December 16th, 2012

From the Y to the Why Not

Stuart Hodges

From the Y to the Why Not

Stuart Hodges (@stuhodges) leads Waters Edge Church, the 36th fastest-growing church on the Outreach Magazine Fastest Growing Church Top 100 list. In the Outreach article, Stu shares several nuggets that contributed to the church’s growth. Note how the nuggets focus on the importance of articulating and leading consistently from a clear mission.

From the verbiage we use in an e-mail communication to things we do on Facebook, we’re connecting people to mission. We utilize weekly team huddles to keep our volunteers connected to the mission, We emphasize the mission regularly in our community group curriculum. And throughout the year, I constantly tie the mission of our church into sermons. We limit our programs. By saying “no” to additional church programs we can say “yes” to resourcing outreach. If we said yes to every great idea for “the church” there would be no time, energy or dollars for outreach.

In 2006, Stu Hodges was leading a church plant, Waters Edge Church in Yorktown, VA that was yet to turn 3 years old. They were hosting two services in a YMCA having an impact on over 600 lives each weekend. Can you imagine doing your preschool in the YMCA locker room? They were young, had grown to capacity, and had limited financial resources. As you would expect, no land or buildings were available and no bank was taking them seriously. In March of 2006, after 3 years of exponential growth, the Big Dream Spiritual Initiative and Stewardship Campaign kicked off. It was a big dream born from the church’s relentless on-mission pursuit to “reach those distant from God” on the peninsula. This was a time of deep personal growth for Waters Edge Church.

It is now 2013 and Waters Edge has purchased property and constructed a building. And they now have three locations. They conduct eight weekend services that impact over 2,500 lives and are enjoying the fruit of stewardship strength.

Stu shares several bullets about what he has learned about being a stewardship leader on the journey. Enjoy his thoughts. He is a great leader.

  • It costs more money than you think! Ministry is expensive, there’s really no way around it. In the early days of our ministry, we would “guesstimate” for budgeting purposes and we were always overspending. The reason was simple: it costs more money than you think to do ministry effectively. When you’re planning, plan well with real numbers. Invest the extra time in the budgeting process to get actual quotes. Avoid the illusion that you can change the culture on a shoestring budget. The reality is you need money…lots of it…to effectively operate as a church.
  • It’s more than a sermon, you need SYSTEMS! To lead your church toward financial stewardship, you need systems. A sermon here and there might be part of your overall approach, but a comprehensive system is required to create a healthy culture of stewardship in your church. The system should include: regular teaching, financial counseling, first time giver contacts, ongoing communication with donors including giving statements, and a push toward online giving.
  • Count more than the weekly offering. Of course, every church counts their weekly offering but you need to be counting more. Your stewardship health check-up needs to consider adult attendance, percentage of online giving, number of first time givers, total capacity of facility, weekly per person giving, and so much more.
  • Follow the leader. As the organizational leader, you set the standard and the culture for stewardship. You must model it personally before it trickles down to your church.
  • Lead the giver. I personally invest in those who invest the most in our ministry. I send handwritten notes of gratitude and host luncheons and dinners to personally pour into our generosity leaders. I’ll send an occasional gift as a way of saying thanks to our givers. I always tell them stories of life-change so they know that their investment is making a difference.
  • You have not because you ask not. People will not give if they are not asked. You provide the vision, a compelling opportunity, and an easy method, and you will be amazed at the generosity of people in your church!
  • You’re probably going to need some help. Chances are you’re a pastor not an administrator. You have a degree in theology not in accounting. You preach great sermons but you can’t balance a checkbook! Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the point is: you probably could use some help. Our journey toward healthy financial stewardship has moved along further and faster because I’ve had some help at critical points along the way. If you’re thinking about a capital campaign, get some help. If you’re trying to design financial systems, get help! If you’re thinking about a building addition or relocation, definitely get some help from an expert. This is one of the reasons I’m so thankful for Todd McMichen. At critical points along the way, Todd and others like him have come alongside of my leadership and vision and provided expert counsel and support. Without their help, there’s no way we would be where we are today.

The leadership journey contains many learned lessons. Obstacles, challenges, questions, and new experiences await you every week. Keep laser-focus on your mission and vision and … keep dreaming and dream big!

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