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Televangelists’ Ministry Outlives Hosts

The rise and steady continuity of Bible Study Time

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For decades, de facto power-couple televangelists William and Freda Crews ran a successful broadcasting operation out of their 13,249-square-foot headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Their voices spanned hundreds of radio and television stations nationwide and globally, as weekly listeners tuned in to Freda’s “Time for Hope” interviews and mental-health-focused talks, and William’s “The Awakening Hour” Bible preaching program.

Bible Study Time, a nonprofit established in 1972, consistently raked in more than $2 million annually throughout the early-2000s, according to its earliest available Form 990 tax filings (dating back to 2001). In recent years, though, revenue has slumped after the pair’s passing. William Crews died in November 2009 at 75, followed by Freda in October 2022 at 86. Their son, William (Bill) Crews Jr., now leads the organization as president alongside their daughter, Terrie Moyer, as secretary/treasurer.

Caption: Screenshots via The Awakening Hour

The couple’s programs live on through reruns on national networks and YouTube. As MinistryWatch chronicled last year, this phenomenon is relatively common in the Christian media market. Posthumous broadcasting is a tried-and-tested model for prominent pastors and televangelists, provided enough funds are available to sustain operations.

“Time for Hope” and “The Awakening Hour” have consistently lost money in recent years, with little to no revenue since 2017 (then $442,395). Today, most of Bible Study Time’s income comes from its media services arm, Select Religious Broadcasting, which provides radio and television support and consulting to other Christian organizations with similar missions.

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According to its latest Form 990, Select generated $741,963 of the total $1 million in revenue reported in 2022, as noted in the line item “religious broadcast placement.”

Caption: Photo source: LoopNet

Despite the drop in programming revenue, Bible Study Time’s balance sheet remains solid, with virtually no liabilities. Assets have held steady, totaling $12.4 million in 2022—of which $10.7 million is publicly traded securities—compared to $7.7 million in 2001. In any given year, investment income typically represents 10–20% of the organization’s total revenue.

Bible Study Time’s headquarters building was recently listed for sale at $1.9 million. Photos reveal an office somewhat stuck in time, with the Crews’ photos and accolades hanging on dated wallpaper.

Caption: Photo source: LoopNet

Bible Study Time’s long-term plans are unclear. The ministry did not respond to our emails and phone calls requesting comments on this story.

It’s worth noting a few red flags in Bible Study Time’s Form 990s. Executive compensation has always been a significant expense, ranging from 29.6% of total spending in 2011 to 37.7% in 2021. William and Freda earned six-figure salaries, with some yearly fluctuations, from $248,000 in 2001 to $372,000 in 2007. Freda’s salary topped $336,000 when she died in 2022, while Bill Crews Jr. earned $105,595.

Additionally, the “other salaries and wages” expense category typically eats a significant share of Bible Study Time’s total spending, reaching as high as 44% in 2015 and 38% in 2018. The source of these funds is not specified.

The Internal Revenue Service previously audited Bible Study Time for inconsistencies in its 2013 Form 990. This was documented through a court case in which the ministry unsuccessfully sought to quash third-party summonses the IRS had served on eight banks regarding its relationship with Skymaster, a for-profit aircraft seller owned by Crews Jr. The company’s website says Crews has sold over 1,000 Cessna Skymasters. He started the business after many years of flying with his father, who bought a Cessna P337 in the early 1970s. Both Freda and Crews Sr. were certified pilots.

The IRS had concerns over whether Bible Study Time received unreported business income related to Skymaster on property owned by the ministry, including the parking lot. It also flagged potential excess benefit transactions, primarily Freda Crews’ compensation of $371,445, plus $48,000 in “nontaxable benefits.” The court ultimately sided with the IRS, directing the banks to proceed with responding to the summonses.

As MinistryWatch covered last month, nonprofit audits are extremely rare. Of the 1.7 million filings the IRS received last year, only 7,600 were flagged for examination.

Bible Study Time has 4 stars and a “D” transparency grade in the MinistryWatch database, and a “Give With Caution” donor confidence score of 56 (out of 100).

Main photo: Screenshot via Time for Hope

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Shannon Cuthrell

Shannon Cuthrell is a journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire, Charlotte Inno and EE Power, among other publications.