When I was elected President of the Pastors’ Conference (PC) in 2016, I was shocked to find out that the PC has no guiding documents – no rules, no bylaws, and no accountability. I was pretty much free to do as I pleased. Of course, since the Executive Committee of the SBC makes a significant annual investment in the PC in a non-direct way, the PC has given them an annual report, but the PC president has pretty much free rein to do as he pleases.
It is my understanding that in the past, the finances of the PC were handled by the church of the president or that of the treasurer and accountability was to those local churches. We do not believe that any previous PC operated with anything but the highest integrity and do not mean to make any accusation or insinuation of unethical practices, but we do believe that since it is the SBC Pastors’ Conference that accountability should be made to the pastors of the SBC.
We did everything differently by necessity. I was blessed both with two wonderful officers and with a leadership team to assist me (I always use the term “we” when I describe the planning and carrying out of the PC because to do any other would be dishonest. This was truly a team effort.) We devised our own system.
- Our officers, Paul Smith and Toby Frost, along with our leadership team, devised a strict set of financial accounting standards which we followed.
- We used the Southern Baptist Foundation to handle our money. The Foundation records every single deposit and expenditure. We gave each officer and several others access to view the account (only the treasurer ordered disbursements) so that there would be full transparency in all transactions.
- Toby Frost, our treasurer, with the assistance of the fine people at the Foundation, carefully and accurately managed our finances. Every single penny we spent is accounted for from our first donation until this moment.
- We decided that when the PC was over we would give a financial accounting to the pastors of the SBC. We found it odd that such had never been done before. You pay the bills and it seems right you should know how the money is raised and how it is spent.
The accounting I am about to give is not audited nor am I an accountant. It is a report – as accurate as I can make it – of the money we raised and spent on the 2017 PC.
The offering toward Mission Dignity is not included here. That went directly to Guidestone. The amount was nearly 14,000, as I remember, but I do not have that figure. We made a larger donation later and that is accounted for, but the conference offering is not.
Also, the most significant contribution received annually is the help of the Executive Committee (though this year, Caskey’s help exceeded that for the first time). The EC gave us no funding but provided non-direct help by underwriting half of the costs of the venue ($100,000) and other assistance which cannot be quantified in dollars but was of more value than we can state.
We will not list the exact amounts our partners, sponsors, or donors gave, but we wish to recognize their contributions. It takes a lot of money to put on a Pastors’ Conference (an amount that shocked all of us) and we are grateful for the generosity and partnership of Southern Baptist entities and others.
I would take this time to thank a friend who gave what turned out to be a relatively small gift but was as key to our success as any of the large gifts we received. We left the 2016 Convention with a task and no money. It was December before we received the very generous gift from the 2016 Pastors’ Conference, so we had no operating funds to begin planning. A friend’s church sent us a gift of $3000 that funded our original meeting in Nashville that got the ball rolling. We could not have done what we did without the seed money that church planted.
Raising Money for the Pastors’ Conference
I violated the command of Scripture, “Don’t worry about anything,” when it came to fund-raising. This was the most daunting task because none of us had churches that could underwrite the costs if we fell short. My worry proved as silly as it was sinful. God used the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention and a few other wonderful Christian organizations to provide not only all we needed but such an abundance that we were able to give over 60 scholarships to attend the Phoenix meeting, provide money to the Caskey Center at New Orleans Seminary to fund more scholarships next year, and make a major donation to Mission Dignity in addition to the offering.
Many thanks to Dr. Todd Benkert who oversaw the fundraising side of things. He raised the money while I did the worrying!
We raised a total of $410,582 to fund the Conference. That does not include the $100,000 that the Executive Committee provides in non-direct support for site rental. Here is a general summary of what we raised.
Partners and Sponsors
We had two “Partners” in the ministry this year. The Executive Committee is a partner from first to last – every year, if the leadership of Pastors’ Conference makes use of their help. We did. We relied on their expertise from start to finish – William Townes, Lynn Richmond, Don Magee, and others.
Ed Stetzer contacted us soon after I was elected and said I needed to be in touch with Dr. Mark Tolbert of New Orleans Seminary. I’d never heard of the Caskey Center at the time. He arranged for us to meet in Chicago (even attended a game at Wrigley) and the Caskey Center became our chief ministry partner throughout all of this. Dr. Tolbert was an active part of our leadership team and their generous financial support made everything so much easier.
We also had three session sponsors – NAMB, LifeWay, and the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Their financial contribution was also substantial.
Anyone who has attended the Pastors’ Conference knows that during the PC the Sponsors’ booths are outside the conference hall instead of in the exhibition area as they are during the convention. The Executive Committee reserves this right for the Pastors’ Conference to help them raise money and support the PC. The PC gets premium prices for booths because of the location. We were also blessed with a beautiful program printed a no cost to us by Gateway Seminary and we were able to sell ads in it.
Our booth sponsors were Southwestern Seminary, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, IMB, Integrus Leadership, Compassion International, Midwestern Seminary, Gateway Seminary, FaithLife, Maranatha Tours, Harvest Bible Fellowship, and Southeastern Seminary. Those who sponsored ads were Southern Seminary, LifeAction, Phoenix Seminary, LifeWay, Cedarville University, and Union University.
From our partnership with Caskey (the Executive Committee support is not included here) and from our session sponsorships and other sponsors we raised a total of $333,500.
We also received several “in-kind” gifts and services, which we cannot put a monetary value on but which were incredibly valuable.
- Southwestern Seminary hosted a colloquium for us in February bringing our speakers together to study the book of Philippians and to begin to build relationships. They covered the costs while we were in Ft. Worth.
- Gateway Seminary produced our programs and printed them. We do not know the precise value of this gift, but it probably would have cost us $20,000 to do it professionally.
- Midwestern brought the beautiful Spurgeon pulpit that our preachers stood behind – it was a great blessing.
- New Orleans Seminary hosted us for a post-Conference wrap-up session that helped us finalize our work and coordinate with HB Charles and his team.
We received income from a few other sources.
- We received a gift of $3000 from a Texas church soon after the 2016 convention.
- The 2016 Pastors’ Conference forwarded $52,126.58 to us in early December.
- We earned (as of early December) $1055.64 in interest on the account at the Foundation.
In addition, we received $20,900 in gifts toward our scholarship fund to help average and smaller church pastors attend the 2017 Annual Meeting. These gifts came from a wide range of churches (many from those of former PC presidents), from the SBC of Virginia, and from individuals. We would also recognize the work of the North Carolina paper, the Biblical Recorder, who took up this cause and help us raise a significant amount of money for scholarships.
While the value of the non-direct contribution of the Executive Committee is set at $100,000, I suspect the actual value is much higher..
Total Income $410,582.22 (not counting the EC’s contribution).
Pastors’ Conference Expenses
We intended to run the PC on a shoestring budget. The Gettys offered to come for whatever we could pay them. Our speakers were going to receive small honoraria. With Caskey’s early partnership and the success of the fundraising efforts, we were able to pay the Gettys their full fee (they were more than worth it) and bless our speakers with a more generous honorarium. We paid all our bills, gave our over 60 $1000 scholarships, and were still able to give generous gifts at the end to next year’s PC, to Mission Dignity, and to the Caskey Center to fund s 2018 scholarships.
As pastors of average and smaller churches, the costs of the conference boggled our minds. But we found that with the support of the entities of the SBC and the help of the Executive Committee, a group of average church pastors can do this.
Since 2014, Dr. Frank Page and the Executive Committee have requested a written financial report for review during their February meeting. We are providing this written report to the entire convention as well as to the Executive Committee. We have also sent to William Townes a log of every income and expense item for the entire year.
It is costly to put on the Pastors’ Conference. Rental for the facility, with security, lights, sound, screen, and everything else came to $200,000. The Executive Committee took care of half of that and we had to pay $100,000, plus other expenses.
Other logistical costs include booth design and set up, site management, website development, fundraising costs, advertisements, signage, and a host of other details. If one of you should ever get elected president, we have every expense laid out and will gladly go over that with you!
Logistics Total: $162,585.07
We had several meetings to plan the Pastors’ Conference – in Nashville, in Phoenix, and in St. Louis. We also paid for travel to the Colloquium at Southwestern (the Seminary generously covered all the on-site expenses).
Pre-Conference Total: $19,960.93
We had travel expenses, honoraria, the cost of the Gettys, hotels, volunteer expenses, greeters, and meal costs for our speakers and the Pastors’ Conference Leadership Team. We had a larger team than usual, so our costs here were significant.
Conference Expenses Total: $88,855.07
We gave out 63 Scholarships at $1000 each. Two were returned.
Scholarships total $61,000
We had a wrap-up meeting hosted by New Orleans Seminary and a few other logistical issues to finish. Again, the generosity of NOBTS in hosting us kept these costs down.
Post-Conference Expenses $4378.04
When all the bills were paid, we had some money left over.
- We gave $20,000 to Mission Dignity, in addition to the offering at the Pastors’ Conference.
- We gave $23,768,69 to the Caskey Center to fund scholarships to the 2018 Meeting.
- We passed on $30,000 ($30,034.32 with interest at last check) to the HB Charles and the 2018 Pastors’ Conference.
Disbursements Total $73,803.11
Total Pastors’ Conference Expenses $410,582.22
I am not an accountant and I did all this by hand. It is likely imperfect. Both of our partners have received complete income and expense reports from our Foundation account.
We do not know if any future PC presidents will feel the burden to be accountable in this way. I hope they do. But we believe that it is your conference and that accountability and transparency are good things. Again, the fact that we are doing this does not imply that previous PCs were operated with anything less than the highest level of integrity, but only that we believe a higher degree of transparency is helpful.
I would be glad to answer questions if they are not too specific. Some things remain confidential.
We loved serving at the 2017 Pastors’ Conference and are eternally grateful for the support of the Executive Committee, the Caskey Center, and the entities of the SBC. I can never express my gratitude fully for that group of men who worked with me to make this conference a success.