Two months after promoting plans to send out “limitless” numbers of missionaries, the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a financial crisis.
IMB president David Platt announced Thursday that the agency needs to cut at least 600 missionaries and staff in order to balance its budget. Those cuts are needed to make up for a $21 million deficit for 2015.
The first of the cuts will come from voluntary retirements, followed by a restructuring. Overall, the IMB could release as many as 800 employees, according to an FAQ posted on the IMB’s website.
Currently, the IMB has about 450 staff and about 4,700 missionaries overseas, down from 5,600 in 2009. Platt said earlier this year the total number of missionaries would likely drop to about 4,200—a 25 percent decline from 2009.
Platt also announced plans Thursday to change how the IMB does business.
The agency currently has two major sources of ongoing funding: donations to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and funds from the SBC’s Cooperative Program. That income has been supplemented in recent years with reserve funds, as well as proceeds from the sales of missionary housing and other property overseas.
Overall, the agency spent about $210 million more than it brought in over the past 6 years, IMB leaders said.
Platt, who became the IMB's president a year ago, told reporters that he didn’t want to question the decisions made by past IMB leaders. The property sales have helped IMB missionaries spread the gospel, he said.
But the agency was running out of properties to sell. And relying on sales, along with drawing down reserves, was not a sustainable strategy.