UMC Cutbacks Hit Missions Agency Hardest

Out of all the agencies and commissions at the Untied Methodist Church, the denomination's missions agency has been hit the hardest by the economic downturn.

The denomination's news service recently reported that the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the global mission agency of The United Methodist Church, cut 45 staff positions at the end of July.

Of those who lost their jobs, 26 were laid off while 19 accepted retirement or voluntary severance packages, according to the United Methodist News Service.

While all the denomination's agencies eliminated and consolidated jobs to accommodate the economic crisis and lower incomes, the UMNS noted, "the numbers are highest at the church's largest general agency," the Board of Global Ministries. The board reportedly had to cut $4 million from this year's budget.

Though the number of paid staff might be suffering at missions agencies during the economic crisis, volunteer numbers are apparently on the rise.

World Gospel Mission, a separate missionary-sending agency, reported that it is seeing more young college graduates decide to volunteer in the mission field as they confront a tough job market.

Hubert Harriman, president of World Gospel Mission, commented, "The job market for missionaries has never been brighter."

But not only has there been an "upturn" in volunteer short-termers, even full-time missionary numbers are receiving a boost from the economic downturn.

"Many who have contemplated missions now find themselves facing uncertain days in their own career and this crisis seems to be used by God to nudge some to a call He had given them years ago," explained Todd Eckhardt, who has been in charge of WGM missionary recruitment for the past nine years.

Last month, Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest organization of its kind, invited Christians to join its ministry noting that it has thousands of openings to be filled.

The group not only needs translators, it explained, but also support personnel such as pilots, IT experts, teachers to teach missionary children, administrative staff, government relations officers, and others.

Wycliffe Associates has noted that many of its volunteers are retired professionals who want to serve alongside full-time missionaries for a short period of time.

Earlier this year, Wycliffe announced that it plans to recruit 3,000 additional personnel to work on its billion-dollar campaign to translate the Bible into the remaining one-third of the world's language groups over the next 16 years.