Whatever It Takes

How NAMB-State Convention Cooperation Agreements Work

May 15, 2016 by Kevin Ezell

Southern Baptists entrust the North American Mission Board (NAMB) with about $120 million each year to help our churches reach North America for Christ. That is a trust I guard carefully. NAMB, by ministry assignment, is to work with churches, associations and state conventions. We can, and do, work directly with all three. We are grateful for all of our partners. 

I would like to take time in this article to explain in more detail how NAMB works with state conventions. There are 42 state conventions—15 are in the south and 27 outside the south. 

The 27 non-south conventions depend on NAMB for much of their ministry funding. We are grateful for our partnership with the state conventions and strive to maintain strong relationships with all of them.

The terms of how our cooperation will work are spelled out in a “Strategic Cooperation Agreement.” We asked a small group of state execs to help write the agreements with collaboration from NAMB staff. The agreement is really just about the nuts and bolts of how we work together and stipulates that both parties will operate in “mutual respect” and in a “peer-to-peer” relationship.

Though NAMB’s preference has always been that these documents be available to anyone, currently, the agreement includes a sentence stating “confidentiality” because that was the stated preference of some of the conventions. Funding amounts for non-south states differ by state based upon convention size, lostness and other factors. Otherwise, all of the basic terms of the agreements with the non-south states are the same in content. While I would prefer that Southern Baptists, and all the state conventions, know what the funding budgets are for the other states, NAMB has honored the request for confidentiality and will continue to do so. Any state, however, can opt to share its Cooperation Agreement and funding budget publicly by simply notifying NAMB. The Indiana convention agreed to allow us to post its agreement here

The documents all include a line stating that each party agrees to settle disagreements privately and not speak negatively about each other publicly and so honor our biblical obligation to one another. It was never intended to be seen as a “gag order” but simply a commitment of charity and trust.   

When I became president in 2010, NAMB was commonly criticized for not having a strategy and not being focused. With leadership from our trustees, we narrowed NAMB’s focus. It is NAMB’s assigned responsibility to provide accountability for every dollar spent on the mission field.

We are investing more money in non-South states today than we did in 2010, but it is money that reflects our priorities.

It’s important for me to say that we are striving to ensure that NAMB’s partnerships are positive and working well. We have an enormous and important task, and we face an enemy that doesn’t play fair. It's a privilege to work with state leaders who are passionate about reaching people for Christ and committed to pushing back lostness in North America. The overwhelming majority of state executives we work with are very competent and strategic leaders. They deserve your full support and engagement at the state level. NAMB will stay focused on the task before us and not back up one inch on seeking excellence and accountability every step of the way when it comes to the stewardship of resources that God and Southern Baptists entrust to us.

Kevin Ezell is president of the North American Mission Board. 

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