At around 200 attendees on a typical Sunday, Vineyard Community Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, isn’t huge. And because it’s located in a college town and welcomes lots of students and young families, it’s not particularly affluent either. But one Sunday in the fall of 2016, the church did something pretty incredible: It gave its entire offering to three local charities. The amount? $10,000.
“People were competent and confident at managing their money,” says elder Ben Baxter when discussing the reason behind the day’s generosity. That financial confidence might have never come about had the entire church not gone through Momentum a few months prior.
Momentum is a strategic plan that takes entire congregations through Financial Peace University at the same time, teaching them God’s way of handling money—and often transforming many other areas of their lives.
“I’ve seen fragile marriages completely healed after the couple has gone through FPU,” says Baxter, Vineyard’s FPU coordinator and Momentum leader.
Baxter and a few other leaders from the church attended a nearby Momentum training a few years ago, where they learned how to financially live out Ephesians 4:12—equipping God’s people to do God’s work. They then returned to Tuscaloosa and began planning Vineyard’s Momentum launch. They took their staff through FPU first to bring them on board. They also filmed testimonies of members who had already graduated from FPU and experienced life-change and showed those to their church to promote it.
As for the congregation, Baxter knew they needed FPU on a grand scale: Before Momentum, just 28% of the church had experienced the course.
“We have a lot of people going through life-change,” Baxter says. “College students transitioning to adulthood. People who’ve been laid off. But the members who need this the most are the people who think they’re okay, but once they’re in FPU they realize they aren’t as effective as they thought at managing the money God blessed them with.”
Vineyard took its members through Momentum in June and July of 2016, pausing its summer small groups during that time so people could focus on their finances. Lead Pastor Jon Quitt gave a related sermon series in the weeks leading up to Momentum’s launch.
Baxter and his team made Momentum fun for the church—and easy to participate in. Not only did they provide childcare, but they offered participants a full meal before each week’s FPU lesson, and they even gave away prizes and gift cards. By the end of Momentum, 86% of the church had completed FPU and learned better money management, which created the margin for greater generosity.
“What we taught really soaked in,” Baxter says.
During Momentum they also emphasized the church’s recent goal to become more outwardly focused.
“We’re going in that direction as a church,” Baxter says. “One thing we want to do is to help our city become debt-free. We’re working with other smaller churches and parachurch organizations in town to show them how to be good stewards of their finances, especially those who don’t have a lot of resources to learn how on their own. We’re really making our focus to help those churches be as successful as possible, because at the end of the day, our goal is that our church helps people find Christ.”
Since Momentum concluded, Vineyard has put an ongoing stewardship plan in place, which Baxter is also leading. They’re continuing to track the families who completed Momentum to measure life-change, they hold workshops for small groups of people, and Baxter has begun helping families and individuals one-on-one who need additional guidance. And that’s helping them in all areas of life.
“Money management is critical to being a disciple of Jesus,” Quitt says, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Vineyard Community Church
Pastor Jon Quitt
Nondenominational (Vineyard Movement)
Number of Locations: 1
Total debt payoff during Momentum: $78,370
Total savings during Momentum: $90,130
Average financial turnaround per household: $4,000