At our April 13, 2014 Executive Committee meeting, we examined the final financial numbers for the year, 2013. With the receipt of that information, we were able to close the book on 2013 and do a final comparison of the goals that we set for our conference last year and the progress that the Lord blessed to make towards accomplishing those goals.
Below are the goals that we shared with the Executive Committee one year ago. The ones with lines drawn through them are the ones that the Lord enabled us to reach last year:
- 1,000 Baptisms
- 4% Tithe Gain
- Operations Gain
- Discover Retention’s Percentage
- Pastoral Evaluations
- Continue reduction of percentage of budget going to salary/expenses without layoffs
- Complete Oakwood Academy Building Project
- Adequately house E. E. Rogers School in Jackson, Mississippi
- Sell Camp Ground
- Increase Church School Enrollment
As you can see, thanks to our workers, our people and our God, every goal was reached except for one.
Here is a brief summary of each goal:
(1) 1,000 Baptisms: For the fourth year in a row, the Lord blessed us to go over the 1,000 mark in baptisms. The Lord gave us 1,139 baptisms.
As far back as we could check, there had not been a time in South Central where we had baptized over 1,000 individuals for three consecutive years-the Lord has blessed our conference to do that for four consecutive years. Here are the churches and Pastors whom God used to lead the way:
- Dr. Carlton Byrd/Elders Julius/Williams/Wilson, Oakwood University-120
- Elder Debleaire Snell/ Elders Hill/Greene, Huntsville First-92
- Elder James Owens, Memphis Longview-87
- Elder Harold Goodloe, Mobile Emmanuel-77
- Elder Willie Black, Nashville New Life-63
- Pastor Shawn Moss, Memphis Bethany-42
- Elder Fred Batten, Memphis Word of Life-39
- Pastor Michael Lewis, Selma/Thomasville-32
- Elder Kennedy Luckett, Louisville Magazine Street-28 & Elder Dorian Melo, Multicultural Director/Crossville/Boaz/Gadsen/Oakwood Spanish-28
- Elder W.C. Scales, Bessemer/Eutaw/Brent-27
In addition to our Pastors and our members, we also want to thank our Conference Evangelist, Elder Alfred Miller, the Assistant to the Conference Evangelist, Elder Donnell Morgan and their team, for the hundreds of people the Lord added to His church last year through their ministry.
(2) Operations Gain: Last year, the Lord blessed us to spend about $235,000 less than we received in revenue.
That happened in spite of the fact our tithe did not grow as fast as we would have liked (though we a gain over the previous year) and our health care costs continue to go through the roof (they have increased over a million dollars in the past five years).
In fact, the Lord blessed us to reduce our spending by two million dollars over last year, without layoffs. We thank the Lord and we thank our Treasury staff, led by our Treasurer, Mrs. Merkita Mosley, for an outstanding job managing the budget. Additionally, we thank our Finance Committee, chaired by Mrs. Veronica Luckett for their assistance and expertise.
Here are our largest churches, tithe-wise, in 2013 :
- Oakwood University Church (Dr.Byrd/Elders Julius/Williams/Wilson-
- Huntsville First Church (Elder Debleaire Snell/Elders Hill/Greene
- Nashville Riverside (Elder Furman Fordham, II/Elder Polite)
- Madison Mission (Elder Greg Nelson/Elder Chandler)
- Birmingham Ephesus (Elder Alex Horton)
- Memphis Breath of Life (Elder Duane Thomas)
- Nashville Hillcrest (Elder Nelson Stokes/Pastor Wade)
- Louisville Magazine Street (Elder Kennedy Luckett/ Pastor Murrell)
- Chattanooga Orchard Park (Elder Martin Lister/Elder Hobdy)
- Huntsville Mt. Calvary( Dr. Ruppert Bushner/Elder Lewis)
(3) Discover Our Retention Percentage: We are thankful for the thousands of people the Lord has sent to His church the past 4 years. But we do not just want them to join: we want them to stay.
By now, everyone in this conference has heard me say this 1,000 times: We are not running a car wash in this conference, e.g., a place where we hold evangelistic meetings and run people through the water and they run right back out.
We said that we needed to discover exactly what percentage of our new converts are still in the church by the end of the year that they were baptized. That tells us whether we need to make any changes in our evangelism (which we have already done).
We placed a partial line through this-we have a partial retention percentage-we still need to get that information from more churches.
(4) Pastoral Evaluations: We thank the Lord for what we believe is a groundbreaking achievement. While employee evaluations are fairly commonplace in the everyday workforce, pastoral evaluations are relatively new in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and all but unknown in the South Central Conference.
We said five years ago that would change, that all employees would be evaluated-beginning with the Conference President. The pastors evaluated the Conference President at a Pastoral Workers Meeting a few years ago. That was followed by an evaluation of the President by the office staff. Each of those evaluations were done anonymously.
Yearly evaluations of the office staff by their supervisors were then instituted. Additionally, we have bi-yearly assessments of departmental directors/associate departmental directors by their secretaries/administrative assistants (the Conference President is included in this as well; every two years, I am evaluated as a supervisor by my Administrative Assistant). Additionally, each fall, I meet, one on one, with every member of the conference office staff (with the exception of the Conference Secretary and the Conference Treasurer), for 30 minutes to an hour to discuss their work over the previous 12 months.
The final group of workers that were evaluated are our Pastors. Last year, we sent our evaluative tool to the Pastors and the local church clerks and asked them to distributed said tool. The church clerks were asked to be responsible for sending the completed evaluations to our office. Mrs. Laurene Brown assembled a small team to tabulate the thousands of evaluations that were received. She then produced an individual survey for each Pastor, which was the result of combining all the evaluations for that particular Pastor.
The Conference President, Secretary, Treasurer and Ministerial Director were given a copy of each Pastor’s combined evaluation. Over a three-month period, the Conference President (occasionally joined by one or more of the aforementioned) then met with each Pastor on an individual basis.
In the past, these meetings would have taken place by me getting in my car (or on a plane) and driving/flying across the five state area that comprises the South Central Conference-as was the case two years ago. That was a time-consuming and expensive process, as we have approximately 75 full-time Pastors in our churches.
However, the conference now has an Information Technology Manager, Jermaine Alexander, and through his expertise, videoconferences were set up. Through the miracle of technology, the Pastors and I were able to see and hear each other as we discussed their evaluations.
We shared with the Pastors how Administration interpreted their evaluations. Areas of strengths and areas of concerns were pointed out and recommendations were given. Additionally, Mrs. Brown had put together a composite evaluation from all the evaluations across the conference so that each Pastor could see, not only how he/she scored, but how he/she compared with the rest of the Pastors in our conference. In a subsequent Presidential blog, that composite evaluation will be shared and you will be able to see what the typical church member said in these evaluations.
We believe that this was a signature event in the history of our conference. I am very grateful to each of our Pastors and our church clerks for making these evaluations happen. I am also grateful to Mrs. Laurene Brown, the Administrative Assistant to the President-who is as good at what she does as anyone that I know-and her team for compiling all of the evaluations that we received.
I am also grateful to our Pastors for taking the time to meet with me. The vast majority of these meetings were pleasant and enjoyable. Occasionally, a conversation became a little tense, as I would share parts of an evaluation that I thought were problematic, but no one was ever disrespectful and most Pastors recognized that pointing out areas in their ministry that needed to be addressed is a part of the process.
Finally, I am certainly thankful for each church member who took the time to fill out a rather extensive evaluation form. We believe that this process will help us serve our people and our God better, and that is our desire.
In Part II of this series, we shall complete the summary of the goals for our conference for 2013 and share with you the goals that we have shared with our Pastors and the Conference Executive Committee for 2014.