The floor-to-ceiling tree in the foyer of Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, Washington, is alive in green, yellow, orange and red.
In fall 2013, shortly after the trunk and limbs were built, church members began adding the leaves, each with a written message.
First came green: testimonies of those who’d overcome money problems and found peace. Later in the season came yellow: hopes and dreams of those just embarking on a financial journey of their own. Then orange: special opportunities made possible because members had more margin to give. And finally, as Thanksgiving approached, red: debts paid off and money saved over the last nine weeks.
Two years later, the tree still stands as a permanent welcome to members and guests. It’s a symbol of family trees changed forever—a reminder of the “oaks of righteousness” called to do God’s work in Isaiah 61.
The tree was part of Eastside’s effort to transform its culture and its members’ lives generationally through a program called Momentum. The issue? Managing money God’s ways. The nine-week journey, which the church named Change: Maximum Impact Through Financial Discipleship, took the entire church through Financial Peace University (FPU), a corresponding sermon series, the Generation Change curriculum for youth, and the Junior’s Adventures Bible study for kids.
“When I walk into the building, I see the tree there and it reminds me of the lasting impression the movement had,” says Peter Tassani, the Eastside volunteer who led the effort.
Eastside had been offering FPU since 2005, and they’d seen about 400 people already go through the classes. But around 2011, Communications Director and Small Groups Pastor Bob Horn heard about Momentum and decided to investigate it. He and his wife attended a fall 2012 training in Nashville, where they realized that Eastside really did need financial discipleship on a church-wide scale.
They were inspired by the results they’d seen on a class-by-class basis, but Horn wondered what would happen if the entire church went through the class all together. “The idea was very exciting,” he admits.
Additionally, the church had a $5.4 million mortgage on an addition built in 2007. That debt had been a pain point for years, Horn says.
But their primary concern when entering into Momentum wasn’t a solution to a massive mortgage. It was teaching stewardship to the entire church at one time.
Horn returned to Eastside from Nashville fired up to do just that. But first, the church hosted its own training the following spring, with 25 of its staff and lay leaders attending. Having that many people catch the vision first-hand made a huge difference in getting the entire team on board, Horn says.
With Tassani stepping up to direct the effort and FPU grads volunteering their time, the church was ready to launch by fall 2013. Adults, youth and kids would all take the journey together with their own set of classes.
Pastor DJ Vick became the face of the effort to the congregation, giving sermons linked to the FPU lessons.
“It’s not an all-church thing if it’s happening on the periphery,” Horn says. “If we’d had another message series going on, it wouldn’t have felt like an all-church effort. It’s pretty key to have the weekend service messages aligned with what you’re doing as an entire church body.”
Vick’s passion for the effort was also key.
“It’s got to be pastor-driven to get people motivated,” Horn says. “Even though we included lots of other people in the driving of it, DJ was the face of it. He’s a passionate preacher, so when he is on something, he is on 110% full-tilt. That came through loud and clear. He’s also very transparent, so he’s going to tell you his stories—what it’s been like in his own household trying to live this out.”
One concept Vick taught to spur people toward action was “Freed people free people.” In other words, those who have been freed of debt have the margin to help others do the same. It’s the principle that our financial health relates directly to our ability to answer God’s call on our lives.
“We thought, If we can get people in a better place, that’s going to allow them to work for the kingdom,” Tassani recalls. “And if there were other residual effects beyond that, great.”
To encourage people to participate, the Momentum team made it as convenient as possible. They provided childcare with their weeknight and Sunday classes at the church. They also trained small group leaders to lead classes and offered them at members’ homes throughout the week.
“We wanted to cover every day and as many geographically diverse places as we could,” Horn says. “If you told us when you could take it, we could probably find a group that was going to fit your needs.”
Horn also created lots of fun, powerful testimony videos of people within the church who’d already seen their own lives transformed thanks to FPU.
“Because we used people in our own congregation,” he says, “it was so fun to see people right after the service crowded around that person and asking them questions.”
One of the most powerful testimonies came from church member Krissy Close, who spent the past few years on the mission field. The 30-something felt called to missions right out of college, but her enormous student loan debt prevented her from answering God’s call. It took her several years to pay it off, and now that she’s debt-free, she’s able to serve God in a way she couldn’t before.
“That’s what FPU does,” Horn says. “It frees people so they can fulfill the calling that God has on their life, that they were created to do, that has so often been derailed by poor money decisions.”
By the end of Momentum, participants were much closer to having their own testimonies to share. And because Celebration Sunday (the last Sunday of the effort) was the week before Thanksgiving, it brought even more meaning to an already special day. Participants shared testimonies; Horn produced a video recap of the past few months; and they celebrated after the service with food, contests and prizes.
“My real hope is not necessarily for Eastside Foursquare Church,” Tassani says of the results. “My real hope is for every single person who went through FPU, whether it be through Momentum or otherwise, that they’re getting themselves in a better place, however long that takes. I truly believe that’s what will happen.”
Although Eastside’s mortgage is still there and its members’ finances are still a work in progress, Horn is confident that the best is yet to come.
“What God’s going to do at any given church is always going to be bigger than our idea of a fix-all,” he says. “God is still going to be sovereign, and we’ve still got to operate in faith and be obedient to what He’s calling us to do. The story’s not done yet.”
Eastside Foursquare Church
Lead Pastor DJ Vick
The Foursquare Church
Number of Locations: 1
Average Weekend Attendance: 1,000
Momentum participation: 66%
Number of credit cards cut up: 107
Amount saved during Momentum: $200,000
Debt paid off during Momentum: $500,000
Increase in giving per attendee during Momentum: 16.1%
Are you interested in what Momentum could do in and for your church? Register for a Momentum training below, or contact a Stewardship Advisor by calling 877-378-2667 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.