We are nearing a crossroads here at Thrive. This year is going to be year of milestones for our young ministry. For instance, sometime before the coming convention, Thrive will move from being a church plant to being a church. I am both excited and nervous about this milestone. Looking over the past couple of years, there are a lot of things we are proud about, and plenty of things that we wish we did better.
One example of the latter concerns our finances. As is the case with most church plants, we are definitely not swimming in money. We have always been very careful with every dollar, since every dollar represents the hard work and sacrifice of a real person. There were some very lean days, and we learned a lot from God about priorities. I am very pleased with the level of stewardship and frugality we were able to muster with God’s help. However, I still feel that we fell a bit short. Let me try to explain.
From the very beginning we knew that God was challenging us to be very intentional about everything we do. There is no process in Thrive that has not been weighed and measured before going into action. We don’t do things just because that is what churches are supposed to do. We don’t do things just because that is what Nazarene churches are supposed to do. As far as we are concerned, there were/are no sacred cows – everything is game for scrutiny.
Having this extreme intentionality at our core, it is hard to believe that we had not been so intentional with our finances. Don’t get me wrong, we are good stewards – and I will stand by anything decision we’ve made. However, I have come to realize that being a good steward is not the same thing as being intentional. I can readily recall all the training and advice aimed at ensuring our intentionality, but with the intensity of actually doing ministry, we never really got intentional with our finances. While we were very careful, we found ourselves being very reactionary and sometimes arbitrary.
When times were really lean, stewardship was easy – don’t spend. But what happens as we begin to turn the corner, so to speak? As we can sense this “turn” is underway, it is imperative that our financial policies are intentional. Our purpose statement is “Love God, love one another, and pass it on.” Up to this point, everything we do at Thrive has fallen in line with this statement. There is an intentional alignment between our purpose and our processes – in all areas – except finances.
Realizing this shortcoming, I am leading our staff and leadership team down a path towards a financial policy that is aligned with our purpose. No longer will our financial discussions be dictated solely by a black or red pen. We will also evaluate our fiscal activity against loving God, loving one another, and passing it on. We have already developed a few ideas that we think will get us there and I am excited to see how they will look once they are in place. We have a lot of work to do – much of it will challenge conventional wisdom. But, I am reminded of a simple old challenge – “put your money where your mouth is.” Please pray for Thrive as we continue to let God shape us into His vision for us.