Dave Briggs lives and breathes biblical stewardship. It’s what God’s called him to do, and it’s his full-time job. As the director and founder of Enrich, the stewardship ministry of Central Christian Church in the Phoenix metropolitan area, he’s become an expert at creating a stewardship ministry that works.
“When I was in my mid-20s, I felt a very significant calling from God to invest a lot of time understanding what the Bible says about money and to understand the practical, the spiritual and the emotional context of money so that I could then communicate that clearly to others,” Briggs says. He spent years writing curricula and teaching biblical stewardship for churches on a volunteer basis before becoming the full-time director of an existing stewardship ministry at Chicago’s Willow Creek Church in 2002.
In 2009, Briggs was asked to start a brand-new stewardship ministry at Central Christian, a church with an average weekend attendance of 9,000 people. He knew from the start that the Enrich ministry needed to be full time and all encompassing.
“An effective stewardship ministry holistically approaches the stewardship needs and the discipleship aspects of money when a church has made a commitment to it being full time,” he says.
So what does an effective, holistic stewardship ministry look like? It’s a toolbox filled with resources for every person and situation, Briggs explains.
In Central Christian’s case, that includes Enrich-specific curricula (as a curriculum writer, Briggs has developed and taught close to 20 different classes and seminars on different topics related to biblical stewardship); curricula and studies from other churches with successful stewardship ministries; and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, Generation Change and The Legacy Journey. He also encourages a partnership between the stewardship ministry and other church ministries, like one for engaged couples or parents of college-bound teens.
“We can reach into the toolbox and pull out different tools to help people who are at different places in their journey down the stewardship road,” says Briggs. “I have become increasingly passionate about that as a model so that churches can create a year-long solid foundation where people can receive individual coaching and address specific issues.”
Though Briggs champions Financial Peace University and The Legacy Journey as important tools in Enrich’s toolbox, he says the most effective stewardship ministries emphasize the totality of all their material.
“We don’t have Legacy success stories or FPU success stories,” he says. “We have financial stewardship success stories. Trying to isolate what part of the movement in stewardship is from Legacy or from the other numerous Enrich classes is pretty difficult. Is Legacy great? Yes. Is FPU great? Yes. Are all the other classes and seminars we teach as part of Enrich great? Yes.”
His first year at Central Christian, Briggs’ ministry sent 3,000 people through FPU, and the church put 1,500 people through The Legacy Journey when that study launched in 2013. Over the last 18 months, Briggs says they’ve noticed a marked change among the people at Central Christian. They’ve seen a 40 percent increase in giving compared to 2010 and 2011.
“Because Legacy is one of many things we’ve done, I can’t necessarily say the increase was tied to any one thing,” Briggs says, “but I think the increase was a significant consequence of people resonating with the spiritual teaching that Dave presents so effectively in The Legacy Journey. When you’re putting all those different logs on the fire, I don’t know how to determine which log made the fire the hottest. But Legacy did fit perfectly into the total desire of creating a culture of stewardship and increased generosity.”
That culture shift was the most important takeaway from the 40 percent increase in giving, Briggs explains.
“I was less impressed by the amount, but I was more impressed by what was behind it,” Briggs says. “It was coming primarily from people who had been giving consistently in the past, and then they increased their consistent giving. That kind of response can only come from spiritual growth, and not from some external factor.”
If more churches took the idea of a holistic stewardship ministry seriously, Briggs says, they would “see an increase in the spiritual vitality of their congregation. When individuals get the money thing right, they get the service thing right, and they understand that it isn’t all about them. They understand what amount of money is appropriate to keep versus give away and tend to free up more resources for God to use and for the church to make a difference in the kingdom.”
If a church wants a place to start, Briggs recommends using FPU as the first “tool” in its stewardship ministry toolbox, then adding to it from there.
“I think FPU is the perfect entrance ramp into a stewardship ministry,” Briggs says. I just don’t want them to stop there. They can bring in FPU, and people will hear Dave’s teaching and see his enthusiasm for the subject, and it can be done with relatively little effort.”
Other tips on starting a holistic stewardship ministry:
1. Communicate your message carefully.
“You have to plant the seed early so that people do not get the wrong impression of why the ministry exists and what your goals are,” Briggs says. “We need to be intentional about helping people understand we want to help them grow, to improve their relationship with money, to improve their relationship with God. We are here for only that purpose.”
2. Create multiple avenues for engagement.
“Make it known that you’re available to help,” Briggs says. “That’s where it becomes important that you’re not a one-trick pony in terms of your message. You’re making it very obvious from the beginning that you are creating the kinds of classes and environments that are specifically tailored to the best interest of your people to help them grow.”
3. Get your senior pastor on board.
“The senior pastor has an incredibly powerful voice in explaining to the congregation why we are doing the stewardship ministry and where it fits in his priorities within the ministry of the church,” Briggs says. “He can best articulate that this is a critical part of our discipleship as a congregation and that our relationship with God is always affected by our relationship with money.”