D.C. church finds financial footing via ABHMS’ ISOE program

Many churches struggle financially for a variety of reasons. However, CenterPoint Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., illustrates the ways in which churches can find financial footing by implementing strategies from American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) “In Support of Excellence” (ISOE) program.

Debuting in 2016, ISOE is a financial-empowerment program aimed at pastors and lay leaders. A CenterPoint team—including Pastor O. Jermaine Bego—participated in the program’s pilot.

Among the ISOE approaches that the church adopted were to establish a finance committee and “special giving Sundays.” The latter—in CenterPoint’s case, Easter, Christmas, the church’s founding anniversary and “Friends and Family Day”—provide incentive to increase the usual Sunday collection.

“This past year, the Christmas offering was designated toward purchase of the church’s first bus,” says Bego. “In that offering, we raised $10,000.”

CenterPoint members may be struggling with personal finances and unschooled in tithing. Most have experienced neither Sunday school nor vacation Bible school, where tithing and offering concepts can be introduced.

Part of the challenge regarding raising money has been the fact that CenterPoint seeks to evangelize the “unchurched” in an urban area. Bego founded the church in a seafood buffet restaurant nine years ago. Averaging 30 Sunday attendees, the 50-member congregation is now housed within Anna Johenning Baptist Community Center.

“Offerings are foreign to them [members], although they might be 30, 40, 50 years old,” Bego says. “I try to be creative in tangible ways, when teaching about tithes and offerings.”

Another challenge has been his own insecurity regarding personal finance. Bego acknowledges that his background—particularly the bankruptcy, foreclosure and automobile repossession he experienced during 2008’s economic collapse—made it difficult for him to preach about stewardship.

“Being in the program [ISOE] helped me to take some of that pressure off and share some of my own financial struggles as a mechanism of stewardship,” he says. “By being able to share my own personal struggles and triumphs, members of the congregation became more open to sharing their struggles around finances.”

As a result, July’s sermon series focused on “collective economics,” or the concept that spending money is an opportunity to strengthen one’s community—in this case, the church. On a recent Sunday morning, CenterPoint hosted a fair for vendors from both inside and outside the congregation. While vendors did not pay up front to reserve space, each was required to return 10 percent of his or her morning earnings to the church.

ISOE is funded by a Lilly Endowment.

Additional information about ABHMS’ ISOE program is available online.