Leaders Reclaiming Biblical Stewardship

“Without even blinking, we would do it all over again”

On the Fast Track: One Church's Million-Dollar Difference

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by Stewardship Central | Financial Discipleship | Comments

Great Commission Church (GCC) in Olive Branch, Mississippi, didn’t really have a giving problem. Enough people gave enough money that the church met its budget every month.

And the church was no stranger to Financial Peace University (FPU). In fact, church elder Ernie Bertrand had coordinated several FPU classes at Great Commission for the last decade or so, with a handful of members attending each session.

On the surface, all signs pointed toward a church community with few—if any—financial pitfalls. But that didn’t mean everyone was giving or that those who were giving were stewarding their finances well.

“Our people were willing to give, even if financially they were not getting any better in the long run,” says Don McKenzie, GCC’s financial administrator. “People were willing to make sacrifices, but we realized they needed more biblical awareness of how to manage their money.”

Even GCC Pastor Trevor Davis admits he and his wife had $3,000 or $4,000 in consumer debt that they didn’t feel an urgent need to pay off. Actually, they felt pretty good about their finances, he says.

But Bertrand had a sense that something better was possible for GCC. For a few years, he had been trying to convince Davis to look into Momentum, a strategic church-wide plan to teach people how to manage their money and their lives God’s ways. Momentum incorporates a church-wide FPU course, sermons and lessons for children and youth to walk an entire congregation through the principles of biblical stewardship.

“I got tired of piecemealing it,” Bertrand says of the small-attendance FPU classes, “and I knew that the benefit of the entire church going through it at one time would be astronomical.”

The three men—Bertrand, McKenzie and Davis—finally attended Momentum training in November 2012. That’s when they realized how Momentum could transform the culture of GCC.

A presenter there made a point that convicted Davis. GCC had been content to have all the church’s financial needs met, but they weren’t addressing their members’ biggest financial need: getting out of debt.

“That was the turning point,” the pastor says. “We were going to do this church-wide campaign that really didn’t have much to do with members supporting the church financially. If they would do this, it would put money back in their pockets.”

Davis, Bertrand and McKenzie returned to Olive Branch and started planning their Momentum effort, which they called Fastforward: Hope for Our Families’ Futures. They had the church’s staff and elders (and their spouses) take FPU together before the August 25, 2013, launch, ensuring every leader was truly passionate about the mission.

“There’s a big difference after taking the course,” Davis says of attending FPU. “Once we saw the results in our own lives, it was so much more effective. I was ready to promote it.”

Leadership’s enthusiasm changed everything. No one had ever felt convicted to take FPU in the past, which was why only a handful of people ever signed up at one time, the pastor explains. But GCC members sign a covenant where they acknowledge the value of following church leadership and being part of a spiritual family. A church-wide, leadership-backed approach convinced people to participate.

Davis marked the launch of Fastforward with a bold sermon in which he “fast-forwarded” to Judgment Day, acting out a dialogue between God and himself. He illustrated that how he handles his money now matters, and that God cares about our financial stewardship!

The sermon kicked off nine weeks of people becoming excited about eliminating their debt, living within their means, honoring God with 100% of their money, and learning how stewardship affects every area of their lives.

Turns out, there was a lot of consumer debt—so much that by the end of Momentum, the congregation saw a total turnaround (money saved plus consumer debt paid off) of about $1.1 million. Giving also increased, and those who were not giving at all or giving irregularly are now regular givers.

Since Fastforward ended, GCC has started to gather mentors—GCC members who have made considerable financial progress since completing FPU—to serve as unofficial financial coaches to other church members who may still be stumbling financially.

The goal is to have a mentor in each of the church’s small groups, says Bertrand, who has served as a financial coach at GCC for many years. These home-based spaces should allow people to feel safer because they’re seeking financial advice from peers they trust. It’s just one way Momentum has brought members together to address struggles everyone has felt.

“Without even blinking, we would do it all over again,” McKenzie says of Momentum. “I feel like it was one of the great church-wide things we’ve ever done.”

Are you ready to create a culture of radical generosity in your church? Learn how Momentum can help your congregation.

Great Commission Church
Olive Branch, Mississippi
Pastor Trevor Davis
Number of Locations: 1
Average Weekend Attendance: 450
Momentum participation: 90%
Estimated $1.1 million turnaround (consumer debt payoff and savings)

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