By Fred Harris

Tim sat in his pew and cringed. His pastor had just asked the congregation to turn to Malachi 3:8-10, the infamous tithing passage. Tim had seen the church’s latest budget report and knew right where the pastor was headed.

Tim could sympathize, but, unfortunately, he was not like 11 percent of the other members who were financially stable and confident about their financial futures. He was in the 59 percent who lived paycheck to paycheck, one crisis away from a complete financial upset.

Though he felt more secure than the 30 percent who were already feeling overwhelmed with their debt, he still wondered to himself, somewhat resentfully, “Which of my bills does the pastor not want me to pay in order to tithe like the Scriptures teach? If I tithe today, will I be overdrawn tomorrow?”

These were the circumstances described by Ken Schafer, the speaker at the Momentum Conference, attended by nearly 100 church leaders at First Baptist Church, Chandler, Jan. 17. The conference was provided through an alliance forged between the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and Ramsey Solutions, which offers Financial Peace University (FPU).

Utilizing the curriculum from the FPU courses, the 10-week Momentum emphasis elevates the topic of biblical stewardship to a churchwide focus. For nine weeks, it’s the subject matter of weekly Bible studies and the topic of 4-5 sermons brought by the pastor. The 10th week is Celebration Week, praising God for churchwide financial freedom.

“This is not a giving campaign,” said Keith Henry, AZSBC church life team facilitator, when questioned about whether church members should be expected to go along with a 10-week giving emphasis. “Momentum is meeting the real needs of 80 percent of our church families, who are suffering from debt overload. Saying that, we believe if we could help 80 percent of our families live free of financial bondage, it would positively impact the church.”

Ken Schafer added with his presentation, “We can’t just tell people to give, we have to teach them how.”

George Barnes, pastor of HiWay Baptist Church, Mesa, said Momentum did exactly that. After preparing for a year, he and his ministry teams led HiWay through the Momentum journey.

Asked how he convinced his membership to make FPU a churchwide Bible Study emphasis for that period of time, especially when the FPU curriculum still carries its accompanying membership fee, he said he informed the people the study would benefit everyone.

Everyone was invited to watch the videos and participate in the discussions, whether they purchased the membership packs that provided personalized resources or not. The membership packs were certainly beneficial, but they weren’t required to participate. HiWay did provide scholarships to help with those who wanted the FPU membership resources but didn’t feel they could afford it.

Would Momentum be a good fit for your church? Contact Keith Henry, keith@azsbc.org, for more information as well as for the AZSBC codes required for the discounts on FPU material.