FRESNO, CA – It was the first time since the 82nd Annual Meeting in October that California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) leaders and staff gathered for their all-staff meeting to give final reports on their 2023 initiative team goals.
At the onset of the meeting, Pete Ramirez, Executive Director, shared some of the “13th Check” thank you letters his office received as recipients began receiving their gifts prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. “The 13th Check” was introduced in 2022 by CSBC and the Baptist Foundation of California, seeing a need for additional support for retirement-age ministers and their widows as additional help to what Guidestone’s Mission:Dignity already provides. An endowment has been established with seed money provided by The Baptist Foundation of California to fund this initiative every year.
Marc Tempesta, Chief Financial Officer, Business Services team Leader, provided a brief account of the financial health of the convention. “October had been a great month financially for the Convention; however, as of October we are still $242,000 in the red,” he shared, “we are saying our prayers that once we get to January 2024, things will continue to improve through December, as the final monies of the year come trickling in.”
Sarah Graham, Communications Director, announced the 2024 California Mission Offering “Make Known” resources are anticipated to be launched on January 31st. She encouraged everyone to “check out the sneak peek trailers featuring ministries making a difference across the state, which have been released on social media and through This Week @ CSBC.”
Will Browning, Send Network California Director, and his wife, Tarah Browning, Church Planter’s Wives Specialist, gave a shared presentation on the happenings through CSBC’s Church Planting initiative. They reported meeting the goal of forty church plants for 2023 and have nearly met the goal of ten church replants, with a total of eight achieved. Tarah introduced a new Care Ministry to support church planter wives, coming alongside to assist in areas where they may need help.
Jason Blankenship, Evangelism Initiative Team Leader, reported an impressive statistics report card.
Through the efforts of the Evangelism Workshops:
Blankenship reminded staff that all categories are still being counted through December. When the team meets again in February for the first staff week of 2024, “we will be able to celebrate all that God is doing!”
Kendrick Neal, Disaster Relief Director, reported that the last zone for recovery was established as “safe to occupy” in Lahaina, Hawaii, and re-opened. “Normally we don’t get to see people come to faith all the time when we are helping in these situations. Because we had the opportunity to take such an active role in helping these people, this time was different. It was such an experience to be part of seeing this change take place in these people’s lives,” shared Neal.
Neal also noted, “Going into 2024, I really want to focus on the individuals that get their certification and are first time deployments.”
Jason Robertson, Church Matters Initiative Team Leader, reported that over the course of the last two months, “I have conducted coaching sessions with multiple churches covering vital topics. Furthermore, we are developing relationships with the leaders of NextGen Network, and the NAMB Replanting leaders in the West. We are strategizing with both of these groups for goals in 2024.”
Cathie Smith, Women’s Ministry director (formally part of the CSBC Missions Team, now transitioned to Church Matters), shared a personal account from a women’s ministry leader, also part of the NextGen ministry, stating their takeaway impression after attending the Annual Meeting, “She really felt like CSBC is like family.”
Jason Robertson closed his team report with this final sentiment, “The past two months have been a testament to our commitment to church revitalization and growth within the CSBC. Guided by HIS spirit, we look forward to continuing our journey towards spiritual health and vibrant growth within our churches.”
Francis Chung shared a story of a property in Lancaster that recently transitioned to being a new ranch site for Set Free Churches overseen by Kirk Overstreet Church Planting Catalyst with NAMB.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Pete Ramirez gave special honors to former Disaster Relief Director Mike Bivins, who, as of December 2023, retired from that specific position. Bivins still plans to continue his active involvement and service to the Disaster Relief Ministry.
Ramirez announced that, with Beth Ketcheside, Executive Assistant, retiring in May of 2024, he will be reassigning some of her responsibilities to other staff members to help bridge the gap during the transition process.
“I’m still working with Marc on how to improve our budget and funds situation as we transition into a new year so that we can still serve and spread God’s love to all the ministries we are committed to. Ultimately it is what God is allowing us to do,” Pete stated.