The Chapel wasn’t in the midst of a financial crisis when it sought out Momentum, a stewardship training program that helps congregations transform their thinking about money, debt and giving. In fact, the two campuses of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, church draw about 1,000 members from fairly affluent backgrounds.
The church also has a wellspring of resources among its membership: several Certified Financial Planners (about 10 percent of the CFPs in Baton Rouge, estimates Senior Pastor Kevin McKee) and professionals in marriage and family counseling, social work, law and insurance. It also had a pre-existing stewardship ministry that offered ongoing education, financial assistance and counseling. What the church needed, though, was a heart change toward generosity.
“It’s a little easier for people in our church to give their financial resources than it is for them to give in serving, particularly out in the community,” says Bettejean Cramer, who helped with the logistics of Transformation 2014, the name the church gave to its Momentum experience.
Proof of the congregation’s transformation is in the way members have embraced service in their larger community. For example, many of The Chapel’s people have invested in Glen Oaks, an impoverished neighborhood in the northern part of Baton Rogue. The effort created conversations that opened the door for more ministry opportunities.
“They repaired roofs, cleaned fence lines, mowed grass, and got to know people,” Cramer explains. “They were asked, ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you coming from 14 miles across town to help us?’ It’s because we love Jesus.”
The Chapel’s journey toward Transformation 2014 began when it sent 12 of its leaders to three different Momentum trainings and spent a year preparing for its launch. More than 200 volunteers participated. McKee and the church’s other teaching pastor, Hans Googer, delivered 10 sermons total: five developed by Dave Ramsey specifically for Momentum, plus five of their own. The church paused all other activities—one of the biggest obstacles they overcame with both staff and members—to devote its full attention to the program. It offered Financial Peace University eight times a week and even wrote a set of corresponding devotionals that were distributed to members weekly.
“There was some concern from our staff that we would be pausing our community groups and their exposure to biblical content, so we developed a two-part devotional guide,” McKee says. “One part had you in the Word, and one had you thinking about putting it to work, both within the church and within the community.”
They even required all staff to enroll in and complete FPU with their spouses ahead of time.
“That really created some heart for Transformation 2014,” says Bill Peters, a co-leader of the effort. “We didn’t have all the people on board, but they went anyway, and by the end it was almost unanimous. It’s important to have your church leaders on board.”
They were also very intentional about creating training syllabi, FAQ sheets, email templates and other resources for staff and volunteers. Their efforts ensured the delivery of a unified message and made the experience enjoyable, not exhausting.
By Celebration Sunday, the church reached its goal of having 80 percent of its giving units go through FPU. The Chapel saw more than 600 people attend, and it also took 44 teens through Generation Change and 28 families through The Legacy Journey.
During one night of FPU, students could arrive early for an “Ask the Expert” feature, where they could meet with a member of the church about specific questions on insurance, budgeting or other issues. The Chapel’s executive pastor continues to connect members in need with those who have the skill to counsel them.
Transformation 2014 culminated on Easter Sunday, one of the church’s largest offering days of the year. The Chapel gave 100 percent of the day’s offering—$135,000—to serving efforts in the city of Baton Rouge—an effort it calls Project GeneroCity. That allowed the church to fulfill both the financial and the serving side of its heart change.
Church members are using the money to support a needy public school, a destitute neighborhood across town and a less affluent church nearby. Local newspapers and TV stations, which had previously given the church just a brief mention, are featuring its acts of service as lead stories. But, even more important, recipients of this heightened generosity have come to Christ and asked about attending The Chapel themselves.
“Doing Celebration Sunday on Easter was a great way to communicate to the visitors who might come irregularly that we exist to bless, and that we are blessed to be a blessing,” McKee says.
Now, almost six months after the completion of Transformation 2014, the spirit and the heart of The Chapel’s congregation have been transformed as they’ve learned the true meaning of biblical stewardship: that God owns it all and that they’re called to be managers of His resources for His glory.
“We are touching and ministering in ways we never would have before,” says Kit Marye, the effort’s other co-leader. “Transformation 2014 helped us reframe our vision for ministry at The Chapel.”
The congregation has maintained many of the service projects initiated during Transformation 2014 and even altered the church financials section of the weekly Sunday program to take the emphasis off dollars and cents. They limit numbers to the prior week’s offering and instead include one of the 145 or so transformation stories they collected from members on Celebration Sunday.
“We are communicating that this is what God is doing to transform hearts and free people to give and serve like never before,” Cramer says. “We’ve done that through their stories and their words. We’re trying to keep that in front of peoplein a story format instead of a financial format to keep the heart change visible. Really, in this way, it’s leading by example. When you read what other people have done, then I think that stirs something in you. You want to be part of what they are doing.”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Senior Pastor: Kevin McKee
Number of Locations: 2
Average Weekend Attendance: 1,700
Pre-Momentum FPU/TLJ alumni: 20%
Post-Momentum FPU/TLJ alumni: 80%