OPP 052: CMBA Congregational Grants

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     The One Priority Podcast is sponsored and supported by the Columbia Metro Baptist Association and the almost 100 family churches that support the ministry of the CMBA.

This week, I, Chris Reinolds and Julia Bell, CMBA Communications Director, are having a conversation with Columbia Metro Baptist Association Executive Director, George Bullard, to discuss the Congregational Grants that the CMBA is offering for our family churches in their journey of missional ministry. 

Chris Reinolds: Welcome to the One Priority podcast where our goal is starting and strengthening congregations to serve as vital and vibrant missional communities. The One Priority podcast is sponsored and supported by the Columbia Metro Baptist Association and the almost 100 family churches that support the ministry of the CMBA.

Chris ReinoldsThis week. I, Chris Reynolds and Julia Bell, CMBA communications director, are having a candid conversation with Columbia Metro Baptist Association’s, executive director, George Bullard, to discuss the congregational grants that the CMBA is offering for our family of churches in their journey of missional ministry.

Chris ReinoldsThanks again for joining with us for the One Priority podcast. Our intent during our time together is to highlight the Columbia Metro Baptist Association, One Priority grants. These grants are helping congregations through financial resource means as the CMBA churches continue to engage in efforts in serving as a vital and vibrant missional communities. And George, while I think this is great, I think it’s an incredible resource and opportunity for churches. Why now? Why is the association beginning to offer these type of grants?

George Bullard: Well, number one, we have finally been engaged over the last three years or so, and some financial recovery. We’re in place where we can offer the grants. But number two, it’s a basic part of being family. You know, we are approximately 95 churches who function as a family in the Midlands of South Carolina among Baptists. And one of the things family people do is that we share our resources with one another, and it provides an opportunity for us to be of an encouragement to churches, for them to get more involved in vital and vibrant ministry.

George Bullard: As you indicated, for them to experiment with new things. If we’re willing to come alongside them as their family of churches and offer to them small grants that’ll make that possible, that’s something we want to do. So we want to be a leader for our churches and be saying here, we’ll give you some seed money to do some things that maybe God is calling you to do. And maybe there’s a little hesitancy in your church to take that step.

Chris Reinolds: That’s good. That’s real good.

Julia Bell: Well, it’s probably a great time to ask, who’s eligible for the grant?

Chris ReinoldsYeah, that’s a good point.

George Bullard: Oh, that is a great point. And of course, again, it gets a part of a family. One of the things that happens in a family is that everybody has to come to the table with something that they offer. So what we say is that every member church and church network connection of the Columbia Metro Baptist Association, who provides a minimum of at least $350 a year to the association, can benefit from receiving one of these grants. Because it’s one of those things, if you’re offering to share with the family, the family wants to share with you.

George Bullard: And we have great examples of that in some of the churches that have received Hunger Ministry grants over the last year when we were already offering those, because we were offering them 500 to a thousand dollars. So not only is it a good family thing, it’s a great investment. But we want to see that you want to be a part of the family in a proactive way. So yeah, we do ask that there’ll be minimal evidence of active participation in the family.

Chris ReinoldsThat’s good. Those are good.

Julia Bell: Great.

Chris ReinoldsYou mentioned the Hunger Ministry grants, but are there other types of categories of the congregational grants to which a congregation can receive?

George Bullard: Yeah, obviously during the pandemic, the Hunger Ministry grants have been very popular. But we offer grants for new congregational expressions. For instance, we offered one to help a church planter in his training process during this previous year. And we’re going to continue to offer those. We want to provide grants to churches who are involved in congregational revitalization. Disaster response, when that occurs in churches are involved in that, and they need some money for certain supplies, in terms of either responding to a disaster within the Midlands or disaster that they’re traveling to somewhere else. One of the classic things that the fund has been set up for is for temporary housing for furloughing missionaries that churches might be sponsoring. Boards for temporary housing for new church staff people moving to town that have to live in temporary housing for a period of time. And we offer grants for that for up to six months.

George Bullard: And that’s been something that we started a couple of years ago, so it now continues as we folded it into the whole congregational grants fund process. There are scholarships for ministerial students, for churches engaging in missional partnerships beyond the Midlands. For training for pastors who are trying to get a new skill that need to move forward in terms of their ministry expression for doing stewardship and generosity processes in churches, in the sense that maybe churches, their membership is under giving and they have greater potential and they want to engage in some kind of generosity, or stewardship process. Their processes for churches experimenting with new evangelism or ministry things in their community, where they’re trying to reach new people for Christ and connect them with their church. So they’re actually, it’s a centered set. We’re glad to talk to a church about anything that would help them move forward in terms of how they might function, in terms of reaching their full kingdom potential.

Chris ReinoldsThose are good. That’s good.

Julia Bell: That’s good.

Julia Bell: So George, an individual or a church might hear grant and think, a giveaway of some sort. But is there something strategic or missional about this particular emphasis?

George Bullard: You know, that’s a super question, Julia. Why it’s a super question is that’s exactly on target. It’s not really intended as a giveaway. It’s not like we have a big cache of funds that we want to to give away because they are limited, but yet we want to ourselves be generous with the funds. But the strategic nature of it is that many times these are seed monies for new things that churches are attempting. And a church looks at their own budget, their own bank account, and they say, “Well, we’re not really sure that we can expend some money on that.” But if their family of churches, their association comes alongside them and says, “Look, if you’ll put X amount of dollars into it, we’ll match it to encourage you to move forward in terms of what’s happening.”

George Bullard: So what it allows is for a church to understand that somebody else believes in what they’re doing. An example, and I will go back to a Hunger Ministry example is the fact that there were a good number of our churches that benefited from this free farm produce that was made available by the US department of agriculture last fall. And there were expenses surrounding that. So the churches that was the receiving place was expending monies, being the host place, and certain things about the arrangements for the food. But we provided a grant to pay for a forklift to unload the food from the trucks and that kind of thing. So that was a way that we could come alongside them and enhance what they could do in terms of renting that piece of heavy equipment.

Chris ReinoldsNow you’re out renting equipment and providing ministry funds and stuff along those lines, but how much are we talking about here? Because that’s a big part of it. Is there a range of money that can be received, or is it just a set amount?

George Bullard: I don’t want to overuse the word family, but this really is another family thing. As a family, we’re kind of weighting into this. So we haven’t set strict guidelines that it’s only this or only that. Now, we have some carry over things. Like for instance, in Hunger Funds, we typically will provide a church up to $500, but we would do that a couple of times a year. However, if we had additional funds coming in, and we could be more generous, we’d be glad to be more generous. But we kind of had to develop a stipulation there. Like for instance, we are right now, this week, getting ready to write two Hunger Ministry grant checks. One of them for a ministry center that one of our churches operates that needs to buy a refrigerator. And another one for one of our churches, that’s providing food for up to 300 people every Thursday, in terms of their ministry functioning that they’re doing.

George Bullard: So we’re supplementing that in terms of what we’re providing, because they’ve come and they’ve asked us for it. But for instance, we’re hoping in things like new congregational expressions, that we could consider as the Visionary Leadership Community, and all the grants must be approved by the Visionary Leadership Community, that we might consider grants up to about $2,400 a year for a new congregational expression. And that could be joined with the sponsoring churches in the state convention, in the North America Mission Board, what they would give, and we would be a partner in participating in that. So the issue is, the answer probably is, it depends. But we’re still trying to work it out and after we’ve done it for a while, we’ll begin to figure out what some of the standards are, and where it ought to be. But again, it’ll all be guided by the presentations we make to the Visionary Leadership Community.

Chris Reinolds: That’s good.

Julia Bell: Well, this is probably a good point to talk about the application and approval process. Can you share with us a little about that?

George Bullard: Well, again, we’re using kind of a right brain soft family approach in the sense that yes, there is an online application, and eventually we would send people to that application. But what we’d really like to have is a conversation. So what we would welcome is that if a church is interested in talking about receiving a congregational grant, that they would send an email to cmba@columbiametro.org, or that they would call me, George Bullard at (803) 622-0923. If it’s specifically a Hunger Ministry grant, that would go to Kathy Locklear, and her email address is kathylocklear@columbiametro.org, or her phone number is (803) 622-0303.

Chris ReinoldsWell, I guess my other question would be where’s this money coming from? Is it coming from the general budget? How are churches receiving this money? What happened there?

George Bullard: Over a period of years, churches, individuals, and then bequests that the association has received through wills, particularly bequests that are held for us by the Baptist Foundation of South Carolina, have fed into some restricted funds that we maintain. And again, we have been using those funds periodically over the years, but we haven’t had a real proactive, positive, systematic way of trying to say we want to get that money out to the churches. So our goal and our desire is not to hold that money because it is designated, we can’t just spend it for anything. But to spend that money among the family, in the churches, so that the churches might be enhanced in their ministry. So it doesn’t come from the regular church contributions at all. The regular church contributions feed our budget and the budget is indicated and designated, and we spend in certain particular places. These are in reserve funds and we spend them according to how they have been allocated to us by the donor.

Chris Reinolds: That’s good. That’s really good.

Julia Bell: So can individuals contribute to the Congregational Grant Fund in addition to the church contributions?

George Bullard: Well, yes, they can. What we would desire is that churches contribute to the budget. And I want to make sure that that’s clear because without the contribution of the churches to the budget, we can’t do podcast. We can’t have a director. We can’t have many of the independent contractors that we have a relationship with who go to churches to help them with specific needs. So we need for churches, whether it’s a dollar amount or a percentage amount, we need that to go to the general budget. Beyond that, sometimes churches have some funds that they want to designate that would fit into the category of the Congregational Grants Fund. Like for instance, several years ago, we had one of our churches who said, in addition to what we’re sending for the general budget, we want to send X amount of dollars monthly for starting new churches.

George Bullard: So we put that in one of the restricted funds in terms of making sure that it’s being used for that particular purpose. There’s some times are mission funds within churches, where there is a mission committee or counselor team that allocates that. And from time to time, one of those has said, “Hey, we want to send you $500,000 for this, and use through the association.” And yes, individuals can, in fact, contribute to this fund. As a matter of fact, this is something that I’m starting to talk about. It’s something that personally I’ve been doing, but now that we’re going public with the Congregational Grants Fund, in my own ministry, we have on our website, in the upper right hand corner, a donate button. And you can go and click on that donate button and you could make a one-time contribution to the association generally.

George Bullard: But there is a dropdown menu and you’ll also see there you can make a specific gift to Hunger Ministries. A specific gift to Disaster Response. Or a specific gift to the Congregational Grants Fund.

Julia Bell: That’s great.

George Bullard: What I’m doing personally, as executive director, because I think I need to be an example, if I don’t believe in it and if I’m not doing it than it does a work, is that I’m giving $9 a week, is what I’m doing. It’s in there, it replicates. And every Monday or Tuesday, I see that it’s rolled out of my bank account, and I even pay the 30 cent processing fee in order to make that happen. What I’m hoping is that long-term we’ll have people who will just make the kind of a things. They’re not going to Starbucks as much. They’re not going to Dunkin Donuts as much.

George Bullard: They’re not going to Panera’s as much, but they’ve still got that money that maybe a small amount, join me in $9, once a month or something like that. But to make it something that repeats every month, because that’ll add up over a period of time, because as we further promote these congregational grants being available to congregations, our funds are going to shrink. We know that. In fact, I’ll rejoice if our funds shrink. But I’ll rejoice even more that if they grow because a good number of people have decided to also designate a small amount of money on a regular basis to make it happen. But yes, the original question was, can individuals contribute? And the answer is, oh, yes.

Chris ReinoldsGood. That’s good. Is there anything else, for those that are listening in or they’re watching, is there anything else that they need to know about the Congregational Grants?

George Bullard: In all of our church work, we must be more radical. In fact, by the time this podcast comes out, many people would have seen my newsletter article that’s coming out tomorrow. We’re taping this on Wednesday before this podcast comes out on Tuesday. But tomorrow, Thursday, my lead article is going to be about the Christian church calls to riot. And it’s about, in Acts in Ephesus, when there was a riot that happened because the witness and the town of Ephesus had been so strong, and so many people were turning to Jesus Christ that people weren’t buying the idols and other swag and materials that spoke into the goddess of Ephesus. So the merchants rioted against the Christians. We want Christians to do something radical enough that somebody wants to riot against them. So we must move from being successful to significant, to surrendering fully to what God is doing in our midst. To what God is calling our churches to do.

George Bullard: And there’s no one church in the Columbia metro area, in the Midlands, that can reach all the lost, unchurched and underchurched and de-churched people that are around here. As matter of fact, the population of our area is growing sufficiently strong that we need to start a minimum of two churches a year just to keep up with the growth. Much less, to go deeper into the people that do not know Jesus Christ as an ordinary savior. And that’s why we’re hoping to talk about more and more the starting of three new churches a year for the next 10 years. So a total of 30 churches in the Columbia Metro Association. This is going to take a lot of resources. So we’re going to need churches to give dollar amounts, to give on a percentage basis, and for individuals who want to designate over and above an income that they have, that is discretionary, that they might be able to provide in terms of what’s happening here.

George Bullard: We want churches to do all that God has called them to do, and understand as a Baptist Association, the synergy of working together. The cooperation and the mutual support that we can be examples of, and that we can be a hallmark for Baptists in South Carolina. That’s the more I want people to know.

Chris ReinoldsWell, that’s good. And it’s exciting to me, being a part of the association, all the various things that are taking place. I’m hoping, in bringing these congregational grants, inspire churches and congregations to begin doing exactly what you’re say you’re doing and living this out in the culture and context of our world. So thank you so much, George, and thank you Julia, for talking about this subject today.

Julia Bell: Yes.

George Bullard: Well, thank you very much for letting me talk about it today

Chris ReinoldsAnd to all of our listeners. Thank you for joining with us, and please be sure to check out the show notes for more detailed information about today’s show. Also, if you found this podcast helpful for you and your ministry, share it with others so we can get the word out about what God is doing. Until next time, from all of us, we thank you for listening and urge you to share this podcast with everyone you know. It’s the good news about the good news in the Columbia Metro Baptist Association.

About the author 

Kyndra Bremer