2015 Annual Meeting – Wyoming’s CP percentage remains unchanged despite challenges
By Karen L. Willoughby
BAR NUNN, Wyo. (BP) – A ranch hand who had wrestled cattle out of a late spring snow bank and manhandled a downed barbed wire fence might say his day had been “interesting,” and in the same understated way, that’s the word Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention leaders used at their recent annual meeting at Bar Nunn Baptist Church to describe a tumultuous year.
Legal and corporate issues related to the change-over from eight associations to three regions, staff reassignments to reflect the changed structure, and income vastly different from what was knowingly passed last year as an “unbalanced budget” led Wyoming’s executive board to work together even more closely than usual.
“This has been an interesting year,” Executive Director Lynn Nikkel said as he introduced the 2016 budget.
“We need some relief,” added David Grace, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Laramie, second vice president of the state convention and chairman of Wyoming’s executive board.
The shared challenge strengthened a camaraderie evident at the annual meeting. Speakers would pick on someone in the congregation, only to have someone else pick on them, and maybe a third pass on the joshing. Breaks and meal times were twice as long as the norm at annual meetings, to give plenty of time for fellowship.
“Wyoming Southern Baptists are a family, and when we get together we love to share life together. From the first WSBC Annual Meeting I ever attended, back in 1994, I have been amazed at the depth of relationship we all share. We really know each other and talk about our families, our children and our churches. It is really a special time,” Nikkel shared.
The Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention’s 32nd annual meeting Nov. 5-6 opened Wednesday evening, Nov. 4, with a missions banquet, and Thursday morning with a pastor’s conference and women’s get-together, before the annual meeting. It started at 2 p.m. Thursday in the newly-built worship center at Bar Nunn Baptist Church, eight miles north of Casper, with “Our eyes are on you, God,” from 2 Chronicles 20:12 as its theme.
While the verse had been suggested by outgoing President Mike Cooper, pastor of College Heights Baptist Church in Casper, it had come to him several times over the last two years, Nikkel said, as he led in navigation of the changes and challenges besetting the state, knowing the absolute necessity of keeping the focus on God to better follow Him.
“The new directions we are pursuing together require much greater investment in our cooperative ministry from within the state,” Nikkel said, singling out the Executive Board with a commendation for its “wisdom and good counsel” in its restructuring that took place since approval by messengers at the 2014 annual meeting.
That action led by January 2015 to the dissolving of the eight Baptist associations in Wyoming into three regions, each led by a state strategist for better local ownership of efforts to reach the state with the gospel message.
With no resolutions, motions, or constitutional/bylaws changes, business was limited to the election of officers, approval of the 2016 budget and hearing reports from state staff and SBC agencies.
Cheri Mickelson First Southern Baptist in Powell was re-elected assistant recording secretary. Renee’ Hanson, pastor’s wife at Mountain View Baptist Church in Mills, was re-elected recording secretary. John Larramendy, pastor of Alcova Community Church in Alcova, was elected second vice president. John Constantine, pastor of Story Community Church, was elected first vice president. David Grace, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Laramie, was elected president of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention.
The proposed 2016 budget had been revised three times already, and another revision is possible before the end of the year, Nikkel said.
“We believed God showed us the way to go,” Nikkel said. “We are projecting our Cooperative Program receipts [for 2015] will probably fall $245,000 short of our CP budget, but we’ll end the year with expenses just $45,000 more than receipts.
“God is our source,” Nikkel continued. “We have seen Him work in ways the math just doesn’t add up.”
The 109 messengers from 39 of Wyoming’s 106 churches voted unanimously to approve a $1,497,042 budget for 2016, down from $1,710,223 in 2015. The shortfall reflects a personnel change, Nikkel explained. The state convention church planting staff have become NAMB employees, covered by NAMB’s health insurance.
The church planting staff has been assigned to Wyoming and is supervised by the Wyoming SBC Executive Director, though NAMB will provide their salaries and benefits. It’s the same arrangement as that of other new work state conventions, Nikkel told Baptist Press. “The North American Mission Board is a wonderful partner with the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention,” the executive director told the convention.
A total of $748,242 is projected in the 2016 Cooperative Program giving of Wyoming churches, up from $742,201 budgeted for 2015. The CP percentage passed on to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries remains unchanged for the fifth year at 32.75 percent.
The budget also reflects $440,500 from NAMB, $67,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $85,000 from the Benny Delmar State Mission Offering.
“All three regions have had their inaugural annual meetings, with good participation from their areas at each one,” the executive director noted in his report. “The process of connecting churches within each region for ministry and missions opportunities is an on-going work. And, getting used to and settling in to the ways regions relate to one another and the [state] convention at large will also be an effort that will extend over several months to come.
“But,” Nikkel continued, “we are making progress and thankful for the cooperative spirit that has marked this journey together.”
Mission teams from Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma helped teams and churches from Wyoming minister during the annual Frontier Days Ministries in Cheyenne, reported Mark Porter, former state Missions Strategist South Region Missionary.
“This year we handed out 38,700 bottles of water along with 1,000 Cowboy Bibles, and printed off more than 1,500 pages of ‘What’s in a Name,’” Porter reported. As a result, 140 people made professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
Wyoming has 15 ongoing church plants and 13 seed congregations, reported Don Whalen, state Church Planting Strategist.
“We are currently working with 14 potential church planters, seven cross-cultural planters and seven indigenous planters from our Wyoming congregations,” Whalen added.
Baptist Collegiate Ministry groups have been or soon will be established or re-started at the University of Wyoming and WyoTech, both in Laramie, and in Gillette, Riverton, Sheridan, Powell, Torrington, and Rock Springs, Whalen reported. Fifty-three college students participated in the 2015 BCM Student Retreat last February.
At the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs this summer, trained volunteers with the Wyoming Rodeo Ministry shared more than 2,000 times their three-minute story of coming to faith in Christ, and 137 people said they were putting their faith in Jesus, reported Dale Bascue, state evangelism strategist and West Region Missionary.
Now in its tenth year, the Wyoming Southern Baptist Center for Leadership Development, sponsored by Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided the opportunity for at least 350 students to advance their theological education, reported Fred Creason, state leadership strategist and North Region Missionary.
About 50 students currently are enrolled in seven classes in five locations: Casper, Gillette, Buffalo, Riverton and Cheyenne. Four graduated last spring and two this fall. Five more anticipate a Spring 2016 graduation.
The Wyoming Southern Baptist Foundation has $103,996 in assets. Mountain Top Baptist Assembly on Casper Mountain made several improvements to its facilities, caught a bear, and hosted 987 campers, who recorded 48 professions of faith in Jesus and 24 other spiritual decisions.
Several SBC entities also made reports.
The 2016 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention is set for Nov. 3-4 at the United Baptist Church in Riverton.
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.