Editor’s note: This article was done in collaboration with Bobby Thomas, CEO/President of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, and ABN staff writers.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – On Thursday, May 13 the Arkansas Baptist Foundation (ABF) held their quarterly board meeting at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention building in Little Rock. Among a list of topics discussed, the partnership between WatersEdge, formerly known as the Oklahoma Baptist Foundation, and ABF to offer accounting services to Arkansas Baptist churches and church plants was announced.
WatersEdge will be assisting Arkansas Baptist churches in ministry accounting services including basic accounting, payroll service, contribution tracking, online giving and more.
“I am excited about this partnership with WatersEdge, which will provide access for Arkansas Baptist churches to services that can help relieve administrative burdens. We continue to see these burdens on our churches and their leaders grow exponentially,” Bobby Thomas, President/CEO of ABF, said. “This cooperative agreement also allows the Foundation to continue to serve churches while utilizing a like-minded Southern Baptist ministry partner who is fully equipped to provide solutions. Furthermore, the leadership at WatersEdge shares our commitment to get it right, not just get it done.”
Robert Kellogg, President and CEO of WatersEdge, attended the meeting with Sarah Barham, Vice President of Ministry Accounting Services. Kellogg said that in their preliminary research, they saw that one of Oklahoma Baptists’ impediments to ministry was the burden of their finances.
“We wanted to take off some of the administrative burden,” Kellogg said.
One of their key moments was realizing they essentially needed to start their own accounting firm. Barham joined WatersEdge in late 2018. Kellogg felt she had the experience needed and could provide the direction necessary to help build the platform they were looking for.
“We appreciate the opportunity to have this partnership. I think we can add value, we can reduce overall costs and provide effective service,” Kellogg said. “We’ve developed a model that’s scalable and unique for each church.”
For Thomas, having a low-cost provider for Arkansas Baptist churches was critical. WatersEdge being like-minded and Southern Baptist made the partnership come together quicker.
“Nothing against secular firms. We explored those options, but we just felt like the like-mindedness and cooperative relationship was so meaningful. Also, there was no need for us to try to design something when they were already three years into serving in this space. It was really a no-brainer for our staff,” Thomas said. “It also allows us to stay true to our ministry identity. This is not a revenue or cost center for the Foundation. The church’s agreement will be with WatersEdge so we can come alongside the church and help facilitate.”
Patrick Henry, Administration Coordinator at ABF, will serve as the Foundation’s liaison in Arkansas to help foster these relationships.
“As I engage with churches across the state, number one, the accounting issue always comes up” Henry said. “What I’m experiencing is that it enables me to share a resource with a church and say, ‘There are options for you. You don’t have to bear this burden.’ This is just a great opportunity for the Foundation to equip churches and point them to a resource that we have 100% confidence in.”
According to Barham, churches will be able to select what services they want and only pay for those selected. “It’s almost like a menu,” she said. “If a church wants just payroll services, we will provide that. If they want it all, we’ll provide that too. It’s really whatever they want or need.”
These services are available immediately to Arkansas Baptist churches. Those that are interested, or would like more information, can visit www.abf.org/watersedge or contact Patrick Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (501)376-4791 ext. 5903.