Billy Graham Association Cutting Almost 50 Jobs, Shifting to Online Outreach

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, one of the world's largest evangelical ministries, has announced it is cutting 50 jobs, or 10 percent of its staff, as the organization shifts its focus toward the Internet.

The organization leads spiritual training and retreats, Graham family crusades and festivals, the Billy Graham Library and various evangelical programs through books, print, television, radio and the Internet.

The association has close to 500 employees, and works on dozens of programs around the world in different countries, but the changing times are forcing it to change focus toward online evangelism, The Charlotte Observer reported.

According to Brent Rhinehart, a spokesman for the organization, a few of the 50 or so laid-off people will be able to continue working until June, but others will only be kept on until mid-March. He explained, however, that the laid off workers will be getting severance packages and career assistance.

The organization, which first started preaching the Gospel around the world in 1950, also laid off 55 workers in 2009. Despite the lost jobs, however, a statement released on Wednesday noted that the move was simply a shift in strategy and is not a marker for declining financial health in the organization. According to The Charlotte Observer report, that claim can be backed up by the agency's 2011 financial records, which show revenues at $91.6 million, up from $85.7 million the year before.

Some of the new programs staff will work toward include building up the "" evangelical initiative, which helps people looking into the Christian church find answers about Jesus Christ. It is also a place where believers can sign up to volunteer to share the Bible and reach new people – through online means by reaching out to Internet users.