As the full-time stewardship pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, Chris Goulard runs a complex, multifaceted stewardship ministry for the church’s more than 22,000 weekly attendees. But, he emphasizes, churches of any size can run a stewardship ministry that is just as successful and just as comprehensive. Chris gave his advice and insights into true biblical stewardship to 260 fellow pastors at the Stewardship Conference last November. Here’s what he had to say.
On day-to-day duties as a full-time stewardship pastor:
My role of stewardship pastor is a discipleship role, predominantly. It is not a fundraising role. A stewardship pastor should be somebody who is teaching people how to steward what God has given them.
I think some of the confusion comes when people misunderstand the word “stewardship” in the context of giving. Giving is something a good steward does, but it is not stewardship. One of the problems we sometimes have in the church is that we talk so much about giving, but we don’t talk about all the other aspects.
As part of our stewardship ministry, we offer financial coaching and classes like Financial Peace University (FPU). We’ve used Crown and Compass. I run an estate planning ministry. We are involved in premarital financial counseling. I teach classes, including one right now on teaching kids about money.
On how his volunteer position evolved into a more formal role:
I came on staff almost 11 years ago as stewardship pastor at Saddleback, but I was serving a few years before that as a layperson. I had started a financial coaching ministry and led different Bible study groups, and I had a desire to build a team. There were about 10,000 people on a weekend when I started, and we didn’t have a stewardship pastor. God had put it on my heart to fill that role as a volunteer, but some of the senior leadership in our church at that time didn’t see the need to build a ministry to champion financial stewardship.
I was frustrated because I knew it was the issue that was plaguing our community and the number one barrier to spiritual growth. I talked to some of the executive pastors, and they started catching the vision.
Ultimately, I was asked to come on staff. I loved what I did, and the Financial Freedom Ministries at Saddleback grew and grew. I also had good support from other teams within the church, once they recognized that we were helping them move the ball forward.
I think sometimes people look at Saddleback and go, “Yeah, but you guys are so big. We can’t do that.” Don’t think of it that way. I started as a volunteer, and that’s actually how most of these ministries start.
On utilizing volunteers:
If your church can’t hire a full time stewardship pastor, find a passionate and capable leader within your church body. Pour into them, guide them, then get out of the way and let them do what God is calling them to do. Don’t be a barrier; be an encourager.
As the ministry leader, I didn’t learn how to use volunteers effectively for a while. I had to work my way through it. I have 50 or 60 active volunteers at any time. I was becoming the bottleneck in some cases. I recognized that even though I’m a passionate, capable leader, I had to get out of the way and let my volunteers go. That has become a fuller expression of stewardship ministry in our church.
On what’s worked best to make stewardship part of the culture:
Every January, it’s been a tradition at Saddleback for Rick (Warren, Saddleback’s senior pastor) to do a financial message or series. We find in January that the Christmas credit card bills hit everybody, and people make New Year’s resolutions. Guess what the biggest two are? People want to get healthy, and they want to get their finances in order. So do a January financial series, but don’t talk about giving. Change the conversation a bit.
When you do that, have programs ready. When you fire people up to change, they’ll be frustrated if you don’t have tools in the church to help them. Have a volunteer leader ready to run an FPU class. FPU is one of the easiest things to launch in the church because you can raise up somebody who’s been through it and that’s pretty much all the training they need. It’s a very plug-and-play kind of program. So you can preach a great message, then announce the start of FPU in a couple of weeks and encourage everybody to participate. It’s not that hard.
It has to be a concerted effort. It has to be seen as a church effort from the pulpit, as very important to the church. It has to be in the bulletin, people have to be talking about it, the staff has to be behind it.
It’s also important to involve all the teams in the church. I work very closely with the high school ministry, for example, because I believe that kids need to start learning this stuff when they’re young. There needs to be a sense that everybody is part of the stewardship ministry. So I work within the church to make sure everyone is on the team and sees me as supporting what they’re trying to accomplish.