Thriving church credits 'Making Change'
CECILIA, Ky. (BP)--Franklin Crossroads Baptist Church, a thriving church with two locations, credits a book from the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis with ushering in a season of increased attendance, record giving and an interest in missions.
Rob Sumrall, preaching pastor at Franklin Crossroads in Cecilia, Ky., told Baptist Press that leaders reviewed several stewardship studies and chose to implement "Making Change" by Ken Hemphill, national strategist for EKG.
"The material was just right on the spot, and we really wanted to make it not just about financial stewardship but about life stewardship," Sumrall said. "That's really the heartbeat of what Dr. Hemphill is getting across through Making Change.
"He does a wonderful job of helping people see that we're not just stewards of money, we're managers of all the things that God gives us. That was something that we felt like really needed to be said."
Making Change presents the basics of money management for Christians and casts a vision for how the church and individuals can use the resources God has given them to change the world for the sake of His Kingdom.
It was January, and the church had just embarked upon the most aggressive budget increase in its history, which reaches back to 1854. Cecilia is a rural community, and a desire to reach more people led the church to plant another location in nearby Elizabethtown in 2007.
"A couple of things led us to the aggressive budget. One was the Cooperative Program. We are committed to the Cooperative Program, and as we faced the budget crunch, essentially we had to decide if we were going to reign in salaries and staff or cut missions giving," Sumrall said, noting that the church gives 10 percent of undesignated receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program.
The multi-campus approach eventually increased the staff size from two full-time ministers and several part-time ministers to four full-time ministers and several part-time staff members.
"That stretched us greatly," Sumrall said. "There was some thought that perhaps we needed to cut back missions giving, but after much prayer and some pretty intense meetings, the church decided that what we'd rather do is to just go forward in faith and maintain that commitment to the Cooperative Program."
Franklin Crossroads introduced the Making Change study during the Sunday School hour, which Sumrall said didn't please everyone. Because it's video-driven, the leaders asked everyone to meet corporately for the first 15 minutes of their small group hour and then disperse for discussion.
"That was different for them. Some of the older folks, it really stretched them. But much to their credit, they got on board," Sumrall said.
"The people just responded. Our small group attendance grew during that time, and I think some of that had to do with the hot-button issue of the economy," he said.
"I think it's a time when the church really needs to speak to those issues. We were a church that was speaking to those issues with clarity, thanks to the help of Dr. Hemphill," Sumrall said. "I think that helped draw the crowd."
Small group attendance jumped to an all-time high during the study, averaging 380 people.
"It became obvious that we were striking a nerve in the community," Sumrall said.
Though the church had experienced a budget shortfall during the last few months of 2008, giving improved dramatically as people studied Making Change. In 2008, from January to June the church received $278,236 in offerings. During the same period this year, giving jumped to $348,655.
"Our aggressive budget has been met. Both campuses of our church continue to grow. Making Change has truly blessed our congregation," Sumrall said.
Hemphill told Baptist Press that Franklin Crossroads, where he preached to launch the emphasis, serves as an example for other Southern Baptist churches where people are struggling to manage their resources according to God's plan.
"I think first we can learn that we should not fear teaching the biblical truths concerning money," Hemphill said. "It is important to note that their attendance increased because they were talking about an issue that was important to people in the community.
"Second, it should teach us that when we allow God's Word to challenge the heart, His Spirit can change thinking and action. The giving appreciated substantially during a time when most churches were in the cutback mode.
"Third, it visualizes what I have been saying to Southern Baptists," Hemphill said. "This is a time of opportunity, not one of crisis. This is our greatest opportunity to reach out to a hurting world. We cannot allow our fear to overcome our faith."
Since the emphasis ended, Franklin Crossroads has continued to see God move. They average 330 in small groups and have had more than 100 baptisms since January. The church has organized at least four mission trips this year to places including Costa Rica and Africa.
"We've surfed a wave of momentum this year that only God could have given us. Last Wednesday night we baptized 47 people," Sumrall said, referring to a revival service the church hosted. "It's the highest number of baptisms we've had in years."
From decisions made at the revival, which included several members of local football teams, Sumrall said the church was still waiting to baptize another 30 or so people. Also at the revival, the congregation took up the largest love offering in the history of the church, which Sumrall said goes back to the Making Change study.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For more information about "Making Change" and other Empowering Kingdom Growth resources, visit www.empoweringkingdomgrowth.net. Empowering Kingdom Growth is an initiative of the SBC Executive Committee. Additional stewardship resources can be accessed from It's A New Day, another Executive Committee initiative, at www.sbc.net/newday.