Chuck Register, executive leader for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSCNC) Church Planting and Missions Partnerships group for the past 11 years, was named the BSCNC’s associate executive-director treasurer on Tuesday, April 7, by a vote of the state convention’s executive committee during a regularly scheduled meeting.
The committee also heard updates on the impact of the coronavirus on the state convention’s budget, as well as proactive measures being implemented by convention staff to reduce expenses as a result of COVID-19.
The meeting took place through a video conference call in order to abide by a statewide stay-at-home order and limits on public gatherings brought about by the coronavirus.
Register’s appointment came following a recommendation by BSCNC Executive Director-Treasurer Milton A. Hollifield Jr. In his new role, Register will work closely with Hollifield, N.C. Baptist churches and the state convention’s board of directors in a variety of capacities. He will continue his current responsibilities as executive leader of the Church Planting and Missions Partnership group even as he takes on additional responsibilities related to the associate executive director-treasurer role.
Register succeeds Brian Davis, who resigned effective March 31 to begin a new role in the FaithHealth division of Wake Forest Baptist Health.
Hollifield praised Register as a strategic thinker, visionary leader, effective pastor and strong denominational leader, as well as an outstanding expository preacher who possesses a heart for personal evangelism and missions.
“Chuck is very passionate about reaching the nations with the gospel,” Hollifield said. “He has given excellent leadership as a member of our executive leadership team, and he has helped the state convention make great advancements in his areas of responsibility.”
Prior to joining the Baptist state convention, Register pastored churches in Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. Register also served on the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees.
Register thanked committee members for their vote of confidence and said he looks forward to helping the state convention fulfill its mission of assisting local churches through his new role.
“I look forward to standing next to Milton and helping him fulfill his role to pour our lives, ministries and resources into the local church,” Register said. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that every single North Carolina Baptist congregation is a healthy, growing, Christ-honoring body of Christ.”
Along with Register’s appointment, Hollifield will assume oversight for the majority of the BSCNC’s Administration and Convention Relations group, which had been headed by Davis. However, the BSCNC’s Strategic Focus Team is being reassigned from the Administration and Convention Relations group to the Church Planting and Missions Partnerships group in an effort to bring better alignment to ministry assignments.
Convention officials said the financial impact related to COVID-19 wouldn’t be fully known for several months. Most churches across the state have not gathered for worship in person since before Sunday, March 15.
Through March 31, the convention had received nearly $6.3 million in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from churches, which is about 17.4% or $1.3 million below budget. When compared with the same time period in 2019, CP receipts were down about 9.7%, or approximately $673,000.
“Because of COVID-19, we just don’t know what April, May and June will look like,” said Beverly Volz, BSCNC director of accounting services.
Based on early projections and conversations with leaders from other state conventions, John Butler, BSCNC executive leader for business services, said he anticipates 2020 receipts to be about 20-30% below budget.
“This is not going to hit us at the beginning,” Butler said. “It’s going to hit us as time goes on.”
Taking proactive measures
In light of the anticipated budget shortfall, Butler said convention staff have already implemented several cost-saving measures. Those measures include ministry teams operating at 75% of their allocated budget for 2020, greatly reducing the amount of printed materials and limiting mass mailings.
The convention has also implemented a hiring freeze for any currently vacant positions that are funded by Cooperative Program receipts, as well as a temporary moratorium on new funding requests from potential church plants. This will not impact the coaching and training provided to potential church planters or existing funding agreements with church plants around the state. Convention officials are also exploring ways to decrease expenses associated with the annual meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9-10 in Greensboro.
Butler said with most convention staff members working remotely and government limits on public gatherings, the convention is already saving money on utility and travel expenses.
Payroll loan approved
The executive committee also authorized Butler to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan on behalf of the convention in accordance with guidelines outlined in the coronavirus stimulus package, also known as the CARES Act, that was passed by Congress and signed into law. The motion also included instructions that any amount of the loan that was not forgiven, in keeping with provisions within the legislation, must be repaid prior to the end of this calendar year.
Under provisions of the Paycheck Protection Program portion of the act, businesses employing fewer than 500 employees – including churches and nonprofit organizations – can apply for loans to cover expenses like salaries, benefits, utilities, and rent or mortgage payments. The loans are eligible to be forgiven if funds are spent on qualifying expenses.
Butler said the loan would benefit the convention, as well as Fruitland Baptist Bible College, the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, Caraway Conference Center and Camp, and Truett Conference Center and Camp, which are all owned by the state convention.
Butler also encouraged local churches to take advantage of the program, adding that the convention has developed step-by-step instructions to help guide church leaders through the application process.
“I believe that this act of Congress and the paycheck protection loan opportunity is part of God’s provision for churches during this time,” Butler said.
In other business, the executive committee approved a motion to authorize the distribution of $250,000 to the N.C. Baptist scholarship program that is administered by the N.C. Baptist Foundation, in accordance with an agreement made when the foundation assumed responsibility for the scholarship program several years ago. Funds would come from an existing convention reserve account allocated for this purpose and would not affect convention operations.
The committee also approved a special request on behalf of the Biblical Recorder to utilize the state convention’s database to send a letter and email to churches to inform them of a temporary suspension of complementary issues of the Recorder for the next three months in a cost-savings measure resulting from COVID-19.
The committee also affirmed a recommendation from board President Melanie Wallace to postpone the regularly scheduled May meeting of the board of directors until a yet-to-be determined date. The May board meeting had been scheduled for May 18-19 at Caraway Conference Center. As part of the recommendation, the executive committee will still conduct its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 19 through a video conference call.
Hollifield also expressed his appreciation for N.C. Baptist pastors and associational mission strategists in leading their congregations amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As an expression of that appreciation, Hollifield said convention staff members are seeking to contact senior pastors of all 4,300 N.C. Baptist churches by phone to offer encouragement, resources and prayer. Since the outreach efforts to pastors began on March 24, convention staff have contacted nearly 1,800 pastors.
“We are trying to assure our pastors that we stand ready to assist them and their churches as they adjust to ministry in this unique environment,” Hollifield said.