Over the past decade, Gateway Church has developed a stewardship ministry that serves more than 3,000 people a year with 170 stewardship classes. Gunnar Johnson leads the charge. He's often asked, “What does it take to develop and maintain a successful stewardship ministry?”
Gunnar says it’s really an easy ministry to keep running if you start with a little bit of guidance on the front end. Too many churches start off thinking strictly in terms of curriculum. People from the congregation aren’t as receptive to this approach because the church is often violating the very principles they are teaching.
Gunnar has a passion to help other churches create thriving stewardship ministries like the one Gateway enjoys, so he has shared five steps that have helped to make theirs so successful:
1. Determining Vision
Gunnar said it's key for the senior leader to be involved in this discussion. The vision of the stewardship ministry must tie into the church’s other ministries from the get-go. Gateway’s pastor had a vision for the people of the church to be radical givers and good stewards. At the same time, God had spoken to Gunnar about building a comprehensive stewardship ministry. Their vision was birthed out of 1 Timothy 6:17–19:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
These verses lay out exactly what good stewardship looks like: People would be generous, have margin, and put their faith and hope in God. They would not be materialistic, and they would be building up their lives in contentment and serving the Kingdom.
“I think each church has its own unique vision,” Gunnar said. “There’s not a single mission statement for every church. The leaders of the church have to get together and decide: How are we going to teach on money? They have to determine it from the head. It’s not about starting a class because we should or because giving is down.”
2. Creating Mission
This is when you ask: “Why are we here? What are we doing? What is our purpose?” Gunnar says mission and vision are easily confused. Gateway sees their mission as being the Great Commission. “We are going to launch these people out to do what God wants them to do. Our mission isn’t just to teach them biblical principles, it’s to get them active in their faith,” he said. “At the end of all of our lives, each one of us has a date with Christ. I want every person in our church to hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ because they have been faithful with their time, talent, treasure.”
3. Setting Objectives
Now it’s time to create something you can put your hands on and answer, “How can we actually do this?” Objectives need to be meaningful, measurable, manageable.
Gunnar explained Gateway’s five straightforward stewardship objectives:
- To create givers: Not so we can raise the budget or bring in more money, but because God does something in people’s lives when they allow Him to change their perspective about money.
- To have Christ-centered stewards: I don’t want them to just get wealthy. If they do, I’m okay with that. But whether they have a lot or a little, I want them to be Christ-centered and know what God has purposed them to do with money.
- For people to be biblically literate: We want them to know what the Scriptures say—where it is and how to do it. Theories come and go. If someone comes in and tries to sell them a bill of goods, we want them to know how it violates biblical principles. If they are being told to leverage debt, they’ll know the truth of Proverbs 22:7 that tells us, “The borrower is the slave of the lender.”
- For people to be debt-free: Debt chains us to our past and robs us of our future. If I open a credit card to buy Christmas gifts, it chains me to that year’s Christmas and robs me of what God may have for me. I don’t want the mistakes of my past to hinder my future. That’s what inspires me about being a Christ follower. He gives us the opportunity to erase the past: sin debt and financial debt.
- For people to be savers: The Bible tells us that wise people save money. A debtor loses opportunities, but a saver is ready when God presents them.
4. Building a Strategy
This is when you determine how, when and where you will meet your objectives. Now is the time to talk about the curriculums out there and how they might fit in. Gateway categorizes people as struggling, stable, solid, or surplus and ministers to each of those groups in different ways. For the struggling it’s a compassionate yet accountable process of benevolence. For the stable and solid, they offer all kinds of classes with practical application. Those with surplus are treated differently, but not better because they have wealth. They experience a time-intensive, slow-going process that helps them become good managers of their wealth.
5. Determine Your Tactics
This is where you lay out your plan. For example, Gunnar said they are planning to run Financial Peace University (FPU) in the spring. He knows how many memberships he needs to buy, has the room secured, a team to run it, registration set up. They do this for each area of their strategy. It’s a calendar-heavy step, and a lot of work goes into it based on their overarching visions and goals.
Once you work through these five steps, you can pull back at any time and ask: Are we meeting the goals we’ve set? Things are going to change from year to year, and that’s okay. “God will give us a new revelation and call our church to do that, and we’ll move into that,” Gunnar said. “But creating a healthy stewardship ministry is much deeper than just starting a class. “
By laying a foundation of interconnectedness with other ministries with leadership support, you will invite a spirit of unity, and where there is unity, there is blessing.
Dave Ramsey has created a program called Financial Peace ChurchWide to lock arms with churches that want to do just that. ChurchWide is all about bringing people back to God’s view of money management and cultivating a culture of lasting generosity. Discover today how ChurchWide can help your congregation.