Over the last year, Church by the Glades, a multisite congregation in Coral Springs, Florida, has experienced something any church would love: Its giving has increased by an almost unheard-of 23%.
With about 8,500 weekly attendees—many of them unchurched or new Christians—Church by the Glades is one of the fastest-growing churches in the country. Yet church leaders don’t attribute the giving increase to steady growth in attendance. Executive Pastor Raul Palacios says something else is going on.
“It’s true that our attendance has increased, but giving was flat in 2013 and 2014,” Palacios says. “The difference was teaching biblical stewardship through Financial Peace University.”
So what did Church by the Glades do that worked, and how did Financial Peace University (FPU) play a role? Lead Pastor David Hughes shares six things that led to members’ improved financial health and increased margin to give.
1. Make sure your staff is on board.
Church by the Glades had offered FPU before, but never like they did last fall, when 1,200 people enrolled at once. To prepare for the big push, the entire staff went through FPU first so they could get behind what they were teaching. The staff went through again with the rest of the church to offer encouragement, advice and guidance. Teaching stewardship always begins at the top.
2. Find creative ways to encourage participation.
Because last fall’s FPU classes were more prominent than any in the past, it was important to enroll as many church members as possible. To do that, Hughes spent weeks before classes even began casting a vision and sharing testimonies to create excitement for getting financially healthy. The church sold memberships at cost and even offered a 100% refund to single moms who paid for the class and attended all nine weeks.
3. Feature a sermon series on stewardship.
After FPU ended last fall, Hughes gave a six-week sermon series on money and stewardship in November. It came at the perfect time: FPU was just wrapping up, and the holiday season was in full swing. “That was catalytic, to a degree,” he says. “It was the synergy of FPU and doing some clear teaching on stewardship from the pulpit that worked together.”
4. Make sure your congregation knows your heart.
For Hughes, the church’s primary goal was never to increase giving. It was to encourage members’ financial health. Giving was just a natural outgrowth of that. It was important that he communicate that desire to the church, although he’s not afraid to acknowledge that ministry can’t happen without money.
“The bottom line was to help our people get healthy financially,” he says. “And I think if we do that, then the stewardship and the resourcing of the church takes care of itself. It’s a win-win.”
5. Offer follow-up opportunities.
After last fall’s FPU classes and the sermon series ended, Church by the Glades held FPU again in January, when New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind. That kind of ongoing support— whether in the form of more classes or other resources in a stewardship ministry—is a great way to encourage follow-through and accountability, not to mention bringing more people on board as momentum builds.
6. Stretch your limits.
Hughes admits the church historically hasn’t emphasized stewardship or small groups, so creating such a big push for FPU, which emphasizes both, was quite a stretch for them.
“We teach stewardship and generosity, but we’re in one of the most unchurched counties in America, and unchurched people really have that phobia, sometimes based on reality, that the church wants their money,” he says. “So while we teach with clarity, we do it with lots of love and try not to be in people’s faces about it. We face that challenge continually. Anything that creates awareness of financial health so they can be generous is a good thing.”
When Church by the Glades followed those six guidelines, they saw an almost immediate jump in giving, Palacios says. And it was sustained. Now, almost a year later, giving is still up. A permanent transformation seems to be taking hold in the culture of the church.
“I wholeheartedly believe that we had many new people sitting on the sidelines [before FPU],” he says. “Being formerly unchurched, most of our people had not heard of biblical stewardship and tithing. Going through FPU taught many of them the principles. There’s no doubt FPU had a huge impact in increased giving.”
Are you ready to jump-start your own church’s giving culture? Host FPU this fall by recruiting a coordinator from among your church’s most passionate, financially healthy members. After all, biblical stewards with a passion for generosity produce more people just like them.
Our Stewardship Advisors would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about implementing Financial Peace University in your church. Contact us today at 877-378-2667 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.