SBC institutions make budget cutbacks in wake of COVID-19

In the wake of the COVID-19 virus and amid other declining metrics, Southern Baptist Convention institutions have enacted budget cuts for the 2020-2021 budget year.

LifeWay eliminated its World Changers mission projects for this summer and closed all future operations due to declining numbers. The entity also announced a series of budget freezes, cutbacks, and staff reductions. CEO Ben Mandrell pointed to a steep and steady decline in sales and the inability to host camps and events this summer. Budget cuts will total approximately $25 to $30 million. In addition, LifeWay is in the process of seeking a buyer for its Ridgecrest Conference and Retreat complex.

Mandrell said, “LifeWay stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of revenue that the organization would normally generate over the summer months from camps, events, VBS, and ongoing curriculum sales.”

All six seminaries announced budget cuts of varying degrees. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary instituted a $30 million reduction, which included a 15 percent student decrease. Southeastern, New Orleans, and Southwestern delayed adopting a 2020-2021 budget until late spring or early summer. Gateway and Midwestern cut their respective budgets by 2.1 percent and $1.9 million. Midwestern’s enrollment for the spring semester had reached a new high.

Both Southeastern and Southwestern anticipated budget cuts of possibly 25 percent or more. New Orleans closed seven extension centers, and Southwestern eliminated the School of Preaching as a separate division and merged it into the School of Theology.

The North American Mission Board has reduced its budget by 40 percent, and the International Mission Board imposed a hiring freeze for most stateside positions and implemented spending cuts to compensate for $4 million related to COVID-19.

WMU staff and budget has been reduced by 30 percent over the past two years, and salaries have been frozen for the past three years. The Education and Religious Liberty Commission has suspended travel and events and is working to identify spending that can be reduced, delayed, or frozen.