From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LCMS mission board cuts staff plans to lay off missionaries
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 05 Dec 2002 14:59:55 -0800
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Board for Communication Services
LCMSNews -- No. 73 December 5, 2002
LCMS mission board cuts staff, plans to lay off missionaries
By Paula Schlueter Ross
In an effort to "live within its means" in light of declining revenue, LCMS
World Mission this month eliminated 17 positions from its St. Louis-based
The layoffs reduce the size of the mission board's International Center
staff from 55 to 38 -- a reduction of nearly one-third.
The cuts were made to offset a shortfall of some $1.6 million in income
during the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1 and
expectations that immediate future revenues also will be less than projected.
The entire national LCMS budget saw a shortfall in expected gifts and
grants of more than $3 million in the first quarter. Congregational giving
to the national Synod through the districts continues to meet budget
More staff reductions are expected later this month, when LCMS World
Mission plans to notify at least 20 "missionary units," individuals or
families on the mission-board payroll who serve in overseas fields, that
their positions also are being eliminated. Information on which
missionaries and countries will be affected by the cuts is not yet available.
About 100 missionary units -- and more than 100 volunteers -- currently
serve LCMS World Mission or its partners in 68 countries.
In a Dec. 2 letter to missionaries explaining the staff reductions,
Executive Director Robert Roegner said LCMS World Mission was faced with
cutting some $3 million from its current $29 million budget, and an
additional $6 million from the spending plan proposed for the 2003-04
"Please note that this is not a problem of over-spending our spending
plan," Roegner told missionaries. "We have done a great job of staying
within our spending plan. Rather, it is a problem of not enough revenue
coming in to support our approved spending plan."
Roegner met Dec. 2 with the St. Louis staff members whose jobs were being
eliminated. The decisions on which positions to cut were made by a
"leadership team" made up of LCMS World Mission leaders who worked from
Roegner's own recommendations, he said.
Eliminated in St. Louis were 11 full-time positions and five part-time
positions, which included three retirements and one voluntary
resignation. In addition, a vacant position was eliminated, and another
full-time post was reduced to part time.
Most of those whose positions were eliminated are leaving their posts Dec.
6, but will receive full pay and benefits through the end of the
year. They also will receive severance benefits beginning Jan. 1.
About half of the positions are secretarial. Others include director of
world services, a post held by Dr. Allan Buckman, who plans to retire Feb.
28; director of world team support, Rev. Kenneth Greinke; director of
information services, Karin Semler, who voluntarily resigned effective Jan.
15; counselor for campus ministry, Rev. Richard Manus; counselor for
recruitment, Sean Harlow; and director for missionary performance, Dr. Mark
Some duties of those staff members will be picked up by others, but Roegner
admitted that LCMS World Mission won't be able to serve the church at large
in the same way it has in the past.
"We may have to tell people in the church, `I'm sorry, I can't do that for
you now,'" he said.
About half of the remaining staff work in some way with overseas
missionaries, he said. The others support mission work in North America,
including armed-forces, blind, deaf, Hispanic and urban ministries.
Since the mission board's campus-ministry office is closing, the Campus
Ministry Task Force and on-campus leaders will have to rely more on each
other, Roegner said, and some other mission-board services and activities
also will be discontinued. For example, the annual Laborers For Christ
project managers conference, which was scheduled for February, has been
cancelled, and 3The Lutheran Witness2 will no longer be sent at mission
board expense to some 5,500 Missouri Synod Lutherans in the armed forces.
Nearly 80 percent of LCMS World Mission's funding is derived from
contributions from individuals, congregations and districts, according to
Roegner, so "when the economy is down, people have less to give," he said.
LCMS World Mission recently adopted a purpose statement and is currently
putting together a strategic plan to guide future work, so Roegner had
expected to reorganize the department over the next year or so anyway, he
said, eliminating some posts and adding others to better position the
mission board to meet the needs of a changing world.
But, "because of the financial challenges, we had to act sooner -- and go
farther -- than we had imagined," he said.
Roegner has asked the Synod's overseas missionary force to "be available by
phone" on Dec. 11, the day he plans to personally call the missionaries
affected to tell them their positions have been eliminated.
He has promised to "do whatever it takes" to help them, including working
with district presidents to get their names on "call" lists.
Making staffing decisions has been difficult for all involved, acknowledged
Dr. Daniel Mattson, the mission board's associate executive
director. "We've been friends and family for a long period of time," he
But mission leaders are confident that the changes, though difficult, will
be blessed by God, he added, enabling LCMS World Mission to meet its goal
of sharing the Gospel with 100 million unbelievers over the next 15 years.
January is "LCMS World Mission Month," and Mattson encouraged congregations
to continue to plan observances.
In his 21 years of mission service, "these past few months have been the
toughest," acknowledged Roegner. Still, he says he is hopeful about the
future of LCMS World Mission.
On Dec. 2, right after his difficult meeting with released staff in St.
Louis, Roegner returned to his office feeling somewhat "down and
depressed," he said. On his desk was a check for $7,020 from the "mission
ministry team" at Webster Gardens Lutheran Church in suburban St. Louis.
"We are very concerned about the need to curtail certain aspects of your
work which you and your staff carry out on behalf of all of us," the
accompanying letter said, in part. "We pray that this modest extra9 gift
will be of some help as you struggle with the making of many difficult
Said Roegner: "It couldn't have lifted my spirits any higher than to know
that there are congregations and Missouri Synod Lutheran Christians out
there who are concerned about the work of the church."
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