Step by Step Giving Lessons
Lakeview Assembly of God in Oregon is a small church of about 50 people located in a rural town, one of the most remote communities in the Lower 48. But when Pastor Joel N. Morris convinced churchgoers to support missions, giving to the church also increased, and Lakeview AG paid off its property earlier than scheduled.
When Morris, 34, became pastor five years ago, the church didn’t support any missionaries regularly. But that changed quickly. When Morris arrived at Lakeview AG with his wife, Kimberlee, and their two sons, church elders recognized the new pastor’s heart for missions.
“As we began to pray together, he began to cast a vision for our church,” says Billy D. Thompson, 47. “We were all on board with it, but a little nervous.”
Morris began small, urging congregants to designate $5 a month for missions. He promoted missions giving weekly with a story, a missionary newsletter, or a passage of Scripture. He also brought in missionaries to speak about the importance of sponsoring missions.
After a year, Morris asked churchgoers to give $10 a month to missions. The year after, he urged people to give $20 monthly.
“We provided weekly progress updates,” says Morris. “By establishing goals and reaching them for several years, our people had a measure of success under their belts, which laid a foundation for achieving a new and more difficult goal.”
With three years of missions giving growth, Morris eyed paying off the church mortgage in the same manner: setting goals, providing weekly updates, and celebrating wins. His boys, John and Andrew, even built a plastic construction block of the church; every dot represented $1. The model grew in proportion to the amount the people gave.
In the past five years, Lakeview AG has given more than $33,000 to missions, paid off a $32,000 mortgage, and invested $80,000 into its property.
“We all had a sense of awe and wonder of what God could really do in a tiny town with a church of just 50 people,” says Thompson.
This year, Lakeview AG is raising $12,000 for missions. The church also recently established two church-owned single-family homes for interns enrolled in its new Lakeview School of Rural Church Ministry in partnership with Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington.
Morris contends any church, not just one in a town of 2,300, can follow a similar plan to reduce debt and to focus on outreach.
“We have a heart to train up future rural ministers with bachelor’s degrees, pastoral licenses, no debt, and up to four years of practical ministry experience learning how to be a staff pastor, campus pastor, lead pastor, or missionary,” Morris says. “This is our next big thing.”