Paynter: Staff shifts to sharpen focus on priorities

More than 1,835 attended the 2014 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Atlanta.(CBF Photo)

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ATLANTA—Plans to realign Cooperative Baptist Fellowship staff around priorities identified in a two-year study of the movement’s effectiveness are falling into place sooner than Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter expected when she was elected the 1,800-church movement’s third permanent CEO last year.

cbf board paynter425Suzii Paynter updates the CBF Governing Board prior to the 2014 General Assembly in Atlanta. (CBF Photo)Paynter told the CBF Governing Board recent staff changes provided an opportunity to implement some reorganization “that was sort of on the drawing board” in light of organizational priorities adopted following a two-year study of CBF structure completed in 2012.

One move, she said, involved Bo Prosser, coordinator of missional congregations who joined the CBF leadership team in 2002 and told her he was ready to move to the side and let younger leaders function as a team. Prosser, 60, remains with the Fellowship as coordinator of organizational relationships, effective July 1.

“It’s something that he and I had talked about in the beginning,” Paytner said. “We needed somebody to do organizational partnerships, and especially with the growing demands that we’ll have with the Ministries Council.”

Leadership team

That leaves a leadership team of Harry Rowland, Ruth Perkins Lee and Stephen Reeves, she said. Paynter also promoted Ron Fairley, director of information technology, to associate coordinator of projects and services.

“He’s a terrific project manager,” Paynter said. “He’s had a lot of great experience in both Habitat for Humanity, in their international division, and also with the North American Mission Board, and in energy plants in the for-profit sector as well.”

The new designation will “free him up to work across the organization,” she said.

Paynter explained individuals in the new leadership team will specialize in three priorities crystallized by the 2012 Task Force—identity, mission and ministry.

“We are looking at budget in that light,” she said. “We are looking at staff in that light.”

Cooperative experiments

“We’re also looking at the difference between maintaining staff activities and enabling the kind of cooperative experiments that we expect to see from missions and ministry councils,” she said. “And I think we have to staff differently.

“If CBF Decatur (national) is going to be the provider of all the programs, you staff this way,” Paynter said. “If we are going to staff in order to enable the Ministries Council to have a plethora of different types of things going on across the Fellowship, we have to staff it differently. So, we are realigning internally for those three items, and then we are realigning to prepare for the expected task of much more cooperative type work together.”

“I truly believe that any trajectory for our vision for CBF has to be set by the structures that we put in place, in terms of staff and in terms of processes, and we can’t just use the same processes that were there in our old system and expect it to give us a new product,” Paynter added.

“That’s been a matter of real concern for me—how to actually systematically and judiciously change our processes so that we don’t lose anything in the meantime but are able move forward toward our goals.”

CBF Moderator Bill McConnell noted he’s been asked what he thinks of all the staffing changes taking place at CBF.

“I say to folks, and I’m going to say again …, ‘We’re in a good place,’” said McConnell, a layman at Central Baptist Church Bearden in Knoxville, Tenn. “I think the changes are not something you should be concerned about. We’re in a good place.”

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