Malcolm Douglas, a pastor in Arizona, shares a case study of teaching Stewardship to one of his churches which, when he arrived, was in significant financial woes. Now, five years later, church giving is up, attendance has increased, and the church school is no longer in danger of closing. How did it all happen?
As a new pastor, in 2014, he first became familiar with the people and the situation by attempting to visit all the members (both active and not) and personally reviewing the financial documents going back six years.
Douglas enrolled in the NAD’s Stewardship certification program and became engrossed with learning as much as he could about stewardship. Through the certification program, he began to learn how to analyze a church’s financial condition and develop a finance committee and structure for a church budget. He spent considerable time in prayer and seeking God on how his church could change their financial condition. In fact, he consistently brought the subject before prayer meeting and just asked for wisdom and the Lord’s blessings. Douglas shared in prayer meeting the testimony of he and his wife as they were paying off their $150,000 debt from school loans and credit cards during this time.
By the beginning of 2016, the church began to reformulate their church and school finances. A new treasurer team was elected with greater accountability. Instead of just one Treasurer, they now had one with two assistants. They also refocused their finances towards evangelism and outreach. They developed a new finance committee and spent considerable time in prayer seeking who would be best for the church and school boards. Instead of seeking individuals who were just good with means, they sought individuals who they felt God led them to.
In the meantime, they learned of a scholarship for Arizona residents attending private schools that paid 90% of tuition. Most of their church school students are now on this program.
During the last year, the church focused on stewardship through several means. They provided monthly bulletin inserts. They elected a Stewardship Director. They brought their budget and financial condition to the church through the bulletin, announcements time during divine worship, and did a financial report for the church in business session twice throughout the year. They also read through Counsels on Stewardship and then Steps to Christ during prayer meeting. They took their time and encouraged people to respond to what they were reading and heavily utilized the study guides provided by the Ellen White Estate for these books.
And, although more time consuming, they did a personal relational approach to sharing the message of stewardship with their people and families of their church and school. Douglas visited each member to get to know them and to also share with them that he was concerned about their spiritual life and the blessing they were missing if they were not returning tithes and offerings. They also held a public community-wide financial program at their church school.
Douglas began to encourage members to give out of recognition of what Jesus gave for us. For over six months he preached on how Jesus gave all. This created a deep sense of giving within their church and over the course of the last three years, the church has paid nearly $50,000 on their church debt with the Pacific Union Conference. They have also doubled their church budget. And, their membership attendance and involvement have more than doubled and their tithe has increased by 70 percent.
Douglas also held more than six different stewardship programs in local churches, schools, and even a city hall. Before doing the stewardship program in his local churches, he had a one-on-one meeting with the conference treasurer to understand how all the tithe is spent in our local conference. He then has been able to use that information to demonstrate to his churches what the monies are being used for, which he believes displayed a greater level of transparency and aided in the growth.