. This was explored by Baptist Union Council in November 2018, but it was decided not to progress this approach.
The Regional Associations, which are legally separate bodies from the Baptist Union, use the resources they are allocated to run their Associations, including their teams of regional ministers and make grants to support mission in local churches and pioneering projects.
How is it managed? How are decisions made?
We believe it important to be open about how the decisions relating to finance are made in our Baptist family. After all, the resources are entrusted to us by God and we need to have good stewardship of those resources.
The operation of the Baptists Together Home Mission Fund is overseen by the Trustees of the Baptist Union of Great Britain charity (which is the legal body behind Baptists Together), including the distribution of funds to the Specialist Teams and Regional Associations. The Trustees then directly supervise the expenditure of the Specialist Teams as they operate within the Baptist Union of Great Britain charity. The Trustees are appointed by Baptist Union Council and are ultimately accountable to the Baptist Assembly, where all the members of Baptists Together, our churches, Colleges and Regional Associations, are represented.
The expenditure of the Regional Associations, which includes the costs of the regional teams and the grants made to support mission projects in their areas, is overseen by their Trustees, who are ultimately accountable to their member churches, via the Association Assemblies and AGMs. As good stewards of our shared resources they also report back to the Baptist Union Trustees on how they have spent their share of the Baptists Together Home Mission fund.
We encourage our churches to participate in the life of Baptists Together in Regional Association AGMs and Assemblies, and the national Baptist Assembly so that their voice can be heard in setting our priorities.
Our system is not perfect, but it is supporting our churches and ministers in all sorts of ways, some of which you will read about in the following pages. We hope that by helping you to better understand it you can encourage your church and feel confident that your church’s subscriptions and Home Mission giving are really serving the mission of God in our Baptist family.
Baptists Together - a movement of local churches, regional associations and colleges supported by three specialist teams. Collectively known as Baptists Together.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain - the legal body behind Baptists Together
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2019 edition of Baptists Together magazine
(though this version has been updated to reflect the current governance processes)