The campus expansion of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas, happened almost overnight.
When the church across the street moved to a new property on the west side of town, Paramount Baptist knew its former neighbor’s old property would be the perfect solution to doubling its campus size.
So in 2006, with plans to remodel before moving in, Paramount Baptist signed the papers and snapped it up.
Unfortunately, that purchase came with a $5 million price tag. Fortunately, church members pitched in.
Paramount Baptist, a church of about 1,300 weekly attendees, has never had a problem with generosity, says Executive Pastor Dave Anderson.
“Paramount has always had a very strong giving culture,” Anderson says. “We don’t have to beg and plead with our folks. They’ve been very generous.”
That generosity meant that a capital campaign raised about $2 million of the $5 million purchase price, leaving the bank to fund the remaining $3 million. Paramount took on the debt, renovated the property and expanded into the new space.
Fast-forward nine years to November 2014. That month, Paramount Baptist wrote the final check toward its campus expansion debt and burned the note.
So what happened in that span of time to cause such a huge debt to be paid off so quickly? In many ways, it was the church and its individual members working in tandem to practice the financial principles they’d learned in early 2009. That’s when Paramount Baptist went through Momentum.
Momentum is a program that takes entire congregations through Financial Peace University (FPU) and the biblical financial principles it teaches. It incorporates a sermon series and lessons for youth and kids, helping to transform church culture to one of true stewardship. That means recognizing that God owns it all and that we’re managers, not owners, of all God’s blessings.
“Financial stewardship is something we feel very strongly about, and as leaders of this congregation we felt like this was a great way to bring that as best we could to every single family in our church,” Anderson says. “Instead of just continually offering the class and encouraging folks, this is a great way to say, ‘We’re making this part of your weekly routine.’”
Anderson, Lead Pastor Gil Lain and another senior leader flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Momentum training in late 2008.
“Our young adult pastor and I found out about Momentum, and we both got really excited about it and were able to convince the others to come to the training,” says Anderson, who had served as head FPU coordinator at the church alongside several lay leaders who took turns leading each class. “Anybody who is trying to do this and doesn’t have buy-in from the rest of their leadership is going to have a tough road ahead for them. Buy-in from key leaders is essential, especially knowing this is going to be the focus for a good period of time.”
When they returned, they brought two other pastoral staff members on board to help direct the effort, along with many volunteer leaders who attended to tactical aspects. The church put every other ministry and activity on pause to focus the entire congregation on Momentum.
“It’s always difficult to get folks to give up one more night of their already busy schedules,” Anderson says of creating buy-in among attendees. “But we explained that the staff felt so strongly about this that we’d already gone through it, we believed in it, we’d seen the results in our lives and we wanted to share it with them. That worked very well. Plus, the economy was not great in 2009, so it was a very relevant topic for folks.”
By launch day four months later, approximately 200 families (about 65% of the church’s members) had signed up. They were on track to fix poor spending habits and pay down consumer debt—the two biggest problems Anderson says many of them faced.
Prior to Momentum, the church had offered FPU each spring and fall for several years, seeing about 6–10 families participate each time. But to sign up 200 families at once? That’s a different story.
“One of the critical things of going through the class is to be able to share common experiences with each other, and it was terrific to be able to see folks break up into 23 different small groups and really just bare their financial souls to each other,” Anderson says. “They encouraged each other along the path of becoming financially solvent.”
As the face of Momentum to the church, Lead Pastor Gil Lain gave a related sermon series during the weeks when FPU was in progress. That helped to keep the excitement level up each week.
But the most excitement came on Celebration Sunday, at the conclusion of Momentum. That’s when Anderson says life change was most palpable.
“We incorporated a lot of tearful, really passionate personal testimonies into that day,” he says. “They were extremely powerful. Folks really experienced life change through the process, even in that short amount of time.”
When you take people who are already generous, help them pay off consumer debt, and teach them to live on less than they make, their margin for generosity increases. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or in this case, the paid-off church mortgage.
Are you ready to create a culture of radical generosity in your church? Learn how Momentum can help your congregation.